Disability has emerged as an election buzzword, with both sides pledging increased funding for support and making positive noises (although no firm commitment, pending a Productivity Commision report) on the question of a National Disability Insurance Scheme.

However, there has been disappointment at Bill Shorten’s announcement of an “aspirational” target for disability-friendly design standards in all new homes by 2020 – too little, too late…

I have particularly strong feelings on this subject myself at the moment, having  just moved house myself (new job, new city) – a process made more complicated by the need to find somewhere that would be manageable when my remitting-relapsing multiple sclerosis – well, relapses. I don’t need wheelchair-accessible housing – not yet, probably not for a long time, quite likely never. But staircases can certainly be an issue, even now. And establishing whether an property was suitable for my needs made house-hunting just that little bit less fun.

It was impossible to tell from many real estate advertisements whether or not a property would be difficult or impossible for me to enter or exit if/when the MS was playing up. And real estate agents would answer apparently simple questions like “Are there a lot of stairs?” with “I don’t know, you’ll just have to go to the inspection.” So I would drag my sorry exhausted arse to a property that I could tell at a glance was not a remotely feasible option.

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So I have a suggestion for a reform that could be low-cost and immediate. How about making it an industry standard for all homes coming onto the market (for sale or rental) to be assessed for disability-access  and the information included in the marketing? Obvious information like stairs and doorway-width that could be assessed against a checklist – hardly rocket science.

Of course, real estate agents could start doing this without prompting from government or industry bodies – but so far, they haven’t. And there’s an election on. And there is a lot of disability baby-kissing happening. So how about it?

Or else, a la Swift’s “Modest Proposal” for preventing the children of the Irish poor from becoming a burden on their country, Australians could just start eating the disabled. That would solve the issues of accessible housing and National Disability Insurance in one hit. Which would-be Prime Minister is brave enough to provide the electorate with the opportunity to vote on that visionary reform?

As a Crikey subscriber and someone who began working as a journalist in 1957, I am passionate about the importance of independent media like Crikey. I met a lot of Australians from many walks of life during my career and did my best to share their stories honestly and fairly with their fellow citizens.

And I never forgot how important it is to hold politicians to account. Crikey does that – something that is more important now than ever before in Australia.

North Stradbroke Island, QLD

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