In the midst of a widely acknowledged housing crisis across the UK, it can be easy to ignore the specific needs of the disabled. It may be that the number of homes can be increased substantially, but with an ageing population, the need for more mobility facilities might not keep pace.

This is why questions may reasonably be asked whenever there are major new housing projects in the offing, but little or no mention of the needs of older and disabled people. Just as issues of sustainability, affordability or family-friendliness or are legitimate concerns, so too will be the needs of those who have disabilities.

Reading has been in the news this week over a series of major new housing developments that could have a major impact on the town.

According to Get Reading, the trio of projects at Weldale Street, Station Hill and Huntley Wharf will transform the look of the area. However, not unlike many major residential projects of recent years, these consist mainly of town centre apartments; Images show the kind of modern multi-storey brick blocks that have appeared in towns and cities across the land. 

Another significant housing development is envisioned for the old Reading Golf Course. As the Reading Chronicle notes, a previous plan for 257 homes on the site proved extremely unpopular and was rejected after 3,000 objections were received, but a revised blueprint proposes 223 properties instead.

However, if anyone was looking for signs that this plan would bring a major increase in the number of accessible kitchens in Reading, there are none to see. The draft proposals in the Virtual Exhibition produced by developer Fairfax talk about the number of affordable homes, issues of green space and drainage, but not about facilities for the old or disabled.

Age UK has previously called for more new homes to be made suitable for older people, who will be more likely to suffer disabilities. Some may ask whether this is happening in Reading.

The Fairfax exhibition noted that the council’s target for new homes is 15,847 by 2036. If these are not built with the future needs of an ageing population in mind, the need for retrofitting with mobility aids will be extensive.

All this is happening at a time when Reading’s development should be boosted further by the opening of Crossrail next year, providing a fast new link to London.

The good news is that Crossrail itself will be great for disabled people as all its stations will have step-free access, and when they reach the capital they will also enjoy increasing accessibility.  Last week London Underground confirmed the completion of step-free access at Osterley station on the northern line, making it the 89th on the network, and the figure will rise to 91 by the end of the year.

Clearly, the transport sector has got the message. The question is whether the housing sector has done likewise. As it stands, it appears those travelling on Crossrail from the new homes in Reading may include some who will need extra work on their homes to ensure they meet their mobility needs. 

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