The legacy of the Paralympics must be accessible housing that will improve the opportunities available to all disabled people
A sporting chance
With the Paralympics now upon us, the scenes of talent and determination enjoyed at the Olympics are set to continue. When we look beyond the medal podium it’s clear that competitors make enormous sacrifices and overcome physical, emotional and practical barriers to earn their place.
From 29 August, Paralympians will face the biggest sporting tests of their lives. But what of the additional practical challenges of everyday living they face? For example, a home designed to accommodate simple adaptations or a wet room and step-free access in order to shower after training. The same challenges are faced by thousands of disabled people in this country and it is clear that the options remain both limited and limiting.
Research by Habinteg, Mind the Step, revealed significant wheelchair user households with unmet housing need in England, (12,517 in London) back in 2010. Recently, Muscular Dystrophy Campaign’s Trailblazers research, Locked Out, corroborated this: ‘Young disabled people believe that their lifestyle and work opportunities are being compromised by a range of factors relating to housing and the support required to live independently.’
At Habinteg we know wheelchair users are ‘locked out’ of the majority of existing housing stock in this country because of the demand we get for the more than 1,000 wheelchair designed homes we own. We also believe the design of a disabled person’s home can be a key to achieving their ambitions.
We are very concerned that new homes being built will fail disabled people unless there is a strategy in place to meet their needs. Neither ‘disabled people’ nor ‘disability’ appear in national planning policy framework and without a clear strategy to provide our population with accessible, wheelchair standard, and adaptable homes, the talents and life chances of disabled people are simply being thwarted.
Never mind house prices, property market hotspotting, the eastward exodus of big spend shopping and financial calculations around regeneration for east London - we need the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games’ promise of a sustainable, accessible housing legacy to come through for disabled people and set a precedent for house building throughout the UK.
Without it we could be losing out on some serious talent - not only sporting but in every area of industry, employment and society. This isn’t about becoming an athlete, it’s about having the choice and opportunity of a suitable home.
Andrew Gibson is vice chair of Habinteg