Lack of accessible housing causing most problems

A new home showing the entry with six steps to the front door. It is not accessible.
Newly built home is not accessible

What are the social inclusion obstacles in the built environment, who do they affect, and how? There’s a good amount of research on accessibility in the built environment. There’s also a lot of research on accessible housing design. However, the two are rarely discussed in tandem. While identifying the obstacles in the built environment for people with disability, researchers found that it was a lack of accessible housing causing the most problems.

Researchers at Deakin University were looking for social inclusion obstacles in the built environment. They wanted to know what aspects were key for people with disability. While many were found, most issues could be traced back to a lack of accessible and affordable housing. In short, they found that housing was at the centre of multiple issues creating obstacles for living meaningful lives. 

Several workshops were conducted in the regional city of Geelong. Stakeholders included people with disability.  Access to appropriate and affordable housing was a key factor across all the workshops. It affected employment, connecting with family and friends, transport, services and facilities.

While it is important for people with disability to have an accessible home, all homes must be accessible so they can visit neighbours and feel included in their community. This point is often lost on policy-makers. 

Another factor not often mentioned is the ability to engage with the community to influence attitudes. That is, unless people with disability could get out and about, get a job and get to the shops, they will remain invisible, and nothing changes. Consequently one of the recommendations was to raise awareness of attitudes towards access and inclusion across different professions. 

There is a lot to unpack in this article including a discussion on co-design and whether it has the desired result. Universal design is discussed in the context of built environment courses. Also available from SpringerLink with institutional access.

The title of the article is, “Housing at the fulcrum: a systems approach to uncovering built environment obstacles to city scale accessibility and inclusion”. 

The research was conducted before the Australian Building Codes Board completed their cost benefit analysis on accessible housing

Extracts from abstract

This paper describes a study determining actions to overcome unintended obstacles in the built environment to city-scale accessibility and inclusivity. Prior studies have largely failed to connect social inclusion obstacles in the built environment with factors leading to social exclusion in other domains.

An approach based on systems thinking allowed a wide range of stakeholders, including many with lived-experience of disability, to exchange ideas. One hundred and nineteen actions were identified to overcome these obstacles, with 37 of these prioritised according to impact and feasibility. Nineteen of these 37 are imbedded in the built environment.

Access to appropriate and affordable housing was identified as a key factor across all domains. Access for people with disability to appropriately designed and affordable housing was at the fulcrum of many other issues which created obstacles to meaningful living and fulfilled lives. The process showed how housing is impacted by, and has impacts on, a wide sphere of socio-political and physical contexts.

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