Longhurst Group CEO, Julie Doyle has called for the sector to “change the conversation” around accessible housing.
Speaking at the organisation’s inaugural Improving Lives 2025 conference in Peterborough, Doyle launched the group’s new business strategy – outlining how the organisation will support its customers’ health and wellbeing and economic resilience moving forward.
“We’re in a really powerful position, as a sector,” she said.
“I think it’s incumbent on us to look at the design of our properties and take long-term accessibility into account, both in new-builds and in our current stock.
“I’ve read that something like one in four people who use wheelchairs cannot access their own toilet at home. Just think about that.”
She highlighted that the longer-term housing product needs to be adapted into something that is desirable, “looks good, and isn’t old fashioned.”
“Accessibility should be the norm. We shouldn’t need additional aids and adaptations.
“You should be able to go into a bathroom that looks trendy and beautiful and you shouldn’t instantly think you have walked into an accessible bathroom.
“We need to stop thinking that we are designing something for a separate group of people, it needs to be mainstream, and I feel strongly about that. I see non-accessible places every day and it is sad.”
She added: “We [Longhurst Group] are looking at all our properties and really challenging ourselves to see what differences we can make from an accessibility point of view.
“I would say to other organisations that we need to change the conversation and make this more mainstream.”
Julie’s comments were echoed by Paralympian and BBC TV presenter Ade Adepitan, who was one of the guest speakers at the conference.
Ade, who was part of Team GB’s wheelchair basketball team that won bronze at the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens, spoke about his struggle to find accessible housing in London.
He said: “It is a scandal that this country does not have enough accessible housing stock.
“I was fortunate, but I fear for people who are struggling to get onto the housing market and put up with anything.
“My advice is to consult with disabled people and those who will be living in these places and you will probably find some of the changes you need are not actually that big.
“If more disabled people are consulted and get the opportunity to look at the housing stock it could make a difference.”