The term ‘persons with disabilities’ can be confusing because in different contexts it can include varying groups with a range of mobility, sensory, cognitive and intellectual impairments.
It is now accepted that 1 in 5 Australians (20%) at any time can be classified as having a disability. In the physical environment of our housing there is a significant crossover between the needs of 1) persons with disabilities, 2) older people and, 3) the very young, including their carers. This means that over a third of households (33%+) require features to assist these people to carry out required living functions and to live relatively normal lives.
Accordingly the Council of Australian Governments recognised this need and established the 2010–2020 national disability strategy. However, a review of this program in mid 2018 by COTA and the ANUHD has concluded that it has so far been an almost complete failure. In fact they have assessed the scheme as having reached less than 5% of its targets.
For a country that now rates as the most wealthy per capita in the world (The Economist), and with a rapidly ageing population, this is a very sad indictment. There are various reasons for this failure and the report discusses the narratives from the housing industry, the government, the buyers of housing, and from people whose needs are not being met.
What consistently cycles around are a) the ever increasing needs… at the very least we all get old one day and, b) that some sort of government intervention may be required.
In hindsight maybe the Rudd government’s desire to make livable housing compulsory would have been a worthwhile investment. But now we are beginning to see major developers adopting the livable housing guidelines because they see a big market edge for very little extra cost. And for serious individual needs the National Disability Insurance Scheme has provision for Special Disability Accommodation. There is some hope that at least by 2020 our built environment sector may have at least seen the carrot rather than the stick.