June 2012
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Authorities Help Disabled Access To Buildings | Disabilities

Local authorities are helping disabled people gain access to buildings and services through a program called the Disabled Facilities Grant. It’s a means-tested grand that helps businesses and individuals pay expenses associated with adapting a property lived in or used by disabled people. The adaptations made must meet the needs of the majority of disabled people (homes must meet the needs of disabled occupants), and the needs in question have to be deemed by an occupational therapist to be necessary. Local authorities administer these grants, and have broad discretionary powers to provide other help.

The intent of the Disabled Services Grant is to ensure that disabled people have sufficient access to homes and businesses. Help provided includes:

  • Widening of doorways, adding automatic doors, more shallow steps, wheelchair ramps, automatic sliding doors
  • Improved heating/lighting controls
  • Provision of handicapped-accessible washroom and kitchen facilities
  • Bedroom access
  • Stair lift installation

In rare cases, the grant may pay for a room addition; the maximum amount available is £30,000 in the UK. Local authorities can use the abovementioned discretionary powers to pay additional costs, with no maximum amount. Additional assistance can come in the form of: grants, loans, materials, labor, advice, or any combination of these.

Under the rules of the Disabled Services Grant program, anyone who has a sight, speech or hearing impediment, learning difficulties or a mental health disorder is considered disabled. To be eligible for a grant, the applicant must be a tenant, an owner/occupant, a landlord with a disabled tenant, or a tenant of a local authority or housing association.

To apply, people must inquire with their local authority. The process usually begins with an application form, obtained from social services or a local housing department. Some agencies offer assistance from the beginning of the application process to the end. If the applicant or disabled person lives in a local authority’s property, or is a tenant of a social landlord, the authority may have a different method by which they process requests for assistance.

Once a person’s initial application has been finished, an occupational therapist will visit the home or place of business to perform an assessment. The assessment usually goes best when the occupational therapist and the family of the disabled work well together; in some areas the waiting list to get an appointment with an OT is quite long.

While the process can be different between authorities, in most cases, there is first a preliminary means test. This test determines how much (if any) the applicant has to pay toward the work that will be done. If the disabled person (persons) in question is an adult, their circumstances as well as those of their partner or spouse will be taken into consideration.

The means testing takes into consideration any savings above a set limit; benefits like Income Support and Disability Living Allowance are disallowed. Depending on the assessment’s outcome, assistance level can be anywhere from 0-100% of the cost of the adaptations. At that point, plans are drawn up, and surveyors and architects are consulted.

This post was written by Crispin Jones on behalf of Automatic Access, suppliers and installers of automatic doors and automatic sliding doors. To find out more about automatic doors, automatic sliding doors or Automatic Access, visit their website.

Photo: Newtown Grafitti

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