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Should we continue adapting homes for accessibility or build better by design?

The easy answer is yes! We should continue to adapt homes for accessibility and we should use universal housing design features so homes are suitable for everyone.

For wheelchair users, people who rely on mobility devices and really anyone with restricted or limited mobility, housing design has been a significant problem in finding a safe home.

In this article, we discuss the recent national debate on accessible design standards, take a look at some common and useful home modifications for people with mobility issues and the NDIS or My Aged Care funding available for accessibility improvements and home modifications.

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    Celebrating progress

    At Nursed Care we usually keep politics out of our services, unless it’s something that really matters to our clients. The progress in accessible design and wheelchair access has been achieved through hard work and dedication across the disability sector. We think it’s important to recognise and celebrate these achievements.

    National leaders consider universal design and full accessibility

    In the past few years, there has been a lot of talk about accessible housing across state, territory and Commonwealth governments. So much talk that its become a regular item at the National Building Minister’s Meeting.

    Progress on accessible housing demanded

    The Building Ministers from each state and territory and the Commonwealth jointly run the National Construction Code and the Australian Building Code Board (ABCB). The National Construction Code determines how buildings need to be built and can include very specific details.

    The Board were told to come up with some minimum accessibility standards for new houses private homes and apartments, which were released in 2022.

    New standards provide universal and accessible housing design

    This might seem like a bit of hot air but the Livable Housing Design Standard and Design Handbook was published in November 2023. Rather than take a compliance or ‘just follow the rules’ approach they looked at universal design, which considers all users and their access requirements.

    An accessible home with ample space

    People building new homes will be using design features and guidelines that automatically consider and include accessible features. Things such as wider doorways, level pathways, easy access from the front door or street to door, circulation space and raised garden beds in outdoor spaces.

    Minimum accessibility standards will deliver more options for people with disabilities

    It’s possible that the entire home could easily accommodate a wheelchair user or someone with limited or restricted mobility with few or possibly no home modifications. Over time more and more homes would meet appropriate accessible housing standards.

    Creating a liveable home - adaptations and renovations

    Unfortunately, there is a reasonable wait before the Livable Design Standards are commonplace, which means adaptations and renovations are still the best option to create a liveable home that meets your accessibility needs.

    Accessibility

    An accessible home should respond to your specific needs and be modified in such a way that it enables you to do the everyday tasks and activities that may otherwise be too challenging.

    Making permanent or even temporary changes to outdoor areas of your home requires an understanding firstly of your requirements and most importantly the types of modifications that will provide you with the greatest benefit and the services available that will assist you to really maximise the benefits of the changes.

    Australia needs more accessible homes with better modifications

    Australia’s population is ageing and more people are developing mobility impairments or mobility-based conditions. It is estimated that 60% of homes will be occupied by a person with a disability at some point but only 12% of people with a disability are currently living in a home with appropriate modifications.

    Most adaptations aren’t necessarily designed to meet a need and are only meeting compliance or safety requirements for people with disability with the majority of changes limited to ramps, minor bathroom modifications and grab bars. Further, 16% of people with a disability stated that they are dissatisfied with their current accommodation.

    Getting a proper assessment is crucial

    A thorough assessment of your home environment will identify the adaptations and modifications needed along with any supporting equipment or services.

    Deciding on modifications can be a challenge, you may not even realise that you have adapted to the physical barriers around you.

    Physical barriers can put your safety well well-being at risk

    These barriers can be inconvenient, make ordinary tasks like self-care a lot more difficult or even put your safety and well-being at risk. Accidentally falling over a tripping hazard like irregular flooring or damaged skirting could do irreversible damage and put your independence at risk.

    Modifications can be as simple as adding new door handles that are easier to open or as complex as adding a new room.

    There are three general categories for modification work

    Depending on your requirements and available funding, we can develop a solution that will make daily living easier and fit within your budget.

    Minor home modifications

    These are Simple, Non-structural Changes And Additions that will make the ground floor of your home more accessible and easier to get around. Minor modifications are relatively common as they tend to be cheaper and easier to install.

    Common minor modifications include:

    • Installing Hand Rails or door lever

    • Widening of Doorways for wheelchair use

    • Non-slip flooring on shower floors

    • Wheelchair Accessible ramps or portable ramps

    • Acoustic Blinds and Soundproofing

    Complex or major modification

    These tend to be larger more complicated projects that involve structural changes to your home. While these are usually larger projects, they can also include small complex projects like IT and smart systems or light switches. These tend to be more expensive and can require certification on completion.

    Common minor modifications include:

    • Hoists and Lifts

    • Raising or Lowering of Benchtops/Sinks

    • Cupboard/Wardrobe Reconfiguration

    • Reinforcing High Usage Support Areas and Items

    Major home renovation or redevelopment.

    These are significant projects that reshape your home, adding accessible bathrooms or removing entire rooms. We plan and coordinate your home modification to the highest industry standards providing you with 3D Renders, Plans and Drawings, assistance with strata and council if needed, benchmarked certifications and a satisfaction guarantee.

    We will continue to make you our priority, keeping you informed and empowered through the renovation.

    We can make sure the work stays on track

    Our team at Nursed Care have the skills, industry contacts and experience to help you with all types of home modifications from installing grab rails to planning and delivering a major renovation.

    In addition to assessing your situation, we will recommend modifications and look at alternative options, we can coordinate a program of modifications with different services and tradespeople and provide management of the project for you.

    We will keep you informed throughout the process making sure that you know what’s going on and are always in control of the decisions.

    Government funding may be available

    The Australian Government provides funding for people with a disability or mobility issues to improve accessibility standards at home. This is through both the NDIS and My Aged care.

    The amount of funding and way it can be used is dependent on individual circumstances, so why not give Nursed Care a call so we can discuss the options available to you.

    Making your home accessible is vital for independent living

    Take some time to look around your home and think, could things be easier if some modifications were made? You don’t have to know what needs to be done. Get in touch with our team and we can explain the options and opportunities that await you through home modifications.

    FAQs

    Yes, if the modifications are going to help you undertake your daily living tasks and live independently

    Funding can be used for equipment and aids that support mobility, but not appliances

    A tailored design that provides you with the supports and mechanisms such as a mobility device needed to do things you otherwise wouldn’t be able to.

    Need qualified care?

    At Nursed, we offer a full range of care and disability support services, assisting you to live the life you want to live. Contact us today.

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