Ensuring Your Home Is Fit For You

16 August 2015

Finding your ideal home can be a long and stressful process at the best of times, with each of us having different needs and requirements to fulfil. For certain demographics such as wheelchair users, this task can prove particularly difficult and there are many additional considerations that must be taken into account to make sure a property will be suitable, as our blog today will reveal.

Following a spinal cord injury you may find your current property is unsuitable in its current form or indeed not suitable at all. As part of the claims process we therefore make it our priority to commission the best accommodation experts (including surveyors, architects and professional property finders such as the Wyvern Partnership) to ensure that our clients’ needs are excellently catered for.

The first obvious consideration for our experts is whether or not our clients’ property is spacious enough to cater for them and their family. Experts also assess whether the property is built on sufficiently even ground with easy access points. If not, is there sufficient capacity to construct a lift or something similar? Will the doors need widening to allow for turning space for wheelchair access? Does the garden require large patio doors and height raised flower beds, to enable garden activities? Will the bedroom require an en-suite bathroom to incorporate a level access shower and a specialist bath? All units, work surfaces, appliances and light switches and window openings must be appropriate heights. The flooring will need to be durable and non-slip to provide a smooth surface for independent wheelchair access. Drop down grab rails may be required in the bathroom for example. Our clients might also require level vehicular access near to their front door and extra parking spaces to accommodate carers or other regular visitors.

There are other considerations which might not be so obvious. For instance, whether the property contains a heating system capable of providing higher than normal room temperatures, to account for the fact that the wheelchair user may be sedentary and therefore not able to move around to get warm. Experts might also find it appropriate to factor in annual maintenance costs for services like window cleaning and gardening, which the injured person is no longer able to carry out, or additional electricity for lighting, water and charging wheelchairs.

It is also essential to consider whether planning permission for any proposed adaptation work is likely to be obtained. If the wheelchair user lives in rented accommodation, is their landlord’s consent likely to be obtained?

Besides the practical considerations outlined above, our priority is to ensure that our clients are involved as much as possible right from the beginning, both in the property finding and/or the adaptation process, and that they are happy with the final result.

In this respect, consideration is also given to any assistive technology (AT) that may be of benefit and we use AT experts to help determine this, such as Colin Clayton Assistive Technology Limited. AT promotes greater independence by enabling people to perform tasks that without the equipment they are unable to accomplish, or had great difficulty accomplishing and AT therefore has the potential to fill a gap between a person’s physical difficulties and their cognitive potential.

AT experts will assess our clients’ needs in respect of accessing computers, communication aids and home automation controls. They might then decide, for instance, that our client would benefit from the use of a smart phone, desktop computer, electronic window/curtain openers, remote-controlled lights or CCTV intercom system, to name a few. These assessments may be carried out both inside and outside of the domestic setting to ensure our clients’ needs are fully catered for.

In conjunction with our experts, we are committed to ensuring that the lives of our clients are disrupted as little as possible by spinal cord injury.

This article forms part of a series written for the Spinal Injuries Association (SIA) ‘Ask the experts’ blog. As a Gold Corporate Partner of the SIA you can rest assured that we are legal experts in spinal cord injuries. We have many connections in the Spinal Injury world and have a great deal of experience and success in gaining appropriate compensation for our clients who have sustained a spinal cord injury. Follow our #spinalinjuryjourney on Twitter.