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Housing Modifications for Disabled People

February 12, 2015

Just think - your grandmother, who had been as fit as fiddle albeit carrying a few extra kilos, has suffered a mild heart attack. This has had a significant impact on the immediate family and also Grandma – her independence has been impacted and the need for additional care is now a part of her daily routine.

It soon becomes apparent that your once fit and walking matriarch is now limited in her mobility, meaning that once she has recovered in hospital from her episode, her home is no longer suitable with a multitude of levels and steps that she needs to navigate.

Unfortunately this is not an uncommon scenario throughout New Zealand. A decision that will impact Grandma’s remaining living life needs to be made – to make the alterations to her home and the cost associated with it, or to look to alternate opportunities such as a cared lifestyle within a retirement home.

Reviewing her accessibility needs starts a thought process that looks like this:

So, with a myriad of options available and a huge variety of factors to consider, what’s the right first step in this situation?

The first step is to make a decision around whether to modify the current abode or place Grandma into care. If it is the latter, many of these options identified above will have been previously thought of and the environment more forgiving to Grandma’s current condition.

If the decision is the previous, then the first step is deciding on what needs to be altered. The second step is to then determine how you are going to pay for any modification. Fortunately, there may be an option to access funding that will roll these two steps into one.


Funding Availability for Housing Modifications for Disabled People

The Ministry of Health can provide financial assistance (where criteria is met) for modifications to homes of those that have a disability.

Criteria such as residency and non-ACC funded injuries/disabilities must be met in order to tap into a potential housing modification. There is also a clear guideline of the scope of the modifications that are possible. Funding is not available for:

  • housing modifications that cost less than $200
  • modifications already done without funding approval
  • soft furnishings
  • general maintenance
  • modifications to your home for work, social or economic reasons

To get any potential modification approved, you’ll need to be referred to an Occupation Therapist (OT) who will undertake an assessment and identify any modifications required.

To learn more about the process go to the Ministry of Health website.

There is an upper limit to the available funding $15,334 incl. GST, which includes mobility access between floors. This funding can be utilised for ramps, platform lifts, and through floor-lifts – it doesn’t allow for door widening and level access showers.

You can talk to Vestner, the access specialists to discuss potential platform lifts and through floor lifts for your home, and get expert advice and the best price to ensure mobility isn’t an issue.


DIY and making the home disability friendly

Recently a great ibook was released by Touchstone. Touchstone provide an insight into different standards that builders must adhere to and any changes that occur within those standards.

The ibook Improving Access for People with Disabilities was developed to provide initial guidance to DIYers and tradespeople to allow them to complete works, and ensure that it complies with the New Zealand Building Code.

The Building Act 2004 recognises that people with disabilities are part of the community, and that any barrier preventing them from participating in the social and economic life of that community should be removed. Architectural barriers cause the most difficulty for access, not only for people with disabilities, but also for many other people, particularly the very young and the elderly.”[1]

The good news is that in most cases a building consent is not needed for the design and construction of a mobility ramp or low rise platform lift.  Lifts however are specialised equipment and can only be installed by Pandect or authorised Pandect installers.

The content provided in the ibook covers three earlier publications, but at a level that makes it accessible to DIYers and Tradespeople rather than too in depth of each of the standards. The material covered includes content from the following standards:

  • NZS 4121:2001 Design for access and mobility – Buildings and associated facilities
  • SNZ HB 4102:2011 Safety in the home
  • Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), Building work that does not require building consent. Building Act 2004. Third edition 2014. 

You are able to download (purchase) this resource from the itunes site.

With this tool in hand, you will be aware of your obligations and have the relevant information at your fingertips.

If you are unsure if alterations do require building consent, you can check with your local council office. They will also be able to provide additional information and suggestions about a plan of attack.



Life has the ability to change in a second and a once vibrant and active family member can overnight suffer a debilitating disability. It doesn’t mean that they need to be shipped off to a treatment or care facility – there are opportunities to make modifications to a home to help support your loved one’s new lifestyle.

Whether it is DIY or professionals completing the work required, there is a possibility of accessing funding to minimize the economic burden. The Improving Access for People with Disabilities ibook is a fantastic resource that you can utilise to determine access requirements. Don’t forget to speak with the specialist as well – Pandect can guide you on potential lift systems for the home and offer years of experience and knowledge.



Image Credit:

Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment (2014). Consultation Summary: Access to Buildings for People with Disabilities June 2014.

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Filed under Building codes and standards \ Finding and choosing access solutions

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