The National Disability Strategy & Accessibility in UK Property: PKS Explains
The image of British wheelchair rugby player Kylie Grimes encountering a step-access café in Channel 4’s Oscar-worthy 2020 Paralympic Games advert was a stark reminder of just how little provision is made for disabled people in our infrastructure even today.
A recent government strategy paper, which outlines £1.6bn of potential future spending, aims to, according to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, harness the “same ambition and spirit [as the Paralympics], to build a better and fairer life for all disabled people living in the UK.”
Here, Prince Krofa & Sons takes you through the National Disability Strategy, in particular, its proposals for accessibility in homes.
What is the National Disability Strategy?
It is a white paper first proposed in April 2021 and developed with the input of over 14,000 disabled people across the UK for the Department for Work and Pensions. It sets out over 100 immediate commitments supported by the £1.6bn spend across many government departments and aims to improve the independence and wellbeing of disabled people at work, in the home and on public transport.
So…what’s new for the housing sector?
One of the main parts of the proposal, carrying an estimated spend of £573m, is in housing.
As well as increasing the amount of funds spent on accessible and supported affordable housing, in line with the ongoing £11.5bn Affordable Homes Programme and the Housing Ministry’s Community Housing Fund programme, disabled tenants and homeowners will get much greater rights.
The 2010 Equality Act already states that tenants have “the right to require landlords to make reasonable adjustments to common areas of residential buildings”, but almost always at the expense of the tenant. The NDS expands this right to disability-specific refurbishments, which include:
- Installing a bathroom, kitchen and / or bedroom on the ground floor
- Widening doorways to provide reverse space
- Freeing entrances and exits of obstruction
- Re-laying garden pathways to make them wheelchair-friendly
- Installing ramps
- Providing level access by means other than staircases.
The Strategy also lays out the £73m Disabled Facilities Grant, designed to help disabled people in existing buildings with the cost of these adjustments.
Outside of the home, the National Disability Strategy also aims to improve access to public buildings, offices, railway and bus stations, ferry, and airports, as well as private hire and taxis.
Why is this needed?
Inaccessible housing is a common and frustrating problem for disabled people in the UK. Figures from the 2018/19 English Housing Survey suggest that 91% of homes in the UK do not have all the key features to make a home fully accessible to disabled people.
It has been pointed out by disability charity Scope that property websites such as Rightmove and Zoopla do not have an option to filter homes for “disabled access” in the same way there are options to filter for factors such as “garden” and “parking”, while estate agents will often list homes as “accessible”, despite many of these properties having steps up to front doors, narrow hallways, and ramps too steep for people with balance issues.
Indeed, the survey taken by the DWP to form the basis of the Strategy found that nearly half (47%) of respondents admitted to having at least “some difficulty” getting in and out of where they lived.
Greater accessibility for disabled people is also important for emergency safety and evacuation purposes, another key issue given that the Grenfell Inquiry revealed that disabled people made up a disproportionate number of those killed in 2017.
The Conservatives pledged in their 2019 election manifesto to provide “safer and more accessible housing, as well as better job prospects and care” for disabled people, and the act is split into three parts, detailing immediate spending plans, the future of disabled inclusion in government policy, and each department’s responsibilities.
What will happen next?
The DWP is committed to holding similar disabilities survey every year and publishing an annual report to assess the progress made by these and future reforms.
More recently, estate agency Langford Russell has confirmed it is working with specialist organisations in order to provide better accessibility information, including a list of phrases to use in listings to highlight suitable properties.
If you are a disabled tenant, homeowner or landlord in London and the Home Counties, Prince Krofa & Sons can advise you on your accessibility issues.
For leaseholders who require a Licence for Alteration, we can also assist. This will be discussed in a future series of articles on princekrofa.com.
For enquiries, or to book a survey, visit us here.