Havant Area Disability Access Group secretary Andy Bundy talks about the challenges of adapting homes for the elderly and disabled
As I write this, I’m feeling old, in fact a year older than yesterday, but that’s not a hint to anyone who forgot to send me a card or present!
It did set me thinking though.
Once built, buildings, steps, ramps and toilets are built, it is too late.
So our group is focusing on helping to improve designs before building starts.
The planning process, although the only ‘open’ part of the approval process, does not provide much leverage to insist on quality accessible design.
This is the job of building controls, which is a commercial process, not a statutory one.
Our only tool in highlighting poor design is to object to applications, but as planning has few ‘rules’ on disability, the required adversarial role, having to object continually, goes against our preference to help, not hinder.
After all, who can provide me with details for a fully accessible house to buy currently?
Or show me one being built?
There is a published strategy, but is falls short somewhat.
My bungalow cannot be easily adapted, and current rules would likely prevent attempts to do so.
I look at the strategy, but it focuses on matters such as schools, the elderly and local income and employment generation.
As a homeowner, I realise my home cannot be fully adapted.
For people without capital, ‘extra care housing’ is the current ‘solution’ to building rest-homes, allowing elderly couples and individuals to live independently with care immediately to hand if needed.
Sadly this is ill-suited to most disabled people, and with current closures the skill and experienced staff are being lost along with their units.
The strategy provides some areas which appear to direct improvements to the design of buildings and accommodation, and we will use these, but one does ask why it has not worked up until now.
Why have a policy if nobody ‘in power’ will exercise it?
Accidents and illness can affect anybody at any age. If you believe the community is properly prepared do nothing.
Otherwise start asking your councillors, and your MPs, what is being done to cater for all members of the community in need.
I intend to, because if in 10 years my mobility worsens as it has done, where will my family and I live?