20th April 2015

Wendy’s story – access to homes in Australia

Wendy is an architect with MS who lives in Queensland Australia. She’s been living with MS for 25 years and for the last four years she’s used a wheelchair.

Wendy first started championing accessibility issues in 2010 when she applied her expertise and passion as an architect to help with MS Queensland’s Annerley Apartments development. The apartments are designed for eight people living with MS with high-care needs who want to live in an inclusive community setting.

Wendy is the Convenor of Queensland Action for Universal Housing Design. As an architect and Access Advisor, Wendy is currently lobbying the Australian Government to bring in a policy for ‘universal housing design’ which would mean that all new home dwellings in Australia (not just public buildings and properties) will be accessible for all.

Wendy told us: “Sadly current housing designs in Australia are not mandated to be accessible and just don’t work for many people – families with children, old people, and people with temporary or permanent injury or illness – and we deserve more.”

Wendy is always wearing what she calls her ‘accessibility and advocacy goggles’, so she’s always spotting the access issues that affect people with MS. She says there are many instances of people living with MS being ‘shut out of life’ because different levels of assistance may not be available to them.

She says: “We need to build houses with simple universal design features that make them liveable for everyone – regardless of age, family needs or changes they may experience during their lifetime. It also means that houses will be visitable by everyone, regardless of age or ability.”

If accessible housing was made mandatory in Australia it would benefit hundreds of thousands of families, not just people living with MS. For Wendy, living with MS is different every day. The last thing she wants is the uncertainty of the simple things in life – like being able to get out and about in her community and visit her friends in their homes.

Wendy says:

“One of the most valuable roles that you can play is to simply be present, getting out and about to the extent of your comfort and capacity. Live large in your community. Engage with groups and organisations, local authorities, shop owners and operators, service providers, your neighbours. Be polite, respectful and patient. Allow your presence and participation to send a powerful message about the need and benefit of a supportive, safe and inclusive community.”

“Anyone can become an awareness raising community advocate and I encourage everyone to give it a try.”

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