Lack of accessible housing for people with disability

15 January 2024 4:50PM

Meriel StangerI really would like to see change in the housing stock currently available for people with disability. I am blunt and bolshie about all things ‘accessible’, and I do not apologise for it. I’m keen to make life better for those with disabilities.

Meriel feels fortunate to own her own home after witnessing first-hand the shortage of affordable, accessible housing for people with disability.

“My name is Meriel Stanger, I am 62 years old, and I live in my own home. I had a fall from a horse in March 1995 resulting in a severe brain injury. That means I have been in a wheelchair, quadriplegic with vision impairment for over 26 years.

I have 2 daughters and with careful planning, have been renovating my own home, little by little, since 2014 to suit my needs and making it perfect for me.

My pride and joy in my house so far, is my kitchen. I’ve made a bench that’s perfect for me to prepare food. I don’t have a dishwasher because I like washing up dishes because I can.

I make sure that I do a lot of research, because I want things that are easy to look after. I have to be creative on how I’m going to use certain products and I worked closely with a cabinet maker and builder to get the kitchen that I wanted and they were great to work with.

I've always had a dream that I didn't want my home to look like a disabled circus and that's what I think I’ve achieved now. I don't have bars everywhere because I don't like to look at them. I want people to walk in this house and be stunned that a person in a wheelchair lives here.

I visualised this for many years. People looked at me and said, ‘Oh you must be pleased’ and I said, ‘It’s exactly how I thought it would look. It’s not a surprise to me. It’s just what I imagined.’

I’m now waiting on the NDIS funding to complete the renovations.

There is absolutely nothing available in the rental market. My only experience of renting was working as a consultant in 2017 to assess 8 properties for accessibility. Not one property was suitable, which was extremely disappointing for people with disability seeking a place to call home. After that experience, I was grateful, relieved, and appreciative that I was not in the market looking for a home to rent.

I’m yet to experience any accessible housing as most of it has been done from an ‘upright’s’ perspective and utterly useless from a wheelchair-user’s perspective.

I’m also yet to come across any building company who has embraced the ‘silver’ level of compliance. If it’s not easily accessible, I just don’t go there.