Accessible Housing - Petition!

It's 10am and the door rings. I cannot get down the stairs to answer the door. I'm sore from a fall the day before and today, the steps in my house are a mountain I cannot climb. I've been unwell and my friend offers to pop over (pre-covid) to visit. I have to turn down the invitation because she's a wheelchair user. I have steps up to my house, my door isn't wide enough and I'm stuck upstairs. I'm defeated.

I have lived with my disability for 12 years now and I can't remember a day when I haven't had to fight for something related to my condition. If I didn't have a disability, I would walk and not have to raise thousands of pounds for a wheelchair. If I didn't have a disability, I would be able to care for myself, and not have to fight to get a PA so I can live my life. And, if I didn't have a disability, I don't think I would be fighting so hard to get a house that was safe for myself, my carers, and my friends. 

Statistics published in July from the English Housing Survey 2018/19 revealed that just 9% of homes in England have key features, such as a toilet at entrance level and sufficiently wide doorways, to deem them accessible. As a wheelchair user myself, these basic features don't make a property fully accessible, so I can imagine the number of 'truly accessible' properties is even lower.

I live in Northumberland, and campaigning for accessible housing has been frustrating. It's a big region, with several large new-build developments appearing, but frustratingly very few accessible houses being built. In 2017, The council reported that 800 wheelchair users were thought to be living in accommodation that was unsuitable to their needs. Furthermore, around 34,000 households in Northumberland had at least one family member with a physical disability; half of whom are over 65 years of age. I can only imagine that number has grown.

One of the main problems is, in all the housing reports I have read, there isn't a section for people with 'long term chronic illnesses' who will need accessible housing (with carer/partner/etc). There's a box for life-limiting. There's a box for learning difficulties. There's a box for over 65's (who get priority over us youngsters and many properties are ringfenced). There are over 15 million people with chronic health conditions. It's time to take us into account and start making plans for our welfare.

So, what can I do to help? I've bitten the bullet and set up a petition. Chronic illness still isn't being talked about enough and we need it to be. We need to be 'that tick box' so we can get the basic things we are fully entitled to, so here we go. I'd appreciate any signatures!

Kate x

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