As the UK slowly begins to recognise and prioritise accessibility requirements, there has never been a bigger spotlight on our country’s accessible housing deficit.
93% of the UK’s housing stock is not suitable for people with disabilities or elderly, failing to provide the basic features needed to give a safe and comfortable experience for those with mobility requirements.
Principally, there is a gap between the need and availability of accessible homes – highlighting the importance of individuals adapting and renovating current properties to meet these rudimentary features.
For homeowners who are forward-planning, or those who have specific, current mobility in mind, renovating a property is one of the most effective ways to ensure their home is fit for purpose.
One woman, who has bought and renovated a bungalow to meet her needs, is Leah Washington.
Proving that quality and design don’t have to be sacrificed in the pursuit of accessibility, Leah renovated her property over a two-year period. Talking of the project, she said:
“It took me around two years to find a home suitable for my needs. Before that, we rented a bungalow for over two years and we had to make a few adaptations, but it was nothing permanent. We finally purchased a bungalow in 2017 but didn’t move in until 2018 as we had to make substantial changes to ensure it was suitable.”
Leah prioritised the practical installation of level thresholds to allow for wheelchair access, and an extension to add space. The former garage was also transformed into an ensuite bathroom, while externally, the driveway was enlarged. Each doorway within the house was widened to enable easy passage for a wheelchair.
The essential adaptations make the bungalow a safe and comfortable home. But it is the bathroom that offers Leah an on-trend haven in which to relax. She believes that it is one of the most important rooms to get right when designing for accessibility.
Explaining the choices within her bathroom, Leah said:
“It was incredibly important to me that the space was safe and practical, but not clinical or disabled-looking. As I use crutches around the house, when I’m not wearing my prosthetic leg, we had to ensure the bathroom didn’t become slippery under my crutches.”
As Leah discovered, anti-slip, matte tiles are the most appropriate choice of flooring for an accessible bathroom.
“We had underfloor heating installed in the bathroom to ensure that the floor dried as quickly as possible, and I spent a long time finding and testing the most suitable – but beautiful – porcelain, wood-effect tiles.”
By opting for a moulded shower seat, rather than an in-shower chair, Leah was able to create a calm, spa-like environment. She also has a large bath, which she can use to soothe any aches or pains.
“We are lucky in that the space is large, so we have both a bath and a shower area. We also had plenty of room for storage; but we didn’t want the room to feel cluttered, so we decided to opt for a wall-hung vanity unit, with built-in drawers.
“We went for the wall-hung option because we knew that it was important that water didn’t pool around the base of the unit, which could become unsafe for me.”
While the bungalow had plenty of adaptations to be made, Leah didn’t feel overwhelmed by the challenge.
“After living in a rented property for two years, I knew exactly how I wanted my home to flow and feel. The bathroom in particular was an exciting project rather than a daunting one. I visited a lot of different bathroom showrooms multiple times and browsed Pinterest before making my choices – and going for a brand which I trusted.
“The bathroom is now one of my favourite rooms in my house, when it could so-easily be a dreaded space because of the associated risks with a bathroom. It’s so calming, and it works perfectly for my needs.”
Leah worked with Easy Bathrooms, a bathroom and tile retailer, to design and supply her bathroom products. Lee Reed, product manager for the company, commented:
“When many people think of accessibility, they tend to picture bulky products that will ruin the aesthetic of the property. This is the not the case at all, in fact it’s quite the opposite. Accessible products are often considered a selling point by potential buyers as it means the properties can be a ‘forever home’.
“Accessible homes aren’t just beneficial for people with disabilities and mobility issues, they improve independent living for older people, as well as families with young children.”