Chris Howard was a successful landscape gardener enjoying life in London until he was diagnosed with neutropenia, which led to him becoming a wheelchair user.
He recalls: “I was finding my life in London increasingly difficult. I was in a first floor flat with no lift. It was a lovely location, right on the Thames between Hammersmith and Putney bridges. I never had any intention to ever leave.
“Each day I’d slide on my bum down the stairs to get into my wheelchair. I thought to myself: ‘Do I want to struggle like this forever or is there and easier life to be had if I moved out of London?’
“The difficulty was I only knew London. It was my home and had been for many years. Accessible homes weren’t available in London simply because of the amount of people needing them. I eventually gave in and accepted I needed a better quality of life.”
Chris applied for and secured a Greenfields bungalow in Halstead.
On International Day of Disabilities, Chris gave us a tour to show how his home has been adapted to meet his needs and wants.
Chris transformed his kitchen through a Disabled Facilities Grant.
“I designed the kitchen myself,” he said: “It has a rise and fall work-top and a two-ring induction hob with forward controls. And instead of cupboards, there are drawers with pull-down baskets in the top cupboards.
“It’s made a world of difference to be able to cook or simply wash up the pots and pans without struggling.”
The smart lights showcase Chris’ passion for technology in aiding his independence: “I had hive lights installed, which you can control through your phone or Alexa and set to a schedule or control on demand. You can also control outside lights and choose the percentage of light emitted.”
Margaret Fewell from our Planned Improvements Team visited Chris and arranged an assessment.
“Greenfields widened my doors for me, installed a wireless thermostat and retrofitted my bathroom from a wet room back to a bathroom. You’d think a wet room would be ideal for a wheelchair user, but the reality is a wet wheelchair!
“I love my bath. They also installed window openers as previously I couldn’t reach my window handles. The first year was unbearably hot not being able to open them!
“The service was impeccable. I didn’t have to chase, and I was kept well-informed. The workmen were really polite and spoke to me on my level.”
Access and the garden
Chris’ car has also adapted using smart technology, allowing him to regularly travel across the south east to see friends and family.
Chris made further use of a Disabled Facilities Grant to widen his doorways and pathways and remove steps at his back door, but he continues to make improvements himself to maintain his independence. These include having a wireless thermostat installed to control the heating and laying car park grids in the garden with turf overlaid.
He said: “The grids prevent me creating bare patches when I turn in the wheelchair on the lawn; and I can now propel myself across it! A perfect solution.”
Chris makes use of his garden to hold informal social gatherings for his neighbours, who have named it “The Café” and often turn up unannounced, bearing snacks!
“My life is 100% easier now. In hindsight it was the best thing I ever did. I love my home and Greenfields have been outstanding in helping me to carry on living as independently as possible.
“Independence is hugely important to me (as I’m sure it is to many others), it’s just a case of accepting the help that’s offered.”
How we can help
Last year we carried out more than 260 aids and adaptations within your homes, ranging from fitting grab-rails to wet-rooms. Find out more about our free service and apply for an assessment by clicking on this link: Aids and adaptations to your home
Apply for a Hive Welcome Home Plan from British Gas by clicking on this link: www.britishgas.co.uk/smart-home/welcome-home-plan.html