When Scottish wheelchair users participated in a survey carried out by the Glasgow Centre for Inclusive Living, 73% of respondents felt that disabled people do not have equal access to suitable housing, with the main barrier perceived as not enough new-build accessible housing.
The aim of our research project for the Scottish Government’s Building Standards Directorate was therefore to establish whether there is a ‘window of opportunity’ for a purchaser to intervene in the buying ‘off plan’ process in order to obtain a tailor-made wheelchair accessible home.
Initially, we worked with individual wheelchair users to develop a series of ‘ideal’ house types; we then worked with a housebuilder to examine whether their existing standard house plans could be altered to accommodate the needs of wheelchair users within their standard building envelope. This would allow wheelchair users to purchase a bespoke house type “off-plan” without the need to modify an already constructed property.
Our research suggests that standard mid-range house types have the potential to accommodate different internal configurations which will suit wheelchair users. Although these can potentially be developed by house builders, they will need input and assistance from funders and occupational therapists at design stage.
Currently, these funding and development processes vary between local authorities and take much longer than the timescales available when customers purchase new homes off-plan. We recommended a range of measures focussed on informing and upskilling housebuilders, collaborative working between different public agencies and restructuring the process for grant funding.
Our research demonstrated that while there are ‘pockets’ of expertise in housing for wheelchair users, there is confusion as to what constitutes wheelchair design standards. We recommended coordination of voluntary standards in regard to ‘wheelchair transfer’ use of hoists, bathroom and kitchen design and wheelchair turning spaces.