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Guest Post: Three top tips for finding a suitable accessible home

FrankiTHS Community member Posts: 5 Connected

Finding a new home can be tough at the best of times. But when you add in the extra work and stress of trying to find an accessible property with the specific features and adaptations that you require to live independently, it can feel near impossible. This is the infuriating reality faced by disabled home hunters each and every day.

There are over 12.9 million disabled people in the UK, yet according to the most recent English Housing Survey in 2014, just 7% of UK homes meet the criteria to be deemed even ‘visitable’ by persons with a disability or specific access needs.

Part of the problem with accessible housing in the UK is that the market is poorly categorised, fragmented, and quite frankly baffling without a wealth of accurate and detailed information at your fingertips.

inaccessible house with lots of steps

However, with the correct information, a little guidance and some preparation, finding an accessible home could be easier than you think. Check out these simple, practical tips to help you understand your options and set you on the right track to finding your dream home.

Tip 1 - Understand accessible housing categories

All wheelchair-accessible or adaptable homes should have a specific category or “rating” that tells home-hunters what level of accessibility the property offers. It is really important to take the time to get to grips with these categories and work out which one best suits your access needs.

The three main accessible housing categories are: 

Category 1: Visitable Dwellings (sometimes referred to as ‘General Needs’) – The vast majority of accessible housing in the UK fits into this category and will not be suitable to live in if you are a wheelchair user or have limited mobility.

Category 2: Accessible and Adaptable Dwellings – These properties are not fully wheelchair accessible but can be easily and cheaply adapted to meet the occupier’s needs.

Category 3: Wheelchair User Dwellings – These properties are designed specifically for wheelchair users and will include the highest levels of accessibility out of all 3 categories.

Top Tip for Londoners: There are special accessible housing policies that only apply to new build properties in London. Any new build development must contain a minimum 10% of accessible units and they each have an ‘access rating’ from A-F – with A representing a fully wheelchair accessible home, and F representing a General Needs property with no access features. So consider looking at new build homes during your search.

Tip 2 - Pinpoint your access needs

Think about your access needs and try to pinpoint specific features wherever possible. Do you need counter-tops and work surfaces to be lowered? Do you need ramped access to the property? Will you need ceiling hoists or grab rails?

Make a list and break it down into ‘immediate must-haves’ and ‘future adaptations’ – this way you will have a clear plan of what to look for when you start searching for properties.

Tip 3 - Think about what you like as well as what you need

Forget about access for a moment – It’s really important that you take some time to think about your dream home without getting bogged down in access requirements.

What style of property do you want? Where would your perfect location be? Have you fallen in love with the character-filled features of a period property, or do you prefer the sleek modern style of a new build?

Just because you’re looking for an accessible property, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t love the home you live in!

If you’re looking for a new home or want to find out more about accessible properties, and Disability Horizons have recently teamed up to launch ‘The Ultimate Guide to Finding an Accessible Home’! It’s a 23-page free downloadable guide that covers everything you need to know about accessible housing and also includes printable checklists to help you plan your move.

Download the ‘Ultimate Guide to finding an Accessible Home’.

Have you got an accessible housing success story to share? Have you experienced any particular problems when searching for an accessible home? Let us know in the comments below.

Got an experience to share or need some advice about accessible housing? Visit our 'housing and independent living' category.


  • nessa20
    nessa20 Community member Posts: 2 Listener
    hello yws  yes this is big problem, im in my own home ive not been in bed in nerly 7 years ,i can not get help from socil services as i own my house all the ot's HAve said im not to use stairs i have a loo down stairs im told to wash in sink  im in north wales help is so poor ive yet again another social worker and i can see no help comingi had 2 strkes a brain stroke folowed after opertation another i can not get the help i need from no 1 and stuck on sofa i got a house but im not able to use it any ideas thank you
  • Chris_Alumni
    Chris_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 689 Pioneering
    Hi @nessa20, I'll tag in one of our helpline advisors @DebbieVoakes, who may be able to offer some advice.

  • Debbie_Alumni
    Debbie_Alumni Community member Posts: 932 Pioneering
    Hi @nessa20,

    Sorry to hear about the problems you're having with your housing.
    Owning your own house shouldn't automatically disqualify you from getting help. I'd like to learn more about your situation to see if I can offer any advice. 

    Look forward to hearing from you.

  • mousie1
    mousie1 Community member Posts: 7 Listener
    I recently had to move home due to deterioration in my cerebral palsy.  My GP asked me to move whilst I am still up right she said.  I need to use a powered wheelchair now.  My occupational therapist recommended that I be moved to a property with wet room, accessible kitchen and ramps.
    i rent from a local housing trust.
    i found a bungalow with wet room and a ramp at the front door.  Property has a kitchen which is bigger for the wheelchair but not accessible.  Although I qualify for the disability facility grant my housing association won't accept it.
    They refuse to alter the kitchen, and put a ramp at the back door, as there is one at the front and have said that is all they have to provide.
    The property has a massive garden, big enough to build another bungalow on, the grass is cut by them but that is it.  If I did not take it I could have ended up in a not so nice area of town.  I have even been refused a light on the gable end so it's pitch black when I come in on my mobility scooter or wheelchair.  They just say there is no money in the budget.
  • FrankiTHS
    FrankiTHS Community member Posts: 5 Connected
    So sorry to hear about your difficult experience of moving home @mousie1 - how did you find the new property? did the housing association find it for you or did you have to find somewhere yourself? We know how tough it can be and how little information there is which is why we put together the guide to try and help people understand their options :)
  • Anastasia
    Anastasia Community member Posts: 1 Listener
    This seems to be directed at house buyers, which doesn't cover those of us waiting for social housing. I'm in temporary accommodation as I can't return to my own (totally inaccessible) property whilst I wait for wheelchair housing. I'm concerned that I've been told that I have to accept the first property I'm offered (I was officially declared homeless when I couldn't return home after being discharged from hospital), what if it's totally unsuitable? I'm concerned about parking as I can't self propel far and need plenty of space to get out of the car, what if it doesn't have the right facilities such as lowered worksurfaces with no cabinets underneath and doors I can open myself. At the moment I can't go out alone as I can't even get out of the door on my own, let alone down to the car from a second floor flat, and I've already badly scalded myself trying to prepare food on a worksurface that's too high. 
  • mousie1
    mousie1 Community member Posts: 7 Listener
    The property is an old one.  So when tried to wallpaper plaster keeps coming away in chunks.  I have to presently stand on a stool to reach wall cupboards, eventually I won't be able to do this.  The ramp at front door is too narrow to turn scooter or wheelchair, presently waiting it being widened.
    Do now have a wet room as they insisted but water pools on the floor, find it cold.  Kitchen is bigger.  Unless I put a ramp in myself at the back door I won't be able to use the garden much.
    Nicer and safer area.  Had to bid for the property.  Here all properties are put on a web site and you are then banded.  You are offered the properties in order of band and need.  I had to get lists of medical evidence etc to prove I am as bad as I said.  Same old same old.  Getting used to fighting for everything now.
  • mousie1
    mousie1 Community member Posts: 7 Listener
    Anastasia try not to worry.  They have told me all sorts in the past for social housing, I just ignore them and get my local councillor on board.  All the rules and regulations go out the window then.  Stick to your guns and hold out for what you know you need.  They can't make you homeless.  You need to get letter from your GP and any other health professionals.  Go to your local CAB they will have a home visiting officer.  I had one and he helped me get bumped up the list.
  • onmybiketoo
    onmybiketoo Community member Posts: 7 Connected
    Finding the right home is not just about access, ramps etc are the easy bit. You need to visualise how you are going to carry out every day tasks, who is needed to help where appropriate. Ask yourself are you needing help with toileting stuff, will you be happy and safe sharing your facilities with stranger carers? What type of hoisting do you need, what space does that need, if a couple do you need two single beds + associated care space? 

    And just because you know what you need, don't hold your breath especially if you need rented accommodation  at the higher spec , as it just is not there.
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