How to find an accessible home to meet your needs

Having an accessible home can make a big difference to your safety and well-being. 

If you have a disability, having an inaccessible home can cause significant problems day-to-day. Luckily, there are many ways we might adapt our current home to meet our needs, as well as heaps of support out there to find a new one. 

Below, award-winning journalist, author and disabled activist Frances Ryan explores the many options to adapt or move.

1. Get advice

If you’re struggling at home, your local authority is a great place to start. Local councils offer a free service that assesses homes and recommends equipment or adaptations. You can find your local council and apply here

If it turns out your home isn’t suitable for the changes you want and you need to move, the assessor’s report can still be crucial evidence to the local housing department, if you want to apply for social housing. 

There are unfortunately a limited number of accessible properties available in the UK, but there is support out there to help your search. You can get advice on finding accessible properties from organisations, such as the housing charity Shelter or Accessible PRS, which gives advice on finding wheelchair-accessible homes in the private rental sector.

2. Identify accessible homes

If you’re looking to move to an accessible home, there are certain features you can look out for. 

Some are more obvious, such as finding properties without stairs such as bungalows and ground-floor flats. Other aspects to keep an eye out for include wider doorways, a downstairs toilet, or a kitchen with enough room to move around in. 

Keep one eye on the future, too. Even if you don’t need certain features now, it’s sensible to futureproof your home by thinking about what you might need when you’re older and snapping up those aspects now. Motionspot has some great examples of this on their website.

3. Grab equipment

There are many strategies to make your existing home more accessible. Grab rails are a simple and often affordable way to make rooms safer and easier to get around. They can provide support for a range of needs, from holding some of your weight while moving, helping reduce fatigue when standing, or having something to grab onto if you’re slipping.

When thinking about where to install grab rails, consider the areas you need to be mobile in. This might mean installing a rail to help you stand up from the toilet or bed, or putting them in a room you move around frequently, such as the kitchen.

4. Trip hazards

Removing potential trip-risks from around your home is another key way to keep yourself safe, especially if you use a walker, cane, or can be unsteady on your feet. Getting rid of rugs can be a good first step. Consider installing low-slip flooring options, like laminate. This can be particularly important in a hazardous room such as the bathroom, so check your flooring tiles are non-slip. 

If there are ‘lips’ or single steps between any of your rooms, you might want to buy a threshold ramp – a small ramp that can even-out uneven flooring. Consider also moving your furniture around or decluttering to ensure you have enough space to safely manoeuvre without hitting obstacles.

Man in a wheelchair using a cooker

5. Move house without moving

If you’re in a two-storey property and are no longer able to get upstairs easily – and if moving isn’t possible right now – try reconfiguring the layout of your existing home. 

This might mean turning a downstairs room into a bedroom. If your only toilet or wash space is upstairs, explore building a bathroom on the ground floor (see funding options below). In the meantime, you may want to consider a commode as a way to keep safe, especially if going to the loo at night.

6. Seek financial support

It can feel daunting to afford the adaptations we need, so keep an eye out for grants. Check your eligibility for a Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) – a means-tested grant from local authorities for people with a disability of any sort. The DFG can cover changes such as ramps, stairlifts, and accessible bathrooms, and it’s available whether you rent or own your home.

If you can’t get the help you need from your local council or the NHS, you might want to explore charities to help with the costs. Independence at Home has grants for disabled people and those with a long-term illness who need financial help. Or, try the Turn2Us grant search.

7. Know your rental rights

If you’re a renter, you will need to get permission from your housing provider or landlord to change any physical features

If you qualify as disabled under the Equality Act, you do have the right to reasonable adjustments and “auxiliary aids”. But remember, these are limited to adjustments that do not make a physical or structural change to your home, such as temporary grab handles that don’t need screws or new door handles. 

If your landlord is not willing to accept these adjustments and you’re currently unable to move home, consider utilising temporary equipment instead, such as a raised toilet seat or a slip mat for the bath or shower.  

8. Get technical

Smart home technology means it’s easier than ever to control appliances remotely. These can range from blinds and curtains, lights, to ovens. 

Installing voice-control technology means it’s possible to run much of your home without getting up or even lifting an arm for a remote. Check out Ross Lannon’s house tour on TikTok to see some of these in action!

Further reading

Additional support at home

Alongside reablement, staying independent is about having peace of mind that you’re not going to be left cold or in the dark if the heating or electricity fails.

The Priority Services Register (PSR) is an important, free support service which is designed to support those who need a little extra help in the event of interruptions to their gas, water or electricity supply. If you or someone you know has extra communication, access or safety needs, signing up to the PSR will help ensure you or they can access the best possible services at all times, and feel safe and independent at home. 

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