Funding for Specialist Disability Accommodation is unused by thousands of NDIS participants

Posted 2 weeks ago by Georgie Waters
While having ramps may make a house more accessible, other factors also need to be considered when choosing housing as a person with disability. [Source: Shutterstock]
While having ramps may make a house more accessible, other factors also need to be considered when choosing housing as a person with disability. [Source: Shutterstock]

A new report highlights how building standards could make accommodation more accessible for people with disability

Key points

  • Physical disorders are reported by over 75 percent of Australians living with disability as being their main concern, as per the Australian Bureau of Statistics
  • Some mandatory standards for new buildings include having at least one entrance without steps and reinforced walls around the toilet
  • Support for the building industry to ensure compliance with specialised disability accommodation standards could include providing examples of accessible housing templates

Over 75 percent of the 4.4 million Australians with disability reported that a physical disorder was causing them the most problems, as per the latest available data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics

While the NDIS has provided Specialist Disability Accommodation funding for over 23,000 eligible participants, almost 10,000 of these people haven’t been able to access this type of housing, according to a recently released report from the Summer Foundation.

Information on the NDIS website states that Specialist Disability Accommodation ‘[…] funding is provided to participants who require a specialist dwelling that reduces their need for person-to-person supports or that improves the efficiency of the delivery of the person-to-person supports that they receive.’

However, strict eligibility criteria apply for funding related to Specialist Disability Accommodation for NDIS participants and can be found on the NDIS website. 

It’s not just the structure of the building and associated space that should be considered when designing or adapting accommodation to suit the needs of people with disability as information in the report details other aspects that may not always be considered. 

In places where housing is being built or adapted, the four main design aspects to consider in the building structure are high physical support, robustness, improved livability and complete accessibility, according to the Specialist Disability Accommodation Survey

To ensure all new housing contains the appropriate accessibility requirements, the National Construction Code eliminates any possible ambiguity in regards to new building standards. 

There are national minimum standards that must be followed during the construction of a building to ensure the safety of all future occupants, regardless of their disability status.

The mandatory seven standards for the structure of new buildings are:

  • entryways with level access;
  • at least one entrance that doesn’t require steps;
  • an easy-access toilet on the ground floor;
  • a step-free shower recess;
  • wide doorways and corridors with enough space for movement;
  • suitably designed staircases if in a multi-level home;
  • reinforced walls around the toilet.

Although grab rails near the toilet may not always be installed for new builds, reinforced walls are required so that they can be installed at a later date if needed. 

You can access the complete Liveable Housing Design resource from the Australian Building Codes Board online. In this document, specific measurements and requirements are detailed for new buildings. 

Build Australia, a construction magazine, released information in collaboration with Pressalit, a bathroom solutions company, about the importance of following Specialist Disability Accommodation guidelines. These guidelines include installing high-strength adjustable basins and kitchen tops as some people with disability ‘may need to lean against the basin or to use it for assistance to rise from a seated position.’ This can help ensure that all occupants in housing enjoy the full benefit of available amenities.

Director Mary Sayers of the Building Better Homes campaign wanted Australians to understand that building accessible accommodation is the future goal for all buildings.

“[…] There is no point building homes that are not fit-for-purpose and do not suit an ageing population and the one in five Australians with disability,” Ms Sayers said.

“Accessibility features in new homes are good for everyone — for older people, for those with mobility issues, if you have a child in a pram, a sports injury and for visitors to your home.

Research in the Summer Foundation report identified some key changes that may be required in the building industry to ensure effective implementation of the standards continues.

In the report, some of the suggestions included:

  • providing more support regarding the implementation of housing designs to ensure good accessibility;
  • educating companies and clients about the value of accessible housing across a person’s life-span, not just for people with disability;
  • providing examples of what accessible housing designs may look like.

Chief Executive Officer and Founder of the Summer Foundation, Dr Di Winkler AM said that the support of workers in the building industry is evident through information gathered during the production of the report.

“Architects and builders see the benefits of accessible housing for all Australians, but they want practical and easy to implement support from governments and industry bodies to help make this a reality after a tough few years for the housing industry,” said Dr Winkler AM.

It’s not just the impact of building structures that can improve the lives of people with disability, but the way some organisations are making it easier to locate disability-accessible housing. 

Having a bathroom and kitchen with an easy-to-navigate layout and access to outdoor views is important. With good public transport nearby, people who can’t drive can still access services and amenities and engage in employment. 

To address these concerns about finding appropriate housing, the REA Group has updated the filter settings on, in collaboration with Spinal Life Australia, to include searchable accessibility features including single-storey dwellings, wide doorways, roll-in showers, accessible parking, step-free entry, elevator and bathroom grab rails.

To read more about the impact that is having on Australians searching for more accessible housing options, head over to this article: How finding accessible accommodation in Australia just became much easier


What is most important to you when looking for accessible housing?

Let the team at Talking Disability know on social media. 

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