PDA’s Director for South Australia, Nick Schumi, took a leap and decided to purchase his own apartment. He’s also had some home modifications done to make it accessible and this post tells the lessons he learnt along the way.
Important Note: Nicks renovations were funded by Disability SA. Going forward, people who need home modifications will be able to request them as a component of their NDIS funded supports so this post talks a little about getting Home Modifications under the national scheme.
1) DO LOTS OF RESEARCH
There are many different ways to make a place accessible and not all are created equal. Ask your friends, speak with your Occupational Therapist (OT), search online, visit accessible homes, whether in person or online. The NDIS will fund some home modifications, but you need to get your wish-list sorted before the planning conversations.
Instead of the standard accessible side opening oven, Nick opted for an oven door that will open forward and slide completely underneath, so he can access the oven from all sides and maximise the space of his kitchen.
Nick also decided that his kitchen counter (including hotplate and sink) should be height adjustable with the push of a button rather than just being set at a low height. This makes the kitchen flexible enough for anyone to use with ease.
2) BE PREPARED- BUILD A CASE FOR HOME MODIFICATIONS IN YOUR PLAN
While Nick got his funding for his renovations from Disability SA, moving forward people with disability who are NDIS participants and who have a genuine need for accessibility renovations will be able to have funding for these included in their plans… provided they can make a good case that the works are ‘reasonable and necessary’ and provide ‘value for money’.
Having an accessible home lets you do more things for yourself. This means you can make do with less paid support and lead a more ‘ordinary life’, and If one of your NDIS goals is to live more independently, this argument should get funding for assessments and renovations included in your plan.
3) GOOD WORKING RELATIONSHIPS ARE IMPORTANT
It’s important to work closely with your OT to create renovation plans that suit you. This may involve a lot of going back and forth as ideas about which accessibility features best meet your needs are evaluated and chosen.
Just because your OT comes up with a suggestion, doesn’t mean you have to go with it. You should feel comfortable enough with your OT to have an honest conversation about your wants and needs. This is your place, so make sure that you are happy with the plans.
4) PRIORITISE, BUDGET AND PLAN AHEAD
It may be the case that the budget provided by the NDIS for your home modifications does not cover everything you want at the start. For example, Nick wanted an automatic front door so he can get in and out with ease, but he is not sure this will be approved by his NDIS planner as that person may decide this isn’t ‘reasonable and necessary’ yet because Nick can still open the door by hand. This decision could be reversed as his NDIS plan is reviewed, so Nick has planned ahead. He installed a power point near the door so that if automation is not approved initially, it will be easy to install when it is.