Alliance of Advocates Calls for Mandatory Disability Access in New Homes

Annie Guest reported this story on Monday, June 13, 2016 08:30:00

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: An alliance of 800 disability advocates and ethical designers is calling for mandatory disability access in new homes.

They say Australia must do better as a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities.

The alliance has submitted a formal proposal for a change to building regulations.

Annie Guest reports from Brisbane(listen to the Podcast at the link below).

HEATHER ROMAN: All right you’re all tucked in. All right, now we’re going to put a top on.

ANNIE GUEST: After Robbie Carr began dropping his carpentry tools in his 20s, Multiple Sclerosis was diagnosed.

His mother Heather Roman struggled to find a home his wheelchair could enter.

HEATHER ROMAN: And that has been so hard. You know we tried to find houses that had wide doors, low to the ground or a ramp. Nearly impossible.

ANNIE GUEST: Thirty-seven year old Robbie Carr can’t visit the homes of most of his family members and friends.

ROBBIE CARR: It definitely sucks ’cause I want to go there obviously. Don’t have access to wheelchairs. They don’t think about us.

ANNIE GUEST: Now an alliance of 800 disability advocates, ethical designers and others is demanding Australia do better.

Architect Margaret Ward is the convenor of the Australian Network for Universal Housing Design.

MARGARET WARD: We’re calling for minimum access features to be included in the building code of Australia, or now called the National Construction Code for all new housing construction.

ANNIE GUEST: What would you say to people who say they don’t require wheelchair access in their homes?

MARGARET WARD: There’s an estimate that 91 per cent of dwellings built will have someone either visit or live in it that will require access in the lifetime of that dwelling.

ANNIE GUEST: She says it only adds $1,000 to the cost of construction to have one entry and one bathroom wheelchair accessible and some wider corridors and doorways.

The Housing Industry Association’s Kristin Brookfield says regulations are not the answer.

KRISTIN BROOKFIELD: No, we much prefer seeing a voluntary approach.

So our preference is that we educate our members and that we educate consumers, home buyers and the disability community itself on what are some simple solutions that could be included in homes and letting that consumer choose.

ANNIE GUEST: Why shouldn’t accessibility for people with disabilities be mandatory?

KRISTIN BROOKFIELD: Well, it goes to the issue of the one size doesn’t fit all. The disability of someone in a wheelchair is completely different to somebody who is blind.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: That is Kristin Brookfield from the Housing Industry Association ending that report.

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