Scotland’s Minister for Housing has rejected a recommendation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to set a national target of ensuring at least 10 percent of all new homes are wheelchair accessible.

Scotland’s lack of accessible housing for wheelchair users has made headlines recently, following a number of reports highlighting the problem.

“The effect of this cannot be understated. It impacts on every aspect of a disabled person’s life, their ability to participate in family life, to work, to access education and social life, as well as their dignity, health and wellbeing.”

The report, “Still minding the step? A new estimation of housing need among wheelchair users in Scotland” – published by Horizon Housing Association – found that almost one in five wheelchair users have unmet housing needs in Scotland.

Estimating that over 17,200 wheelchair users living in Scotland do not have a suitable home for their needs, the report predicted the unmet needs would rise by 80% by 2024.

In addition, the EHRC’s “Housing and disabled people: Britain’s hidden crisis” report also underlined the problem, calling on the Scottish Government to produce a national strategy to ensure an adequate supply of houses built to inclusive design standards and for a review of the way that building standards are enforced.

John Wilkes, Head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission in Scotland, said: “During our inquiry, we heard many stories of people unable to leave their homes, restricted to eating, sleeping and bathing in one room, and loved ones risking their own health to carry family members upstairs or between rooms. The effect of this cannot be understated. It impacts on every aspect of a disabled person’s life, their ability to participate in family life, to work, to access education and social life, as well as their dignity, health and wellbeing.

“Today there are 61,000 disabled Scots who are waiting for adaptations to their homes. A further 17,000 Scottish wheelchair users are poorly housed.

“But Scotland is currently building 50,000 affordable homes. We could resolve the problem for all of Scotland’s wheelchair users now if these houses were built to accessible standards.”

Despite the calls from the Commission, Housing Minister Kevin Stewart told Holyrood’s Local Government Committee that he did not wish to “see an arbitrary figure plucked from the air.”

Addressing the issue raised by Scottish Conservative MSP Graham Simpson, Mr Stewart said that he had made it clear that councils are to increase the number of accessible homes made available and that over 90 percent of new homes were designed to allow for easy adaptation if required in the future.

“I have made no bones about the fact that I want to see more wheelchair accessible housing delivered throughout Scotland, and that’s one of the reasons why I’ve told local authorities on numerous occasions that that there is flexibility around about subsidy to deliver in this sphere,” he said.

To see the EHRC’s full report, visit the website HERE

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