The Accessible Property Register website (APR) was first launched in 2003. My partner Dr Christine Barton MBE, who sadly died in 2013, had been diagnosed with primary progressive multiple sclerosis back in the 1980s and had become a wheelchair user around 1992. This is the point where you learn just how inaccessible the world can be and about the numerous environmental barriers with which people with physical impairments, and particularly wheelchair users, are faced!
With typical energy and determination Christine set about challenging and overcoming the many barriers that restricted her independence and can oftenoverwhelm disabled people. She continued to work, initiallywith Sheffield City Council on the early development of direct payments (now Personal Independence Payments), and on setting up Inclusive Living Sheffield, a community organisation of disabled people. Her work for disabled people was recognised in 2000 with the award of an MBE.
Throughout this period the progressive nature of Christine’s condition meant that she continued to lose physical capacity and we continued struggling to adapt to new challenges. Although we lived in a bungalow, it wasn’t accessible, and an awful lot of money and work was required to adapt it. Adaptations included adding a ceiling hoist,the loss of a bedroom to create a new entrance and a level access wet room and, bizarrely for a bungalow, the installation of a lift!
Despite the cost, we were fortunate that it was possible to adapt the property we were living in. For many people, this will not be the case and talking to disabled friends who were trying to buy a house at this time, highlighted the difficulties faced by anyone with a mobility impairment looking to buy or rent property, particularly if they are a wheelchair user.An estate agent will say, ‘Oh, it’s a bungalow, you will be fine’. But many bungalows have steps, and it’s not fine. So, in 2002 when Christine and I were talking about this problem I can clearly remember saying, ‘What we need is a property website that only advertises property with wheelchair access’. And so, the Accessible Property Register was born...
Property meeting the following criteria will be advertised as ‘Accessible’. Properties in this category may be advertised on the APR website and may qualify for a period of free advertising.
Off-street or unrestricted on-street parking. No steps between the point where a car could be parked and the entrance to the property. Level or ramped access to at least one entrance to the property. Level access to all main living floor rooms. A WC on the same level as the entrance to the property.
Properties advertised as ‘Accessible Property Plus’ will be accessible and in addition, contain one or more features which may make the property more suitable for someone with a physical or other impairment. Property designated Accessible Property Plus may be particularly suitable for a wheelchair user and some of these properties will have been specifically designed or adapted for wheelchair use.
Accessible Property Plus features might include any of the following and features will be displayed with property details:
Entrance level bath or shower room. Adapted bathroom (e.g. bath with electrically operated seat, walk-in bath, fixed or drop-down handrails etc.) Level access shower/wet room Adapted kitchen (e.g. lowered working services) Wider-than-standard doorways Access to upper floor(s) via stairlift Access to upper floor(s) via wheelchair lift Fixed or tracking ceiling hoist(s) Environmental or SMART controls Intercom (may incorporate remote door opening) Supported living (warden or other assistance available on site)