How finding accessible accommodation in Australia just became much easier

Posted 1 month ago by Georgie Waters
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While a couple of steps to the house or a smaller bathroom might not seem problematic, such housing layouts can pose great challenges for people with accessibility requirements. [Source: Shutterstock]
While a couple of steps to the house or a smaller bathroom might not seem problematic, such housing layouts can pose great challenges for people with accessibility requirements. [Source: Shutterstock]

Could a search filter function make much of a difference to people with disability searching for accommodation?

Key points

  • Around five percent of Australians living with disability experienced homelessness in the most recent Census, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare
  • Factors that can make accommodations inaccessible for people with disability include poor housing layouts, limited public transport access and a lack of outdoor views
  • In collaboration with Spinal Life Australia, the REA Group has added search filters on realestate.com.au to make finding accessible housing easier for people with disability

In the most recent Census of 25,422,788 Australians, five percent of Australians were experiencing homelessness and had profound or severe disability, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. This equates to around 1,271,140 Australians with disability who don’t have a place to call home.

For Australians living with disability, more than half sought homelessness assistance because of housing issues regarding affordability, accessibility and availability between 2022 and 2023, according to Disability Advocacy Network Australia.

Certain factors related to acquiring appropriate accommodation, such as typically earning lower incomes and facing discrimination in private rental markets, increase the risk of people with disability experiencing homelessness compared to people without disability, according to information from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare website. 

However, general physical accessibility issues can also affect how people with disability search for accommodation. The general house layout can cause challenges for people living with disability and extra consideration should be given to reduce this issue.

Having a bathroom and kitchen with an easy-to-navigate layout and access to outdoor views are 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 realestate.com.au in collaboration with Spinal Life Australia to include searchable accessibility features including single-storey, wide doorways, roll-in shower, accessible parking, step-free entry, elevator and bathroom grab rails. 

Spinal Life Australia, which has been running as a not-for-profit organisation for over 60 years, helps provide ‘support, inclusivity, and empowerment for people with spinal cord damage and physical disabilities’ in Australia.

Mark Townend, Spinal Life Australia CEO, was pleased with the roll-out of the new search filters on realestate.com.au to make it easier for people with disability to find housing appropriate for their needs.

“We’ve been working with the REA Group closely for a while to tackle this issue which impacts people living with a disability significantly. Not being able to search easily for a home with the right features is preventing people from being able to live their life to the fullest and making do with a home that doesn’t effectively suit their needs,” said Townend.

Townend understood the difficulty some Australians may face when searching for properties appropriate for their situation and hoped that this change will bring welcomed relief. 

“Highlighting features such as step-free entry or wide doorways are key to helping connect people to suitable properties reducing the pain points of this process that millions across the country feel,” said Townend.

Townend was excited that this could be the first step in helping all Australians with disability to have access to services and organisations that can cater for their specific needs.

“We are eager to continue collaborating with organisations to reduce barriers for Australians with disability and in REA Group we have found an organisation keen to lead and influence positive change,” said Townend.

Just like the CEO of Spinal Life Australia — Jonathan Swift, REA’s executive general manager of consumer product, knows that it’s not just the search filters that can change the game for people with disability who are searching for their next home. 

“In addition to the new search filters, we know that including high-quality photographs and clear floorplans will also go a long way in helping countless people assess whether a property meets their needs,” said Swift.

However, it’s not just residential properties that can be inaccessible for people with disability. At the most recent Port Adelaide Diversity and Inclusion Film Festival, disability advocate and founder of Push Mobility Shane Hryhorec was shocked about the venue being inaccessible for wheelchair users. 

The festival, held at the Semaphore Odeon Star Cinema, showcased a range of films, of or under a 20-minute runtime, with core messages about underrepresented or culturally diverse groups in society. 

However, in a Facebook post published by Mr Hryhorec, the disability advocate made it clear that not being able to access the venue like other patrons made him feel “anything but included.”

“First of all, I’d like to make it clear that initiatives like these are incredibly important for our community and for people living with disabilities and I commend the organisers for putting it together to showcase diverse stories,” the post stated.

“[…] After finding out I couldn’t join the majority of guests in the lower lobby, missing out on a photo booth opportunity, a friend also informed me of a DJ playing upstairs, which yet again, due to the absence of a lift, was also not accessible.

“To add to this, my ticket was for cinema one — the larger, main cinema— however, it was not wheelchair accessible, so consequently I had to settle for the movie playing in cinema two, where the only wheelchair seating was inconveniently located at the very back, away from other guests.”

Which accessibility filter setting will be most useful for you and your family?

Let the team at Talking Disability know on social media. 

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