Portable homes a game-changer for people with disabilities

Market Insights
4 years ago
4 minutes

It’s a hidden problem that many able-bodied don’t see — how does the home change for people with disabilities?

It was a problem for Luke Nelson, who was born with cerebral palsy and vision problems, so getting around had always presented challenges. He lives independently but said it was a long and difficult process to make his house fully accessible.

“I’ve knocked over a few walls in my time, I’ve done some damage,” he told SBS. “Your standard doorway is not big enough for a person in a wheelchair, you need a bigger doorway."

Luke Nelson at home (credit: SBS)

Acting CEO of The Summer Foundation, Carolyn Finis, has echoed these concerns, with more than 6,000 people aged under 65 currently stuck in Australian nursing homes due to the lack of appropriate housing.

“There can be quite a long time lag or gap for someone to achieve a long-term solution and often that gap means someone is forced to go into aged care," she said.

“People lose confidence. We find it’s extremely difficult for young people to exit aged care once they go in.”

Disability equipped bathroom (credit SBS)

But one solution has been found by modular manufacturer Oscar Building — a high tech housing unit, which is a pre-fabricated flat that many are calling a game-changer.

Once permits are approved, the unit takes just 4-6 weeks to build and comes complete with wide doorways, a disability accessible bathroom, ceiling hoists in the bedroom,  voice-activated appliances, and height-adjustable benches and sinks.

A small unit costs around $160,000 to construct and is designed to fit in a backyard or space of at least 10x12m in size. It’s marketed as an interim solution while an existing home is being upgraded. 

This is just one of a number of positive solutions being put forward by Australian companies, manufacturers and government.

Disability Housing are presenting a good platform for disability appropriate dwellings. It offers a place for the disabled community to search for sales and rentals all around Australia.

This one in Brisbane, for example, offers low-lying cupboards and amenities, ceiling hoist tracks and is ‘Smart House’ ready. It can also come with assisted bath, video security, and even a fully accessible hydrotherapy spa. 

credit: Disability Housing

The government, via The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), has also been trying to help with this situation over the past few years.

The NDIS is a new method of supporting Australians with a permanent or significant disability, giving them the opportunity to build skills for everyday tasks or to rejoin the workforce and engage with the community.

As part of this, they can help fund home modifications to make a participant’s home more accessible. However, Lauren Ivanyi, Co-Founder and Director of Disability Housing believes not enough is being done.

“In the last two years, we have seen the accessible housing market go from strength to strength (particularly around SDA development), including three prominent online market platforms to access available tenancies for accessible housing, Disability Housing, Nest, and Housing hub, but there’s still work to be done,” she says.

“Future homes should be built to the Gold or Platinum level Liveable housing design guidelines, as more of the market would be able to stay in the properties as they age because of the provisions the houses would be built to.”

Simonds Group is one large Australian building firm responding to this call. Earlier this year they pledged to expand into new areas of construction, such as the emerging market niche of specialist disability accommodation.

“There are other avenues than the normal residential market to get into,”  chief executive Kelvin Ryan told the Australian Financial Review.

“We're talking to serious players about how we might access the NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme) and start with specialist disability housing. There are other avenues to building homes that traditional residential builders haven’t explored."

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