The impact of not having accessible housing
Kerry Thompson is a disability and lifestyle blogger who spends a lot of time being a Changing Places Campaigner.
I think it's everyone's dream to leave your parents’ house and live independently, whether it's renting or buying. The thought of making your own rules and being able to come and go as you please gives you that sense of being very grown up! I remember that feeling I had waking up in my first home, a sense of pride and excitement as it was all mine. If I wanted to paint the walls bright pink then there was no one to stop me, if I wanted to stay in bed all day then I could.
Unfortunately, my dream of living independently became harder after I was diagnosed with a rare form of Muscular Dystrophy, which is a progressive muscle wasting disorder. The perfect sanctuary I called home was becoming very claustrophobic and unsuitable. I was unable to use my wheelchair inside, with space to manoeuvre being limited. The thought of losing my independence was scary and upsetting, which caused my mental health to suffer.
It was time to face facts. I needed a more suitable home and more space for me to move around. A home that was adapted for my needs would be critical as my Muscular Dystrophy was going to get worse, rather than better. I will eventually need equipment other than my powered wheelchair and this needed to be taken into consideration when looking for a new home. It took 3 years of being persistent and being turned down by my local council for being too young for a bungalow to get somewhere with the process. I wasn't 65 years old or over and this was a large barrier for getting support. I will never understand why this rule is applied, a bungalow should be seen as a home for any disabled person or family, not just those over the age of 65.
However, I was now fully reliant on my powered wheelchair for getting around, but it couldn't be used in the home I was living in. I felt stuck, you could even say trapped, this wasn't my idea of living an independent life. Being trapped in the same four walls was extremely hard. You get stuck in your own head, your mental health suffers, and it definitely took its toll on me. This is something that mentally and physically affected me for a long time. As crazy as it sounds, this pushed me even more to not give up on the idea of living an independent life.
My story has a happy ending, don't worry. For the past 8 years I've been living my best life with my husband, independently in a two-bedroom bungalow that has been purposely built for disabled people like myself by Habinteg. I have a kitchen big enough to manoeuvre around in and a living room that I can dance in if I want.
I class myself as lucky to have the independence that I do. By having a home that's adapted for my needs it has made the world of difference to my life. The appropriate housing can dramatically improve disabled people’s ability to live independently, with houses that meet accessibility needs showing a reported improvement in health and wellbeing.
New figures published in June by the Housing Association Habinteg reveal that, outside of London, under a quarter of new homes due to be built by 2030 are planned to be accessible and adaptable. Only 1% of homes outside London are set to be suitable for wheelchair users.
You can read more about Kerry Thompson’s campaigning work on her blog: My life, Kerry’s way.
Have you found your house affects your independence? What are ways that your house has promoted your own independence? Let us know in the comments below!