‘Think Housing, Build Accessible’ says new Irish Wheelchair Association Campaign.
Today, Irish Wheelchair Association, together with an alliance of disability sector organisations, has launched its latest disability housing campaign to tackle the urgent wheelchair accessible housing shortage in Ireland.
‘Think Housing, Build Accessible’ is a national campaign highlighting the absence of wheelchair accessible homes to rent or buy in Ireland. Irish Wheelchair Association and its alliance partners have launched an online petition calling on the government to review the building regulations in Ireland and increase wheelchair accessibility standards from visitable to liveable. The public are being asked to support the petition here https://www.iwa.ie/buildaccessible
Tony Cunningham, Irish Wheelchair Association’s Director of Housing said “Across Ireland thousands of people with physical disabilities do not have a home of their own and many are living in housing that is unsafe, inaccessible and unsuitable to their needs. Not having a home of their own negatively impacts the health and wellbeing of people with disabilities, taking away their independence, and limiting their choices in terms of employment, education, community participation and relationships, to mention a few areas many take for granted. We often hear stories from our members of people suffering falls, accidents and deteriorating health because their home isn’t safe for their needs. People have told us stories of being unable to leave their home because of gravel driveways, narrow entrances and steps.”
According to Irish Wheelchair Association, almost 1,500 people with physical disabilities are currently on the local authority approved social housing list, some for over seven years. In addition, 1,300 people under 65 years of age are living in nursing homes primarily occupied by older people, many of whom wish to live in a home of their own in a community of their choice.
Ireland’s national building regulations have extremely low wheelchair accessibility housing standards at present. Under the regulations, houses must only be suitable for wheelchair users to visit, but do not have to be ‘wheelchair liveable’. Developers are not required to build wheelchair liveable houses or apartments.
According to Tony Cunningham “Currently the Irish building regulations meet the lowest minimum standard on wheelchair accessibility. Our national standards only require that a house is accessible for a wheelchair user to visit. There is currently no requirement in the building regulations for the provision of wheelchair liveable housing, neither is there any guidance provided within the regulations on the design of wheelchair liveable housing.
The ‘Think Housing Build Accessible’ national campaign online petition is calling on the government to review Part M (Access and Use) of the Building Regulations, 2010 in so far as it relates to dwellings, to ensure higher wheelchair accessibility standards are introduced for new houses and apartments. The campaign wants to ensure that 7% of all new builds are fully wheelchair accessible and liveable.
“Without changes to the building regulations, people with physical disabilities will continue to be caught in an endless housing crisis and forced to live involuntarily in unsuitable and inaccessible housing, very often with parents and family members. We need this government to build accessible” according to Tony Cunningham. “The housing crisis cannot be resolved if thousands of homes are being built that cannot cater for the people who need them and are waiting for them. We need commitment from this government to end this hidden housing crisis. The building regulations must be reviewed now, people with the lived experience should be consulted, and an adequate amount of fully wheelchair accessible housing built.”
Sign the Think Housing Build Accessible petition here www.iwa.ie/buildaccessible
For media queries contact: Catherine Ginty, Communications, Irish Wheelchair Association. Ph: 0863437896
Think Housing Build Accessible Alliance Partners include: Cheshire Ireland, Chime, Central Remedial Clinic, Disability Federation of Ireland, Enable Ireland, Federation of Voluntary Bodies, Independent Living Movement of Ireland, Inclusion Ireland, Irish Wheelchair Association, National Council for the Blind Ireland, National Disability Services Association and Rehab Ireland.