Specialist Disability Accommodation was implemented for NDIS participants who are not able to live in mainstream housing because of extreme functional impairment.

Man in a wheelchair with child in search of disability accomodation

Without the comfort of fully accessible disability housing, too many people with extreme physical disabilities have had limited options, sometimes residing in hospital rehab wards or aged care facilities.  Specialist Disability Accommodation was designed to restore dignity, increase safety and improve independence.

However, providing accommodation for people with a disability in order to improve their independence and choice, then – telling them they can’t live with their partner, family member or loved one because they are not also NDIS participants? It’s kind of defeating the purpose.

Up until last month, that was the frustrating reality for those currently awaiting or exploring the option of Specialist Disability Accommodation. Only other NDIS participants along with the selected SIL provider were eligible to become tenants in disability housing.

So, when the Minister for NDIS, the Hon Stuart Robert delivered the news that new rules had been passed to allow SDA eligible participants to move into their chosen property WITH non-NDIS family members or loved ones, there was a collective “Yes…Finally!” Not only from those seeking out NDIS funding for SDA housing, but from all those committed to creating better lives for those with disabilities.

The updated rules include several important changes, but none more anticipated than the rule which now allows couples to share a bedroom where they choose or children to share a room with their parent(s). In fact, dwellings can now be occupied by any number of people provided they are family members of partners, provided the design requirements for SDA are met.

Although this change may not affect all SDA participants, it’s the meaning behind the ruling that means so much. The change enables those living with a disability who are eligible for SDA the same rights afforded to all other Australians; the right to choose who they live with. It means those living with severe physical disability aren’t forced to choose between moving into an SDA home enabling greater independence or being separated from family.

The new rule has been a long time coming. Many have been desperately awaiting this change as far back as 2016. In particular, participants hoping to live with their spouse/partner, children, friend/loved one. Industry bodies including the SDA Alliance have also been pushing for the change so the news was received with enthusiasm around the country.

Mr Roberts said, “The NDIS enables people with disability to live more independently and one of the most fundamental aspects of all our lives is having choice and control over where we live, who we live with and the supports we need.”

He added, “We are improving the range of options available to participants who have SDA in their NDIS plans, while also stimulating growth in the SDA housing market.  The changes will improve choice for eligible NDIS participants, build market confidence and drive stronger investment in SDA across Australia.”

The change will deliver better long-term outcomes in improving the dignity, safety, comfort and independence of those living with a disability.