Suart Barrow image
Stuart Barrow, Promoting Independence

When it comes to helping people with disabilities get around, the world has changed A LOT in the last few years.

No longer can establishments get away with not catering for people with disabilities, and the sheer breadth of options available to make homes more disability friendly has rapidly increased in a very short space of time.

This month, we’re discussing stairlifts, through-floor lifts and disabled access, and, for sake of clarity, I’ve split our thoughts into considerations for a “home” environment and a public environment.

Let’s first consider the factors we take into account when helping clients in a “home” capacity

As occupational therapists, we are often asked for help when it comes to the adaptations required for clients’ homes, and in order to help as best I can, I usually stick to this formula:

  1. Consider the environment
  2. Provide advice
  3. After the client has considered the advice, provide the correct equipment

When it gets slightly more complicated is if the requirements go beyond providing equipment, and relocating is not an option, adaptations will usually be needed at this point.

And when it comes to installing a stairlift, through-floor lift or disabled access, one thing that is well worth considering is a Disabled Facilities Grant application.

If adaptations are required, your customer may well be eligible for this grant, which allows for adaptations that:

  • Provide access to and from home
  • Make the home safe
  • Provide access to the living room
  • Provide access to the bedroom
  • Provide access to a room which has a toilet and washhand basin
  • Provide access to a bath and or shower
  • Provide access to an area for preparation and cooking of a meal
  • Provide access to an area for making a hot drink
  • Provide access to adequate, heating, lighting and ventilation
  • Provide access to a garden or make garden safe

How to decide which adaptations are necessary:

Considering the above, map the entire home, starting from pavement entrance or car park through to end of the rear garden if applicable and see what support the disabled person requires.

Things for your customers to consider when applying for a grant:

  • There is a limit to the amount they can receive – £30,000 in England, £36,000 in Wales and £25,000 in Northern Ireland. The grant is not applicable in Scotland
  • The grant application will be means-tested, which means both the household income and household savings will be considered in the application process
  • The grant may be rejected if the work on the property has started before the council has approved the application
  • In order to have an application approved, the local authority must deem the work “necessary and appropriate”, “reasonable and practicable”
  • A grant will only be approved if a permanent resident of the home has a disability that is deemed permanent and substantial, but it does not need to be the resident with the disability who applies

Now let’s consider adaptations in a more public setting

The Equality Act, passed in 2010 means that people and organisations who serve the public have a duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people.

In practice, this means that we all have a duty to bear disabilities in mind when it comes to our establishments and how equipped they are with disabilities.

Here are some key things to bear in mind:

Disabilities are not always seen

Don’t assume that someone is not disabled. It is vital to bear in mind that “disability” is a wide spectrum, and just because someone isn’t in a wheelchair, it does not mean that they are not disabled.

Consequently, we must all ensure that we cater for the disabilities that are harder to “see”.

As an example, some disabilities can be “sensory” and can be triggered by light or noise, and the opposite is true too, with some disabled people having a “sensory deficit”, where too little stimulation is an issue,

It’s also important to remember that disabilities – like mental health – can fluctuate, and your establishment must take this into account.

Key things to also consider

When you are ensuring that your establishment caters for the disabled, here are some key questions:

  • Can your customers access you?
  • How can you support local organisations with their access?
  • What can you offer/sell to your current and new clients to support them to support their staff/customers?

I hope you’ve found this useful! If you’ve got any other questions, feel free to fire them over to

Stuart Barrow of Promoting Independence is a member of the Royal College of Occupational Therapists and a recognised expert in the field of home adaptations. His experience is sought by manufacturers and service providers looking for an expert opinion. Stuart also runs the Occupational Therapy Adaptations Conference (OTAC)

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