Adapting your home for disability – Article 1 – Introduction

Disability

Disabilities are not limited to Mobility Issues alone!

Introduction

This is the first in a series of articles we are planning about adapting your home for disability.  This first article will cover some of the basics, where you will find out about what is needed, what is available, and how an Architectural Designer (such as Clive Elsdon Building Design) can assist and a little on the financial element.

Later articles in the series will go into more detail about adaptations that are available.  The ones we have drafted already include floor finishes, access ramps and stairlifts among other topics.

We have started a new “Disability” category on our blogs so that you can easily search for articles in this series!  Keep looking, we will gradually add more!

Please comment and feel free to ask questions about the articles and about adaptations that are available.  Whilst we will always recommend that a health care professional such as an Occupational Therapist helps you choose which adaptations to suit your particular needs, in many cases we have a good idea of  the standard ones ourselves.

Initial Assessment

As Architectural Designers we usually get involved with adapting a home to suit a particular disability only after the domestic requirements have been subject to an initial assessment by someone like an Occupational Therapist (OT). This health care professional will have been sent out by a Hospital or by the Social Services to assess what is actually required, and if it goes beyond a few special gadgets it’s then that they will call in the Building Design Experts!  It is therefore often the OT, rather than the end user that will liaise with the Architectural Designer, advising them, or “briefing” as we call it, on what is necessary to meet the needs of the individual.

Some changes (fitting a grab rail for example) may be very easy, and quick, but if extensive changes (widening openings, altering kitchens etc.)  are needed these can take longer in both the design stage and the actual time it takes to carry out the work.

Where to Find Out what is Possible

There is a lot of help available, from Small Gadgets that assist with independence right up to major adaptations to the home. None of the major alterations are cheap, so it is important to get as much help and advice as possible before starting any work.

Much of this advise is available through Social Services, your Local Authority Housing or Environmental Health Departments, or in many cases through specialist organisations set up to support particular disabilities.

For the sake of this article, as it is about how an Architectural Designer can help with the process, we will have to assume that whatever adaptations are needed involve alterations of some form to the home. With that assumption, in relation the general disabilities such as mobility or impediments in hearing and sight, an Architectural Designer should also be able to provide good advice, especially if used in conjunction with a Health Care Professional such as the OT mentioned above.  Most would be willing to attend the first feasibility meeting free in their own area. Clive Elsdon Building Design offers this on any project within DL & DH Post Code Areas anyway!

Longevity

If you’re planning to move, don’t overspend on work that will most likely be removed when you leave.  Make sure the people who are helping you decide what is needed know this.  A concrete ramp will last forever (almost) but be expensive to install, and expensive to remove.  A metal or timber ramp won’t last as long, but is easily removed and possibly could even move with you!

Conversely, if you know you want to stay in your house for a long time, it is worth spending that bit extra to both ensure that the facilities last a long time and to make sure they look good as well. A good Architectural Designer will try and make the adaptations look as good as possible.

Funding

Funding is available for adaption’s to a home in the form of a disabled facilities grant. This can be up to £25,000.00 per home for necessary adaptations. There are also sometimes low cost loans available.  Both of these are means tested though, so your income and savings are taken into account. You may be deemed able to afford the work yourself!

You can get more information by visiting the government’s web site at http://www.direct.gov.uk or by contacting your own Local Authority.

VAT

Some work, such as the installation of lifts between floors and ramps can be carried out at zero-rated VAT. This currently saves 20% of the cost compared to normal building work.  The HMRC website at http://www.hmrc.gov.uk should be able to help you out there.

We hope that you have found this Introductory article useful.  Our next article will be titled “Just Getting In!” and will cover access to your home from outside.