Housing, accommodation and home modifications
A home modification is adapting the home environment so that a person with disabilities can live as independently, safely and comfortably as possible. The modification can be simple or complex. To get an idea for what will be required to modify your home, visit the Home Modification Information Clearinghouse website. This is a comprehensive resource for information about home modifications. The website has many resources available including guides, publications, a discussion forum and directories about all aspects relating to home modifications. The website also has a Service Directory where you can search for Occupational Therapists, Access Consultants, Home Modification and Maintenance Services which are part of the HACC program, Private Builders and Professional trades people.
The Independent Living Centres Australia (ILCA) provides assistive technology solutions, home modifications and design ideas. Some of the centres also have displays of a modified kitchen, bathroom and related equipment and accessories.
Home Modifications Australia (previously known as the NSW HMMS State Council) is a not-for-profit organisation, and is the peak body representing Home Modification and Maintenance Services (HMMS) across Australia.
Equipment for people with disabilities that isn't available 'off-the-shelf' or needs customisation, can be made or modified by volunteer engineers from Technical Aid to the Disabled.
Home maintenance and modification programs
Home Maintenance and Modifications programs assist people living in or returning to their private or rented home to make the modifications necessary to meet the needs of their disability. Modifications include work such as:
- supply and installation of grabrails,
- handrails and lever taps ramps,
- step wedges and steps and paths to suit individual needs
- widening doorways for wheelchair access
- access modifications such as ramps
- bathroom and kitchen modifications
- safety modifications
This document sets out how much funding is available to you to modify your home. This is for modifications funded through the NSW Supports program. Other states may have different fee structures.
How to apply for a modification to your home
To apply for a service, people should contact their local Home Modification Service or talk to the Community Health Occupational Therapist. To locate the home modification service in your area use the directory under State details.
- NSW - The NSW Home modification and maintenance services map by DADHC Local Planning Area and Region. A browseable map of home modification services in NSW. Select your area, enter your postcode to locate services in your area.
- Qld - Qld Community Care Program
- Vic - Home Renovation Service
- SA - Domiciliary Equipment Service
- WA - WA Department of Health – Home and Community Care Program
- Tas – Department of Health and Human Services – Home and Community Care Program
- NT - Disability Equipment Program
- ACT - Home Help Services Ltd
Accessible housing - modifying or building homes and buildings to be accessible
21st century housing should be able to adapt to the needs of people at every stage of life. A home which has accessible and adaptable interior design and features allows for changes as required. This enables people to stay within the familiarity and comfort of their home and surrounding area.
The main principles of barrier free design are:
- Barrier free housing design is good design for everyone
- Continuation of existing community and family networks
- Suitability for people with any level of ability
- Bathroom/ toilet and bedroom on the entrance level
- Living room located on the entrance level
- At least 1 level entry into the house
- Sealed pathway from parking area to a home entrance
- Level or gently sloped approach to entrance
Guides and checklists
Checklists can be useful to make sure that as many accessible design features as possible are incorporated into your plans. Two examples of access checklists we have found are:
- Development Control Plan: Design for Accessibility by the NSW Mid-western Regional Council
- Access and Inclusion Resource Kit by the Disability Services Commission of Western Australia
Building a private home
If the project involves designing a private home, Australian Standards AS 1428 parts 1 and 2 do not need to be complied with, but they are a good start to get guidance on setting out dimensions and gradients etc to provide access to a particular person's needs. The standards are available from SAI Global or call 13 12 42.
Getting access to your home
There are a range of devices to enable everyone, regardless of their level of function, to independently access their front door and to allow others to enter.
For independent access, automatic door openers can be fitted to swing and sliding doors. They can be triggered by any switch system, either fixed or on a remote control. Remote door control can be added as a function of an environmental control system. Security for people who do not hold a remote control can be provided by a numeric keypad, fingerprint scanner, keycard, proximity card or keytag. For people who can open the door themselves but cannot use a key, the same security systems can be used. For those who have difficulty holding a key there is a range of large handles that can be fitted to one. There are commercial versions as well as a ‘finger hole’ style made by Technical Aid to the Disabled Ph: 02 9912 3400.
If you are letting others in, a numeric keypad lock can be installed. Multiple codes can then be created, and you can set one for an individual or a group of people. An example is a code given to a care agency to send staff to your home. Or if you have a tradesman coming you can set a code for that visit, and delete it after the job is done. If you have a normal key lock for your home, but you need people to be able to get in when you can’t unlock the door, a keysafe is a simple and safe way to give them access. This can be a box fixed to a wall or a padlock style that can be put anywhere. A combination code opens a chamber that holds a key to your door.
Whatever the circumstances a secure and safe access option is available. To further explore the options available visit your local locksmith, the Independent Living Centre or call SCInfo for advice and information.
Please watch our What Next? video for suggestions for getting access to the home.
Accessible public buildings - Modifying or building to be accessible
Public buildings and amenities must be built according to the relevant standards. See the Disability (Access to Premises - Buildings) Standards 2010 for information about what is required. See the Australian Human Rights Commission website for information on when and how an exemption to providing access in a building can be granted.
Public buildings - some useful access advice to business owners
Is this happening in your business? Your cashier is telling customers to buy elsewhere. Your receptionist isn't answering one out of every seven queries. You're refusing 14% of potential clients entrance to your premises. You're losing thousands of dollars because your business doesn't welcome new clients. Impossible? No, it isn't. To some extent you're losing business if your premises are not accessible to people with disabilities.
Some Facts - Over 19% of the Australian population have a disability. That's more than 2.5 million people - people who require goods and services like anybody else. If these people encounter barriers to entering your premises they'll simply spend their money elsewhere.
Why should I spend good money making my premises accessible? Because by doing so you'll open up new market opportunities. It's your legal obligation—Equal Access and Equal Opportunity are enshrined in a wide range of State and Federal laws: Anti-Discrimination and Equal Opportunity Acts, Building Codes and Australian Standards.
Changes that make sense:
- Ramped entrances and elevators as well as other modifications that will allow the maximum number of people to use your facilities
- Products that are well-designed and easy to use
- Staff that are trained to communicate effectively with people who have disabilities
- The development of a corporate culture of equity
Some added bonuses:
- A ramped entrance and elevator will not only allow access to people with physical disabilities; it will also be used by the elderly and by parents with children in prams
- Work Health and Safety problems associated with the delivery and removal of goods will also be alleviated
- Equal access will broaden your choices of prospective employees
- Staff trained in the principles of communicating effectively with people who have disabilities will have improved communication skills with all customers
Spinal Cord Injuries Australia can help you improve access to your business premises. We have extensive first-hand experience and knowledge of the day to day problems and challenges facing people with severe physical disabilities. These include such concerns as access to buildings and services, product usage and negative and obtrusive community/staff perceptions.
The Missed Business Guide, is a very useful guide to help you to attract more customers by providing better access to your business.
Further Reading and information
Visit SCIA's SCI Resources Library - Home Modifications to find publications, articles, and more.
Private Accommodation - Rental and Buying
There are limited sources for finding private accessible accommodation in Australia. From time to time people will notify disability organisations if they have a place available so it is worth a phone call to SCIA or your local organisation if you are looking for a place.
There are a couple of well known property websites - domain.com.au and realestate.com.au where you can look for places to rent or buy and even though they don't specifically list if a place is accessible, a search trick you can try is this: Go to Google and enter this search string into the search box:
"wheelchair site:url of website"
What this search does is search just that website for anywhere the word wheelchair appears. So if the agent has put into the description that the place is wheelchair accessible it will come up in the search results.
Public rental accommodation
In NSW (and other States), public housing is available to those who cannot afford accommodation on the private market. Accessible houses and apartments are made available, and modifications are made to others to make them accessible. Temporary assistance helps pay commercial rent for those waiting for public housing. In NSW, contact Housing NSW to find out more.
Short term accommodation
SCIA has an apartment called CHOICES which provides a place where a person undergoing inpatient rehabilitation following a spinal cord injury, their family and their friends, can stay at for up to seven days at a time. As well as providing some time away from the hospital environment and the opportunity to reconnect with loved ones, there is also the opportunity to gain experience and learn new skills to maximise independence before being discharged from hospital. The accommodation and care is provided free of charge for eligible members of SCIA. Read more....
If you need short term accommodation for any reason or if your home is getting modified and you need to move out for the duration, Ferguson Lodge, which is run by ParaQuad NSW, offers supported accommodation for people with a spinal cord injury in NSW. Ferguson Lodge does offer both a permanent home as well as respite accommodation so they are well worth contacting. There is an expression of interest application form available on the website which can be completed.
Holiday and travel accommodation
SCIA has a fully accessible house in Coffs Harbour NSW, available to people with a spinal cord injury or other physical disability for holidays, respite and short-term accommodation. For more information and to book please visit SCIA's page on holiday accommodation
Visit SCIA's transport and travel page to read about other options for travel and holiday accommodation.
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