Housing for Deafblind Victorians
What does an accessible home for Deafblind people look like? Do we rent, live in supported accommodation, share, or live alone? What barriers do we face to finding a safe place to live?
On 22.2.23, 10 staff from the Department of Treasury and Finance (DTF) Market Housing team attended an online workshop by Deafblind Victoria to learn the answers to these questions. Despite many technical difficulties, it was an interesting and worthwhile discussion.
Three Deafblind presenters from DBV shared personal experiences of housing, described the layout of an accessible home, and gave suggestions that could inform housing policy. We would love to see some guidelines developed for housing services, so other Deafblind people are better able to use them. These might include:
- Give more time for the process, to get appropriate communication and supports in place, including interpreters (which are in short supply) and orientation and mobility specialists
- Allow the Deafblind person to visit the house and try out routes to shops and public transport around the house before committing to it
- Listen to the Deafblind person! They are the expert on their own needs.
- Consider housing Deafblind people together in a villa, units or a block of flats, where support and community can be shared.
The personal stories of all three presenters shows that housing can be a very difficult issue for Deafblind people. One presenter experienced discrimination and applications were rejected because of her guide dog. Another said that she did not know what services existed and did not know where to get funding or specialised support. The third presenter described living in a house without any private outdoor area, being stuck at home for days between visits from a support worker and being unable to go outside for sun and fresh air. These experiences greatly affect our physical and mental health.
Other issues were covered, such as the arrangement of furniture: an open-plan layout might not suitable for someone moving around the house by touch, “trailing” along walls and orientating themselves from table corners. Living in rural areas can be especially isolating for Deafblind people, where services are scarce and terrain might be rough.
The workshop facilitator, Heather Lawson, sincerely thanked Patrice Vassiliou, an intern at the Department, who helped make the workshop happen. We look forward to continue working with you to improve outcomes for the Deafblind community.Click for images