Fuschia Aurelius moved into her home on 6 May this year following a year of being homeless, only to find her supposedly accessible flat was nothing short of a safety hazard.

The door to her flat opened out the way onto a ramp platform that is not big enough to accommodate Fuschia’s wheelchair, meaning she has to dangerously hang onto the door to try and close it while on the slope of the ramp. They had also decided to add a handrail to the inside of the door, however this only succeeded in covering her letterbox and therefore blocking her mail.

Fuschia told UNITE: “I turned up and saw that the door opens outwards and I was a bit like ‘ok how in the world is that acceptable?’ But I thought I was too busy moving in and I would sort it tomorrow. So, I got in and didn’t realise that I couldn’t get on the ramp because the door was already open when I got there. It wasn’t until the day after that I went to close the door and I realised that I couldn’t close the door while being on the [ramp] platform. I was a bit dumbfounded really and I tried to call various different people and it took about a week for my OT to get back to me because she was off and I explained the situation and she was just livid.”

The battle with her local council, Lewes District Council, has gone on for about three months and as we spoke to Fuschia today (7 Sept) there was a builder there to relay the concrete of the ramp, creating a larger platform for Fuschia to access to allow her to close her awkward, outward-opening door. Many would think it would have been simpler just to hang an inward-opening door, however Fuschia explained:

“If they had just replaced the door it would have been easier but because they spent £2k on this door its more expensive to replace the door than to relay concrete and cost me a day’s pay. That’s the most disgusting thing about this all. And the builder just told me he only knew about this a week ago and he is booked months in advance so if they had taken on my call they could have got this sorted on a day that I wasn’t working.

“I feel like I am being punished, I know that must sound like I am paranoid, but they knew I was working Friday, Saturday and Sunday because they asked and then all of a sudden the only day they can do it is a Friday.”

Last week Fuschia took to Twitter to post a video of the doorway and the problems it was causing:

Fuschia was moving into the flat on the understanding that it would be accessible to her needs and requirements. She told UNITE that her occupational therapist (OT) had reported changes that would need to be made to the property to ensure Fuschia was living in an accessible and safe home, but when the OT visited the property after Fuschia had moved in she noted several areas that had not been addressed.

She admitted to UNITE that she had been living in a cycle of fear because she did not want to rock the boat and risk losing her home, simply by asking for reasonable adjustments.

“I didn’t want to post the video because I didn’t want to get into trouble. I have still got this fear of losing my home, which is insane because I am a good tenant but you get into this thought cycle of ‘I can’t rock the boat because people have done so much to get me here. You feel obliged don’t you and you shouldn’t have to feel obliged but you do.”

Today Fuschia is stuck inside her home for 24 hours while the concrete hopefully dries and allows her to leave and get to work tomorrow.

Statement from a spokesperson at Lewes District Council:
We worked closely with Ms Carter’s occupational therapist throughout the planning and installation of the door and the ramp but we are sorry that she has experienced subsequent difficulties in her home. In light of these, work has now been carried out to resolve all the issues.

Lewes District Council is among the very few local authorities in the UK that is making progress in developing new supplies of adapted homes. This includes:

  • Building six affordable rented bungalows in Peacehaven – due for completion by March 2019
  • The completion of 22 affordable rented homes in 2017, five of which were ground floor flats and two are specifically designed for those in a wheelchair.
  • Planning for 40 new affordable homes in Lewes Town and Ringmer with a proportion to be designed for occupation by disabled people.

If you have experienced similar trouble in procuring reasonable adjustments for your home, please get in touch by emailing ros@unitemagazine.co.uk.

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