Accessible homes are still a dream

House half built showing timber frameworkAn alliance of 800 disability advocates, ethical designers and others are saying it is time to introduce regulations for access features in all new homes. They say Australia must do better as a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disability. But the building industry opposes the move to regulate for accessible homes. Interviewed on the ABC radio program, advocates, including Margaret Ward, explained why this was important

At the end of the interview, Kristin Brookfield of the Housing Industry Association continued to advocate for a voluntary approach rather than regulations. When asked why shouldn’t it be mandatory, she replied that “one size doesn’t fit all” and that the needs of someone in a wheelchair are not the same as someone who is blind.

Editor’s comment: Brookfield’s reply completely misses the point of course, and unfortunately this simple but mistaken logic is once again allowed to remain unanswered. What if another household member, or visiting family member uses a wheelchair or a wheelie walker, or crutches after a knee replacement, or uses a twin pram? Based on the number of new homes built each year and the number of people with disability, there is a 91% chance that each home will need to accommodate someone with a physical disability whether an occupant or a visitor.

December 2016 update: The Australian Network for Universal Housing Design continues to lobby and advocate for a change in building regulations to incorporate some very basic features such as a step free entry and access to a toilet on the entry level. The topic is creeping onto the political agenda but resistance from the housing industry is still strong. Let’s hope for progress in 2017.

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