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Sue Bott gives evidence to MPs on disability and the built environment

26 October 2016

Disability and the built environment: what are the priorities?

Sue Bott, Deputy CEO Disability Rights UK

View video of DR UK Deputy CEO Sue Bott giving evidence

Find out more about the evidence session

In 2011, the UK Census found that around 11.5 million people (18% of the population) had a long-term health problem or disability that limited their day-to-day activities either a lot or a little. Such issues can impact the accessibility of homes, buildings and public spaces.

In the first evidence session of this inquiry, the Women and Equalities Committee aims to identify the key issues and priorities for disabled people relating to the built environment. Areas likely to be covered include:

  • What more needs to be done if the supply of accessible housing is to keep up with demand?
  • How responsive is the rental market to the needs of disabled people?
  • What impact do barriers in the built environment have on disabled people's access to work?
  • How well do local authorities plan for accessible public spaces?

The session will also explore whether the current legal and regulatory framework is adequate and effective for securing accessibility: where are the gaps? How could it be made more effective?

Witnesses

Wednesday 26 October, Thatcher Room, Portcullis House

At 9.30am 

  • Sue Bott, Deputy Chief Executive, Disability Rights UK
  • Zara Todd, Community Activities Manager, Equal-Lives and Chair, Inclusion London
  • Jolie Goodman, Manager and Lead Facilitator, Mental Health Foundation

At 10.30am

  • Martin McConaghy, Member of the National Council and Chair of Northern Region, The Access Association
  • David Petherick, Chairman, British Standards Institute
  • Chris Fry, Solicitor and Managing Partner, Unity Law

Sue told the committee of the case of a disabled man whose rented property was so inaccessible he had to crawl up the stairs of his to get to his bathroom and bedroom. After years of waiting on his local housing trust’s list for an accessible property, he was told he was no longer eligible because of a rule change. This trust had a “squeeze” on accessible one-bedroom properties because disabled people are forced to downsize as a result of the bedroom tax.

Sue also expressed concerns about the impact on disabled people of the fall in the number of local council access officers and local access groups. She mentioned Cambridge University’s Robinson College as “a superb, accessible building” due, in part, to the fact Cambridge City Council is one of the few local authorities that still has an access officer and still funds a local, active access group of disabled people. As a result, there are plenty of disabled people on hand to advise, and the result is a beautiful building.”

She thought that an “evidence base” on the state of access to the built environment across the country would be useful.