It can be quite difficult to find accommodation which is accessible for people with disabilities. The charity Trailblazers released a report which found that many people with disabilities encounter difficulties when trying to establish if properties are fully accessible to them.
If you are not confident communicating in English you may find it hard to find suitable accommodation. The Housing Executive uses a telephone translation service for people who are not comfortable communicating in English.
Charities such as the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities and groups that work with migrant communities may also be able to provide a translator for you. Don’t sign anything that you do not understand. If you are worried about a letter you have received or an agreement which you have been given ask someone for help translating it.
Housing Rights uses a telephone translation system so get in touch with us if you're having difficulties finding somewhere to live.
Finding accessible social housing
Some social housing is built specifically for people who have mobility problems and need to use a wheelchair. Many housing associations are currently building “lifetime homes” which are designed to be suitable for the majority of wheelchair users and people with disabilities.
As well as “lifetime homes”, some properties are built specifically for people with disabilities. If you use a wheelchair or other assistive devices to help you manage your disability and need a particular type of accommodation because of this, talk to your Occupational Therapist or your housing officer to make sure this is noted on your housing file.
Finding accessible private housing
Although there is an accessible property register which lists rental and holiday accommodation that is suitable for wheelchair users, this is not widely used by property agents in Northern Ireland.
If you’re looking for a property in the private rented sector, it’s essential that you view it before agreeing to take it on. You’ll need to be sure that the property has
- adequate room to manoeuvre around the property
- an accessible bathroom and toilet
- an accessible kitchen
- suitable escape routes in case of an emergency
If you are a private tenant and you receive housing benefit to help meet the cost of your rent, you may find that your benefit does not cover the full amount of rent you have to pay. You should consider applying for a top up payment of HB, known as a Discretionary Housing Payment. Contact Housing Rights for help with making this claim.
Making accommodation more accessible
Housing Executive and housing associations can ask their landlord to make adaptations to make the property more accessible for a disability. Your landlord may need an Occupational Therapist to recommend the adaptations before the work can be approved. Private tenants or homeowners can apply for a Disabled Facilities Grant if they require substantial adaptations to their home because of a disability
If you rent from a private landlord and need more minor adjustments, your landlord should make “reasonable adjustments” to accommodate you. There is no definition of what is reasonable, so if your landlord refuses to do something contact Housing Rights to find out if an adviser can help your case.
Your landlord would not be expected to make adaptations that would be disproportionately expensive or seriously impact on his or her ability to let the property to other people in the future.