Helping People with Disabilities Find Suitable Housing

A recent report has shown that many seniors and people with disabilities are struggling in terms of housing across BC. An advocate for people with disabilities, Liz Barnett, Executive Director of the North Shore Disability Resource Centre recently shared her observations of this reality with the CBC. Barnett said that, like seniors, people with disabilities face extra challenges finding appropriate, accessible, affordable housing as well as mobility.

\”People with disabilities are citizens of British Columbia and deserve the same rights and access as all other citizens.\”, said Barnett. This statement highlights why it is so important for us to take this situation seriously and find ways to improve the situation for seniors and for those with disabilities.

Barnett says many provincial programs are disjointed and don\’t interact well with each other, creating gaps in services. She adds BC lacks a disability act which could guarantee levels of services.

On a positive note, there are a number of factors that can help people who are looking for housing to keep in mind.

New Housing

Barnett highlighted that in terms of new housing, things are improving. More developers, she says, realize that seniors are downsizing to smaller units as they age and those seniors may develop mobility issues. That means things like flat-level entrances to units and bathrooms and enough room to turn a wheelchair around are important. Other modifications include installing light switches lower down on walls and using lever-style door knobs instead of round knobs are other simple choices that can be made when constructing new housing, she said.

Older Housing 

The CBC article highlights how Derek Wilson volunteers for the Tri-Cities Better at Home Program to make simple modifications to existing homes for better accessibility for seniors and people with disabilities — everything from changing light bulbs and smoke detector batteries to installing grab bars in bathrooms. For people with disabilities and seniors, not having access to these housing modifications can lead to serious consequences and accidents that could be avoided.

Building Code Changes Possible

Wilson says he\’d like to see new buildings be mandated to include a full plywood backing behind toilets and bathtubs to make grab bar installation easier. He has written to both the federal government and the City of Port Moody to request changes to their building codes to make this change.

Andre Laroche, manager of regulatory solutions for Codes Canada, which manages national building codes, says Wilson is not the only one to request that change and says the idea is being considered for adoption across the country. He says the next revision to Canada\’s national building codes will be published in 2020.

Community Ventures Society (CVS) fully supports groups that are helping to provide modifications to existing homes and developing new homes while keeping people with disabilities in mind. Additionally, CVS believes that modifications to existing building codes is a smart step to help facilitate change and create more opportunities in terms of housing for people with disabilities in BC and across Canada.