Assistive tech is ‘key to battling inclusive housing shortfall’

Image credit: Blackwood

Smart houses packed with assistive technology and automation allowing disabled residents to control appliances, lights and heating remotely could prove central to solving Scotland’s housing crisis for disabled people.

That’s according to the boss of housing group, Blackwood House, who believes that “clever design and integrated technology supports people to do more for themselves”.

Chief executive Franchea Kelly was responding to a report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which revealed a huge shortage of suitable housing in Scotland for disabled people.

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She said that design and technology could be “as simple as home automation which opens the blinds in the morning, or it might be as life changing as accommodating a carer and lots of equipment if the time comes that otherwise might require moving to residential care or hospital”.

Kelly said: “The economics of our approach aims to invest in the home so that the long term cost of further adaptations or care services can be minimised.

“We have had excellent support from the housing minister and Scottish Government officials as we built our first prototype Blackwood House development in Dundee, so we are hopeful that this could be the start of a significant programme to improve the rights of disabled people across the country over the next five years.”

The EHRC’s report highlights that there are 61,000 disabled Scots who are waiting for their homes to be adapted and a further 17,000 wheelchair users who are in unsuitable housing, while only 1.5% of housing associations homes are wheelchair accessible.

The demand for highly accessible homes is set to rise by 80% in the next five years.

Kelly continued: “Considerable investment in research and development by Blackwood created our blueprint for this type of accessible house, with a Design Guide produced with architects Lewis and Hickey.

“Our bespoke digital care system, CleverCogs, is installed in each house in touch screen tablets and enables customers to open blinds, order shopping, control the TV and stay connected with friends and family, all at the touch of a button.

“The design features a central core of kitchen and bathroom – with movable fittings and rise and fall units – which provides greater circulation space for easy access.

“Such has been the success of the first demonstration homes, we are pleased that the city councils in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee have asked us to deliver up to 160 of the life changing homes over the next four years.”

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