May 10

Brits Spend £3k A Year To Upgrade Homes


Homeowners in the UK are spending more and more money to keep their house up-to-date and functional, with recent figures showing the country spends as much as £83 million on DIY jobs a year.

The research from digital bank Zopa found that each adult affords £3,048 on home improvement jobs each 12 months to make their house comfortable, safe and presented well, according to MoneyAge.

The FeelGood Money Company also revealed that Brits are so concerned about how their homes look that they spend 108 hours every year improving it.

Many people feel inclined to renovate their houses often to keep up with appearances, as 77 per cent of Brits feel ashamed about how their property looks when unexpected guests turn up.

However, for a lot of people, making these home renovations is a necessity, as it could enable them to enjoy more independence and stay in their residence for longer.

Indeed, those with disabilities or who are beginning to suffer from restricted mobility as they get older will benefit from fitting half-height shower doors or a small walk-in bath in their bathroom suite. These changes could mean the difference between being able to live in their home for as long as possible, or having to move out and find a property with better access according to their needs.

Joan Simmons, professor of occupational therapy at Spring College in the US, advised making simple alterations to the bathroom for those becoming less mobile. These include installing bars around the bath to help getting in and out of it safely, and fitting strong lighting to always be able to see any potential hazards, Mass Appeal reported.

Apr 30

Netflix Launches New Disability Show ‘Special’


Netflix has been highlighting the challenges disabled people face in their daily lives with the launch of its new show entitled ‘Special’.

This comedy is based on Ryan O’Connell’s memoir I’m Special: And Other Lies We Tell Ourselves, which recounts the comedian’s experience with cerebral palsy.

He has now taken the book to the screens and stars in the eight-episode series as himself, giving the general public an insight into what it is like to live with his condition.

O’Connell spoke to NBC News lately on behalf of everyone with a disability, saying: “For so long, we’ve been ignored. I really hope that stops.”

Cerebral palsy affects a person’s movement, whether they have jerky or clumsy reactions, walk on tip-toes, have weak limbs, or are too stiff or floppy. This condition varies significantly and is caused around the time of childbirth, though it is often not detected until two or three years after they are born.

Though there are some treatments for cerebral palsy, including occupational therapy, medication for stiffness, and physiotherapy, there is no cure for it. Therefore, those with the condition have to learn to lead independent lives while living with their disability.

For O’Connell that included writing his 2015 memoir and making it into a TV series, telling the world about his physical challenges, his relationships, his work experience, and the obstacles he has to face.

While able-bodied people may take for granted being able to complete everyday tasks, something as simple as washing yourself can feel like a huge hurdle for someone with reduced movement. Having a walk-in bath fitted into your home, therefore, could be life-changing for a cerebral palsy sufferer who struggles with their motor functions.

Apr 18

Disability Access To Improve In 73 Train Stations


Disabled people know how difficult it can be to make even the simplest journey due to a lack of accessible routes across Britain’s rail network. That is why the government has pledged £300 million to transform 73 train stations to help disabled rail passengers across the UK.

The Access For All Funding will help to create a fully inclusive transport network within the next five years.

Large-scale improvements will be made with this finance, including building footbridges and installing lifts.

Transport accessibility minister Nusrat Ghani said: “We want the 13.9 million disabled people in Britain to be empowered to travel independently, which is why I am delighted to announce this roll out of upgrades across the rail network.”

The 73 stations that will see these improvements were chosen due to their proportion of disabled passengers, proximity to hospital, to represent geographical spread across the UK, and their value for money.

Another 1,500 stations will see smaller upgrades for disabled passengers, including platform humps, improvements for those who are visually or hearing impaired, and accessible toilets.

Earlier this year, US vlogger Shane Burcaw, who has a muscle-wasting disease, posted a video on social media about his embarrassing experience using toilet facilities at St Pancras International station.

Needing to use a travel urinal, he struggled to find a pull-down table to be able to position the device upon, resulting in him having to put it on the dirty floor instead.

His story was picked up by major news providers across the UK, highlighting the lack of facilities for disabled people in some of the country’s biggest rail hubs.

While those with disabilities can often find public facilities challenging, it is important to feel comfortable in your own home. Having easy access showers or walk-in baths can give people much-needed independence.

Apr 09

Bathroom Refresh ‘Popular Home Improvement Project’


Replacing an out of date bathroom was one of the top home improvement projects named in research from the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) Propertymark as we come into National Home Improvement Month.

While redecorating was the most popular project, undertaken by 72 per cent of homeowners, a bathroom refresh was another popular option, with 34 per cent of homeowners spending money on this in the last five years.

In fact, the NAEA Propertymark research revealed that the average property owner has spent £8,000 on DIY projects in the past five years.

If you are thinking of replacing your bathroom this year, you may want to consider how you can future-proof it, especially if you aren’t planning to move again when you get older.

While the organisation recommends things like replacing taps, re-tiling and painting the bathroom in a neutral colour, you could also look into fitting easy access showers. These fittings still look stylish, but will make it easy for you to continue using your bathroom even if your mobility worsens.

Chief executive of NAEA Propertymark Mark Hayward commented: “Homeowners are renovating and improving their properties for various reasons. Our needs are constantly changing and by investing money into our homes, we can really make the most of what we’ve got.”

There have also been calls recently for house builders to make sure the properties they construct are accessible and suitable for people of all ages. A survey for the Centre for Ageing Better found that 72 per cent of people believe all new homes should be designed and built to be suitable for people of all ages and abilities.

Apr 03

Accessible Home Improvement Pilot Launched


A pilot project has been launched in the UK to help boost the number of accessible homes available for the country’s ageing population.

Access & Mobility Professional reported on the scheme, which will be run in the West of England by WE Care & Repair, a home improvement agency covering four local authority areas in this part of the country.

The aim is to help more older people explore the idea of downsizing, after research revealed that one-third of older people are put off by the perceived stress of the process. However, more than one in ten of those questioned said they would move if there was support available.

Under the scheme, an enhanced housing option will be launched to help people move, particularly those who are no longer able to stay in their own properties. A self-help tool is also being released to help people decide whether they should adapt their current home or move somewhere more suitable.

Making changes like adding easy access baths to the bathroom can make a big difference to how much people are able to do by themselves.

The areas that are piloting the study have also been told to use the Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) more flexibly. In the past, this money would only have been allocated for adaptations, but under the new schemes some of it could be allocated to help people move to more suitable properties.

All of this comes after the Centre for Ageing Better released a report stating that the UK is on the brink of an accessible housing crisis. In a survey, 61 per cent of people said they didn’t feel their home would be suitable for a person with a disability or an older relative to live in.

Mar 31

Design Assumptions ‘Stop Buildings Being Inclusive’


With the UK’s ageing population come new challenges and one of them is how we adapt our homes to make them suitable for us as we get older and our mobility worsens.

One academic in Australia is looking at how to combat the issues surrounding the inclusivity of the built environment.

Professor Catherine Bridge, who runs the Livability Design Lab at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney, said that one of the issues holding more buildings back from being inclusive is current assumptions about design.

“The idea of wellbeing is modelled on a healthy, middle-aged man, and so that is how it [the built environment] is designed,” she said.

Professor Bridge added: “This is not representative of the population… especially those [the elderly and disabled] who experience some form of functional impairment.”

She also said that inclusion is one of the areas of accessibility that’s often overlooked in built environment design and stressed that architects and designers should take a more proactive approach to their designs to make them more inclusive.

By doing so, they can help people live in their homes for longer and prevent hospital admissions.

If you’re looking at making your home more accessible, the bathroom is a good place to start. Fitting easy access showers is one thing to consider as these can look great and will make it easier for you to continue to use your bathroom unaided as you get older.

This isn’t just something you have to consider as you get older either. The Guardian recently highlighted the rise in multi-generational living in the UK, with the total number of multi-generational households in Britain thought to number 1.8 million.

Solar high level bath
Mar 21

New Homes ‘Should Be Built For All Ages’


A poll carried out on behalf of the Centre for Ageing Better has found that 72 per cent of Brits believe all new homes that are built should be designed so that they’re suitable for people of all ages and abilities.z`

What’s more, almost half (48 per cent) of those questioned said that they don’t believe society does enough to support people to live safely and independently at home as they get older.

This comes after the English Housing Survey found that 93 per cent of homes in the UK fail to meet basic accessibility standards.

Among the features that people would like to see included in new homes are walk-in showers, handrails and level access entrance ways, the research found.

Dr Anna Dixon, chief executive for the Centre for Ageing Better, commented: “We are facing an accessible housing crisis, putting unnecessary pressure on individuals, families and public services. If we do nothing, this will only get worse.”

The survey also found that, among those over the age of 65, 45 per cent are worried about their abilities to bathe, cook and eat by themselves in the future, while 32 per cent worry about someone else in their household struggling with those tasks.

Last month, actress and disability campaigner Samantha Renke said that a lack of accessible housing is holding back people with disabilities.

Writing for the Metro, she said there was “nothing more dehumanising” than knowing you’re capable of looking after yourself but being put in an environment where that’s not possible.

Molly Bather
Feb 25

How To Stay Safe In The Bathroom As You Get Older


As we get older our mobility can suffer and we can find everyday tasks like showering and using the bathroom a bit more challenging.

The good news is that there are a number of things you can do to make it easier and safer whether you’re in the shower or enjoying a soak in your bathtub.

Professor of occupational therapy at Spring College in the US Joan Simmons recently told Mass Appeal about some of the bathroom safety modifications you can make, as well as highlighting some good habits to get into.

For instance, she noted that if you’re finding it increasingly difficult to get in and out of a standard bath, you could replace this with an easy access shower or walk in bath.

Fitting grab bars around your bathroom to help you enter and exit the tub safely, as well as to help prevent you from falling, is also advisable.

In terms of developing good habits, Ms Simmons stressed the importance of taking your time and focusing on what you’re doing. Don’t allow things like a ringing phone to distract you as you’re getting out of the bath, for instance.

Making sure you have good lighting in your bathroom can also mean you see potential trip hazards and avoid them, while it’s important to simply minimise clutter that could cause you to fall. Clear up laundry and towels from the floor, for example, and make sure there aren’t any rugs or mats you could catch your foot on.

Ms Simmons also recommends sitting on a chair or the toilet when you’re drying yourself off and getting dressed to avoid having to balance as you put your clothes on.

According to a report published by the Centre for Ageing Better last year, just seven per cent of the UK’s homes currently meet accessibility needs, so making simple changes to your bathroom habits could make a big difference to your safety.

Sierra side entry walk in bath
Feb 19

Inaccessible Housing ‘Holding Back Those With Disabilities’


More needs to be done to improve the UK’s housing stock and make it more accessible for those with disabilities.

That’s the opinion of Samantha Renke, an actress and disability campaigner who has experienced first-hand the difficulties that disabled people face when trying to have independent lives.

She wrote for the Metro that she spent years feeling as though she was trapped because she had to rely on her family and friends to help her with a range of tasks. Ms Renke has brittle bones and is a full-time wheelchair user.

Ms Renke stated: “For me there was nothing more dehumanising than knowing you are capable of being independent but your environment is disabling you.”

Last year she moved into a bespoke adapted apartment, that allows her to live independently. She explained that, since doing so, not only has she felt better in herself, but her family and particularly her mum, have benefited from not having to be her main carers.

Ms Renke argued that by providing more accessible housing, more disabled people of working age would be able to have jobs. She highlighted the fact that disabled people living in inaccessible housing are four times more likely to be unemployed than those in an adapted property.

Making changes, such as installing easy access showers, can be life changing if you have a disability.

And of course it’s not only in your own home that you can run into obstacles if you have a disability. One US wheelchair user highlighted some of the issues he encountered with public toilets in the UK on a recent visit, such as the lack of a table that is essential to enable him to use his specialist travel urinal.

Jan 25

Disabled US Vlogger Shines Light On UK Toilet Accessibility Issues


While bringing accessibility to your own bathroom, whether that’s disability baths or grab rails, is one thing, outside of the safe space of your own home, it’s clear that the level of accessibility equipment can vary, making what is an essential process less than easy for many with disabilities.

While those in the UK may be used to the range of accessibility in public bathrooms, it becomes much clearer the limitations when an outsider is exposed to them. That’s the story that has come to light this week, as a wheelchair user and disability vlogger from the US was forced to endure inadequate facilities in a British train station.

Shane Burcaw, who has a muscle wasting disease and needs to use a travel urinal, posted the video on his social media channels, drawing the attention of major news outlets in the UK. It chronicles his struggle to use the device as the accessible bathroom at St Pancras International train station did not have a pull down table, forcing him to use it on the dirty floor.

The video of Shane and his girlfriend Hannah, which the couple describe themselves as ’embarrassing’ shows the struggle of trying to find a spot for him to use the device.

The lack of a table in adult accessibility bathrooms is a problem in the UK Shane says: “Not only is this a problem for me, but it’s a problem for people with or without disabilities who have children that need a changing table,” he said, reported the Daily Mail.

Despite this, he said that the couple were impressed by accessibility in the UK in general, rating it far higher than he experiences in the US.