First tenants move into specialist disability apartments

Resident Matt settles into his new home

The dream of an independent lifestyle has become a reality for the first tenants to move into 20 high-tech apartments in Gosford which have been custom built for people with high support needs disabilities.

The stylish two-bedroom Ability Apartments were built by Ability SDA, a pioneer in the growing Specialist Disability Accommodation space, and have been integrated into two new Gosford residential developments, with 10 apartments in each complex.

Ability SDA CEO and co-founder, Paul Simmons, said the apartments have been built to the highest level of accessibility.

“The whole idea is that people with high needs can be included in the community in a normal way,” Simmons said.

He said residents pay 25 per cent of their disability pension in rent, with the National Disability Insurance Agency NDIS providing subsidies.

Ten of the new apartments are located within the 13-storey, 67-apartment Gosford Central residential complex in Mann St, with the other 10 developed as part of a 6-storey, 34-apartment residential building on Showground Rd.

Each Ability Apartment has been designed and customised from the ground up to meet the unique needs of its tenants, including completely accessible bedrooms and balconies, bright, open-plan living rooms and customised kitchens and bathrooms.

There is also state-of-the-art home automation, including voice-controlled doors, lights, blinds and more.

Overnight onsite support out of a separate, dedicated apartment is also a key feature.

“Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) is a range of housing specially designed for people with extreme functional impairment or very high needs, that makes it easier for them to live as independently as possible,” Simmons said.

The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) estimates that there are over 28,000 people with disability in Australia who require Specialist Disability Accommodation.

Examples of high physical support disabilities include but are not limited to; people with cerebral palsy, spinal injury, brain injury, spina bifida and degenerative neurological disorders.

Simmons said tenants moving into the new Ability Apartments range in age from 20-65.

For 40-year-old Matt, who lives with severe spastic quadriplegia, moving into his Ability Apartment in Gosford was life-changing.

“In my previous accommodation, I was totally reliant on my family and support staff for daily assistance in completing the most menial of tasks – like opening a window or preparing myself food or a drink,” he said.

“Now, because of both the accessible design of the apartment, and the technology, I have complete control over my own environment and don’t need as much staff assistance day-to-day.

“It’s given me back the confidence I’ve lost.”

The Ability Apartments have access to outdoor entertaining areas and are located in close proximity to services like supermarkets, cafes, restaurants, public transport and shops.

For 62-year-old Allan, who suffered a permanent spinal cord injury after a motorbike accident 20 years ago, the Ability Apartment he moved into in October is a huge departure from his previous accommodation.

“I spent most of the last 14 years in non-wheelchair friendly, emergency accommodation located in neighbourhoods that left me feeling extremely isolated and unsafe,” he said.

“I’ve met lots of new people in the building– not just people with disabilities, but able-bodied people too.

“I feel like I’ve finally found home.”

Terry Collins

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