Wheelchair user slams lack of homes for disabled people

Mary Herd needs a home without stairs. Picture: Fife Photo Agency
Mary Herd needs a home without stairs. Picture: Fife Photo Agency

A disabled woman who uses a wheelchair and has difficulty getting out of her first-floor flat has blasted the council over the lack of available properties for disabled people who have families.

Mary Herd, who lives with her son and daughter has been waiting for a suitable home which does not have stairs, but can also accommodate Tiffany (15), and Duncan (13).

She says most properties which are made for disabled people are single bedroom properties, and as a result, has been waiting for around nine months.

Mary (47), or Orkney Place, in Kirkcaldy said: “I used to walk with sticks, but as my condition has deteriorated, the doctor has said I need to be in a wheelchair.

“It’s 17 steps just to reach my front door, with another 15 to the bathroom.

“It’s ridiculous. I just want my freedom back.

“I’m almost a prisoner in my own house. I have to try to get out once a day to do the school run in the morning. But it can be very tiring. By the time I come in again I’m absolutely exhausted.

“I can’t help being disabled. Is it so unusual to be a single parent who is disabled?”

Mary suffers from cervical spondylosis, a condition which can cause severe neck pain which can spread out into the limbs. She is also affected in the bottom of her spine, and has calcium in her shoulder, which can lead to severe pain.

The condition first came about after an accident seven years ago, when Mary fell while moving a mattress out for uplift. While she maintained mobility, the condition has become worse in the last few years.

She is also a full-time carer for Tiffany, who suffers from ADHD and OCD.

Bill Scott, Director of Policy at Inclusion Scotland, which campaigns for the rights of disabled people, said: “Inclusion Scotland are very sorry to hear about Mary’s circumstances.

“However unfortunately she is not alone as there are currently a shortage of around 17,000 wheelchair accessible homes in Scotland.

“Therefore it’s important that more accessible homes are built and made available by both the public and private sectors. We are calling for at least 10 per cent of all new builds to be fully accessible homes.

“It’s a disgrace that disabled people continue to be denied this fundamental right by housing providers.”

John Mills, Fife Council Head of Housing confirmed that there is a shortage of accessible three bedroom ground floor properties. He said: “We’ve provided in-depth housing advice to Mrs Herd on her current options in relation to her needs and areas of choice within Kirkcaldy. We will keep in contact with Mrs Herd to ensure she is given adequate support while we wait for a housing opportunity to become available.

“Unfortunately the demand for these kinds of properties is high and to help meet this we are investing in new accessible homes across Fife as part of the Affordable Housing Programme. This includes new accessible two, three and four bedroom homes in most of the developments that we are building in Kirkcaldy.”