Independent Living Made Easy

Around one in five adults in the UK are disabled, which can often cause complications when it comes to living independently or accessibility in and around the home.
While many people live in specialised care centres or have a live-in carer, many others like to live independently; in fact, over one million of the UK’s disabled population live alone.

However, living alone can sometimes be a little tricky for people with certain disabilities, and day-to-day tasks can often present a challenge in various situations around the house.

Independent Living Made Easy!

At Into Independence, we specialise in making structures much more accessible and safe for disabled people looking to live independently. In this post, we’ll be taking a look at the various ways you can make each room in your home safer and more accessible for those with disabilities.

The Bathroom

For those with disabilities or mobility issues, using the bathroom can be potentially hazardous. Bathroom tiles and flooring can easily become slippery when bathing or showering, and the flexibility required to navigate some bathroom layouts can sometimes be tricky for anyone!

Accessible Showers

Firstly, spacious walk-in showers are perfect for those who have larger bathrooms to transform. Creating a wetroom to wash in takes away any need to climb in and out of an enclosure.

Image showing an accessible shower for a person in a wheelchair.

There are also models available with low doors which can be suited to those with more restricting mobility issues who don’t have the space to create a wetroom. These models often feature a more traditional shower tray and drain, rather than a tiled floor base.

Image showing a wheelchair accessible shower enclosure.

Additionally, securely fixing hand rails beside toilet, bath and shower areas allows for extra leverage when moving around the bathroom, providing a great deal of security in those potentially hazardous areas.

Image of a walk in bath with grab rails.

Walk-In Baths

Walk-in baths are a fantastic solution for anyone looking to enjoy all of the comfort and relaxation of a bath, without contending with the struggle of climbing in and out of the unit. Instead, the owner can simply open a watertight door to access and exit the bath and simply make their way in and out as they please.

The Kitchen

The kitchen is an important room in every home. Not only is it the best place to find all of those tasty snacks and treats, but it gives access to appliances that are a mainstay of our daily lives and routines. From washing and drying clothes to preparing meals each day, a functional and accessible kitchen is vital commodity.

Kitchens designed for those with disabilities and mobility issues come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, meaning an easy-access kitchen area is never out of reach.

Alternative Working Heights

Image of a kitchen with lowered worktops, perfect for people who are wheelchair bound.

For wheelchair users, kitchen suites are available with lower surfaces and fitted appliances. This means ovens, microwaves, basins and appliances can be comfortable accessed without overstretching or risking injury.

These suites are also available with wall mounted units and basin areas, meaning there is additional room for wheelchair access underneath the worktop areas.

Eating & Drinking Aids

There are a number of disabilities that can make eating a little tricky such as tremors, weakened grip and swallowing problems. Luckily, there are a number of great products on the market that make eating and drinking much more manageable.

Image of specialist cutlery specifically made for people who struggle with standard cutlery.

Firstly, this cutlery set is designed for users with reduced grip. Both the fork and spoon have a ‘S shape’ handle which discreetly provides extra support when lifting and maneuvering the cutlery. The knife’s round grip allows it to sit comfortably in the hand, whether large or small.

Plates and bowls created specifically for those that have one hand.

This set of plates have a slanted interior base and a discrete protruding lip. These simple features make it much easier for users who have one hand to access food with either a fork or spoon.

Image documenting a special mug that caters for those who struggle to swallow.

Finally, for those who have swallowing problems, this mug featuring a cone-shaped interior makes drinking much simpler by removing the need for the user to tilt their head backwards while taking a sip, but still allows room for the user’s nose.

The Living Room

For most people, the living room is a relaxing space where we can unwind and catch up on our favourite TV shows and films, so it stands to reason that the features and furniture in the room should be comfortable and easy to enter and exit!

Here are a few great examples of living room furniture which make relaxing in front of the TV a easier and more comfortable.


Image of a recliner with functionality to help aid those who struggle with walking.

‘Rise and Recline’ armchairs are great for relaxing and enjoying some quiet time in front of the TV. They also allow you to raise your legs and sit in a position which suits you best. If you have found it a struggle to get up from your armchair in the past, then a powered rise and recliner can make it much easier to get out of the chair whenever you like.

Chair Raisers

For portable seating assistance that you can take along to any seating area (even on holiday!), chair raisers are extremely handy. These handy products hold each leg firmly, adding an extra 4 – 7 inches of height to the chair seat – which makes all the difference to someone who struggles to raise from a chair unaided.

The Bedroom

Nothing beats a long relaxing sleep in a comfortable and easily-accessible bedroom, and sleeping in a space that is difficult to access or leave isn’t relaxing at all! Again, there are some specialist products on the market that can make accessing and sleeping in your bedroom considerably simpler.

Here are just a few of the many great bedroom products that can help those with disabilities or mobility problems:

Adjustable Beds

Image of a double sized adjustable bed.

Adjustable beds are very popular for use in the home, and with good reason. With a wide range of models available in both single and double sizes such as ‘adjustable head and foot’ and ‘hi-low action’, you can be sure to find an adjustable bed that meets your needs and also provides plenty of space for two. Many double models split both sides’ control mechanisms, meaning you can control each side of the bed independently. Similarly, ‘combination beds’ also offer two adjustable sides, which allow users to enjoy independent function on either side of the bed for individual comfort and needs.

Beds to ‘Sit and Stand’

For those who have trouble getting in and out of bed, these models may be of better use. Rotating chair beds combine an adjustable bed with powered assistance to get in and out of bed. With a single push of a button the user can move between a sitting and lying position.These models are available in both single and double sizes, and each side can be moved independently.

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About Into Independence

Into Independence By Alan Norton

It’s a difficult task to capture on paper the intensity and activity we at Into Independence are facing in response to the changes and the needs of disabled people living independently.
There’s more on the horizon for 2016 including changes to Motability Allowance, Air Travel, Train Travel and Benefits, to mention just a few.

It amazes me that we do not have and adhere to any national standards recognising disability related living costs when being assessed for care needs. If there is any obscure document covered in cobwebs buried deep within Whitehall then there is a major problem with interpretation.

Quote off a healthcare professional “you must have been mad to provide for a private pension we will just take it all off you”

Recently I was faced with a healthcare professional saying “you must have been mad to provide for a private pension we will just take it all off you”, she was right and then some. Other issues in my life at the moment are lack of fully trained district nurses; my wife is being forced to go to bed by 8pm through restrictive practices by care agencies.
Recruiting care PA’s is a nightmare, first getting recognition of your needs is virtually impossible with the continuing problem of continuing negativeness and having to justify what you cannot do on your worse days.

8pm forced bedtimes

I met with the Minister for Disability Justin Tomlinson on 4th November 2015 and raised many of these issues. After a short discussion he challenged me to work locally to produce a template which works in integrating and streamlining services so as to avoid duplication and to provide the help and advice needed which is not available now with the closure of local disabled living centres and no national organisation. I have to report back with a working model to promote on a national scale. To achieve this I have taken a positive step and joined the local Healthwatch Group and hopefully this will give a good base to promote the changes needed.

Looking on some of our activities since the closure of Assist UK in October 2014 it provides for some interesting reading:-

  • Continuing our involvement with the Civil Aviation Authority where there are forthcoming changes in legislation only allowing disabled seating at designated places to avoid obstructions in the event of an emergency evacuation.
  • I participated in a Devices for Dignity Hoisting Event where disabled people, healthcare professionals and manufacturers attended workshops to come up with new novel solutions of hoisting people in more dignified ways. Some of the inventions will hopefully get to market but it is well worth monitoring their website
  • I attended an expert meeting for the Mechanical Engineers Institution which consisted of a closed two day expert meeting on the topic ‘Travel and Transport for Older People, where I spoke about ‘The physical design for boarding and leaving public transport’ with the objective of producing a “White Paper” detailing the major issues for use both by the transport industry and relevant local and national government agencies.
  • I continue to support Manchester Disabled Living as a board member and they have had another fantastic year with their kid’s events, their training, sensory rooms and OT assessments. The organisation grows from strength to strength and is a great template for other disabled living centres to follow.
  • I was invited to a meeting for the Department for Transport to have discussions regarding the need for scooter training and insurance as the then Secretary of State was becoming concerned about the reaction to press articles. It appeared that there was little evidence to suggest the numbers of accidents justified changes in legislation but statistics were now going to be taken at casualty departments to monitor the situation.
  • I was invited by the British Healthcare Trades Association to help with their judging for the 2015 Industry Awards. I found this extremely interesting with excellent involvement from other judges who had vast experience of the industry.

I was recently contacted by British Gas who were promoting the new ‘Hive’ heating control system, it is well worth the investment as it gives the ability to control your heating and hot water from your phone or iPad, this is great as you do not need to get up in the night or you can control your heating levels from the comfort of your wheelchair. I recommend investing in the new thermostat, it is much easier to use than the earlier version. A great piece of assistive technology as can be seen below;

Hive Active Heating Image
Image Source –

I was talking to one of my wife’s carers who works for a large company and he was interested in how I could switch on and off plugs with a remote control. These items are available from B&Q and they save having to reach down for plugs which in turn is likely to reduce accidents and protect people’s bad backs. He passed this information onto another lady who is absolutely over the moon as she dreaded having to unplug items as it was extremely painful to do so.

The information about assistive technology is just not out there, I feel that many OT’s don’t pass on information as the client may not be able to afford it and it is not available locally. Surely a small amount of expenditure should be made if it saves major accidents and all the associated costs.

That’s all for now folks!!

Introducing Alan Norton

Alan Norton addressing a crowd of colleagues

Alan Norton advises British Government Ministers and has been instrumental in developing disability services in the UK and Europe.
Through nationally recognised Training Delivery, Access Audits and Consultancy services to health organisations and professionals he is at the cutting edge of the disabled and older persons sector working closely with product designers, manufacturers, healthcare professionals, universities and persons with disabilities.

Alan is an experienced and charismatic leader with established credibility as an expert in independent living. He has had a successful career in the manufacturing industry and brings his real-world commercial acumen to his third sector challenges.

A respected champion for disabled people with a first class network of expert associates, he marries a passion for improving the lives of people with disabilities with realism and a pragmatic approach to delivering practical solutions to difficult challenges. He is respected and valued by the disabled community, policy makers and politicians.

Alan has been a wheelchair user since childhood. He and his wife, also a wheelchair user, live very fulfilling independent lives in the UK and in their international travels; making full use of assistive technology.

Contributor to policy development within;

  • Department of Health.
  • Department for Transport.
  • Department for Work and Pensions.
  • The Centre for Architectural Built Environment.
  • Transport for Greater Manchester.
  • Greater Manchester Police – equality and accessibility issues.
  • Community Legal Service.
  • Advisor to the UK Department of Transport on the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC).
  • Advisor to Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
  • Member of the judging panel for Accessible Britain Challenge for the Department for Work and Pensions.
  • Current industrial advisory roles include designs for a new accessible taxi, and an accessible toilet module for trains.
  • Chief Executive of Assist UK, the umbrella organisation for the UK network of Independent Living Centres.
  • Disabled Peoples’ Champion for Capita PIP Benefits Assessment programme.
  • Previously Deputy Chairman of Disabled Motorists UK (DMUK).
  • Leader of EU-funded project to set up Sonia Tanti Independent Living Centre in Malta.
  • Over 30 years in senior financial role with a multi-national industrial manufacturer.
  • Trustee of Disabled Living Manchester – Independent Living Centre.

Should you have any questions regarding Alan Norton, seminars or how Into Independence can benefit you please contact us today on;

T: +44 (0)161 763 8705