Written by Daniel Woodley. Published to Off Topic Corner at DIY Gardening on the 3rd of February 2023.

If you, a friend or a relative has recently become disabled, there is a ton of advice and help out there, but it can be difficult to know where to start.

This is our guide to independence for the newly disabled. Here we will focus on the first 12 things every disabled person should do.

On this page, we’ll look at:

  • Your first steps to getting a grant.
  • Mobility help.
  • Charities and organisations that offer financial help.
  • A list of common home and car adaptations and guide prices for each.

Step 1: Apply For a Disabled Facilities Grant

Every council offers a Disabled Facilities Grant in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and the grant is typically used to pay for home adaptations such as:

  • Chair lifts.
  • Ramps.
  • Door widening.
  • Intercoms.
  • Lowering of worktops, switches, plugs etc.

The grant’s limit is £30,000 in England, £36,000 in Wales and £25,000 in Northern Ireland. The scheme is not offered in Scotland.

The amount of money granted, if any at all, is means tested and is currently based on your income and savings over £6000. You may have to pay some of the cost, but this depends on your circumstances.

You will need to get in touch with your local council first, but the landlord should do this on your behalf if you’re a private tenant.

Depending on the type of adaptation you require, a surveyor will usually visit you to inspect the property and discuss your needs. For more expensive projects such as stairlift installations, you may need to agree to a minimum term; this is often up to 5 years and means if you move out of the property early, you’ll have to pay a fee to cover some of the installation cost.

Apply here.

Project:Average Cost:
Straight stairlift, fully fitted£2300
Stairlift with one turn, fitted.£4000
Fully fitted curved stairlift with alterations at the top or base due to space limitations.£5000 - £6000
Reconditioned straight stairlift, fully fitted£1200
Reconditioned one-curve stairlift, fully fitted.£3100
Lower 7 light switches to 1 metre above floor and repair the wall with plaster.£550
Add 14 extra power sockets at 1 metre height (above existing for simplicity of installation). Repair wall with plaster as required.£750
Door threshold ramp (metal), fully fitted.£400 (2ft long) £600 (4ft long)

Step 2: Get Your Blue Badge

The Blue Badge is the UK’s disabled parking permit which allows badge holders in England to:

  • To park on double yellow lines in certain circumstances.
  • Use disabled parking bays.
  • Park for free on council roads with parking meters and “pay and display” machines.
  • Free parking at most supermarkets, hospitals and council car parks (check first, though).
  • Get free or discounted travel through toll roads.

The rules are slightly different in other parts of the UK; Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. The badge doesn’t give the owner the right to park anywhere or in an unsafe manner.

Most badges need to be renewed every 3 years. The badge is registered to the person and not the car, so as long as the disabled person is in the car, the driver can use the badge.

Cost: England: £10. Scotland: £20. Wales: Free.

Apply here.

Step 3: Check Out Motability

Motability is a popular scheme whereby a registered disabled person can swap all or part of their mobility benefit for a hired vehicle.

The hire period is typically 3 years or 5 years for a wheelchair accessible vehicle, and you get the following benefits included:

  • Insurance.
  • Servicing.
  • Breakdown cover.
  • Tyre repair and replacement.
  • Windscreen repairs.

The mobility scheme is very popular with younger people as it includes the cost of the insurance, which can be expensive if purchased separately.

Handing over most or all of the mobility benefit is a big step, and for many people, it makes more financial sense to buy a second-hand car and insure and maintain it themselves. The scheme does offer peace of mind as so many extras are included with the car, such as repairs, servicing etc., the user only needs to pay for the fuel.

Is Motability right for you?

Cost: It’s free to apply.

Check out the Motability scheme here.

Step 4: Customise Your Own Vehicle

While Motability is a popular scheme, it’s not for everyone. Depending on your disability and your existing car, you might be better off adapting your current vehicle, especially if it’s automatic.

Motability is the easiest option as they take care of everything, including car alterations which many feel would otherwise be very expensive, but that isn’t always the case.

For example, a basic Jeff Gosling Hand Control System, which can be found on thousands of cars, costs around £600 to buy and takes no more than a couple of hours to install and test.

You can get a steering ball fitted to a steering wheel for less than £100; alterations to the steering wheel stalks can cost less than a few hundred pounds. Seat runners can be replaced with longer ones for those struggling to reach the steering wheel or pedals. Seats can be positioned further back at minimal cost to make getting in and out of the car easier.

Obviously, more niche alterations will cost more and hoists, complex steering systems and other custom devices are at the upper end of the price range, but Motability usually charges a premium for these anyway; this means you’re paying for an alteration to a car that you don’t own and will never own. If you have a car that can be easily modified, it doesn’t make sense to sell it and then hire a vehicle.

Don’t forget that any alterations to the car should be VAT zero-rated, and a grant could cover most, if not all, of the cost.

Cost: Variable, but you get to keep the higher rate mobility element of your benefit.

Project:Average Cost (Fully Fitted):
Install a grip ball to a steering wheel£100
Install a basic hand control system to control the brake and accelerator on an automatic car.£1100
Extended seat rails for closer positioning to the pedals and steering wheel.£400
Boot straps for ease of opening/closing£100
Grab handle extenders£100

Step 5: Signup For Discounted Travel Cards

For £20 a year, disabled persons can signup for a rail travel card that offers discounts of up to 1/3rd off the normal price.

In England, disabled bus passes are free and can be used anytime on weekends and bank holidays and on any other day between 9.30 am and 11 pm.

Cost: Free or £20 per year. Free or discounted travel.

Sign up for a railcard here and here you can find the governments portal for disabled bus passes.

Step 6: Get Clued Up On VAT and Your Council Tax

Any adaptations that a registered disabled person makes to their home or vehicle can be VAT zero-rated provided the changes are to assist them with their disability.

The VAT isn’t paid and then claimed back; instead, the company will apply a zero VAT rate to the bill, see this guide for more information.

One often overlooked area is council tax.

If a disabled person adapts or even extends their property, they could be charged a higher council tax rate if the alterations push the property into the next band.

However, if the changes were made solely due to the disability, you can claim a council tax reduction.

The reduction scheme is also available for disabled persons who already live in a larger home than they would’ve if they weren’t disabled.

Examples of scenarios where you can apply for a discount:

  • An extra room is built for the disabled person.
  • Space is used by the wheelchair or other equipment.
  • An extension is built to make access easier.

In general, if the disabled person is using an extra room in the home due to their disability, they could apply for a council tax reduction.

Cost: Free to apply.

See if you qualify here.

Step 7: Explore Access to Work Grants

Help from the “Access to Work” Scheme is for disabled persons who have a job, are about to start one or are planning to return to one.

Employers have a duty to make “reasonable adjustments” for disabled employees, and these can include:

  • Building an access ramp.
  • Allowing a disabled person to use their own dedicated desk rather than hot-desking.
  • Changing equipment such as keyboards etc.
  • Installing visual alternatives to sound equipment for deaf people.

You can use an Access to Work grant to pay for special equipment, adaptations, support workers, or help to get to and from work.

The grant doesn’t need to be paid back but is currently only available to those less earning than £140 per week and working less than 16 hours per week. Go check out this grant, if you fall into this category and need an adjustment or alteration at your workplace that isn’t deemed “reasonable” by your employer.

This grant is also available to the self-employed, including those that work from home.

Cost: Free to apply.

Start here.

Step 8: The Best Places to Get Advice Online

If you’re newly disabled, there’s a wealth of financial and related advice online, but we’ve found these sites to be the best at offering easy-to-understand sound tips:

Scope has a popular forum where you can post a question about employment and disability benefits as well as other grants.

Yourable has a very active benefits forum page with dozens of daily active users who answer questions and offer advice.

TripAdvisor has a section dedicated to disability travel and a checklist of things to ask before you travel, as “disabled friendly” and “wheelchair friendly” aren’t standardised terms. This could prevent a lot of stress and disappointment and the potential extra cost of moving to a different hotel.

Planning a trip somewhere in the UK? Whether it’s to a hotel, country park or even a shop, go find out how accessible it is on Euan’s Guide. This is one of the most popular disabled access review sites and is the go-to site for any disabled person who wants to venture somewhere new. Read reviews from other disabled persons who will rate their experience from an accessibility point of view.

Step 9: Get Free Loft and Wall Insulation

Up to 35% of a home’s heat is lost through uninsulated walls and up to 25% through poorly insulated lofts.

We already looked at how much cavity wall, but what most people don’t know is that large energy providers must offer a discount to those considered vulnerable, and that includes those on certain benefits such as disability or low incomes.

We found that a typical loft insulation “top-up” costs around £400 while a full replacement of the insulation costs around £750.

Cavity wall insulation costs around £750 for a very small property and up to £1750 for a semi-detached home.

Both types of insulation are either offered for free or heavily discounted to those who claim certain benefits and meet other criteria.

If your existing insulation is either very poor or non-existent, you can quite literally save hundreds of pound off your energy bills.

Cost: Free to apply and a potentially huge saving to be made.

Start by contacting your energy provider, and failing that, use this government portal to find your local council as local authorities have been given funds to pay for green home improvements to those on certain benefits. The Money Saving Expert also has a regularly updated guide to loft and cavity wall insulation that’s worth checking, this is handy as the government often cancels offers and grants after a few years.

Step 10: Check if You Qualify For WaterSure

WaterSure is a scheme where water companies agree to limit the cost of water to no more than the average for your area.

You need to be on a meter or plan to have one installed soon. If you use more water because of a medical condition, the water company will never charge you more than the average for your area. If you use less than the average, you only pay for what you’ve used, under this scheme, bills can decrease but never increase.

This scheme is offered to families with more than 3 children under the age of 18 and also to those with certain disabilities.

While the list below isn’t exhaustive, it gives you an idea of who is eligible:

  • desquamation (flaky skin disease).
  • weeping skin disease (eczema, psoriasis or varicose ulceration).
  • incontinence.
  • abdominal stomas.
  • renal failure requiring dialysis at home.

If you’re not on a meter, we don’t recommend this scheme as you’re already getting a great deal, but those on a meter who use lots of water should signup.

Cost: Free to apply. Potentially reducing metered water bills to no more than the average for the area.

Find out more about WaterSure here.

Step 11: Get Your Radar Key and Bookmark The Great Toilet Map

Most fully-abled persons take public toilets for granted but for some with disabilities, venturing out can be a real headache.

Are there toilets where I’m going?

Are they accessible?

How accessible?

Are they open?

Is the public information up to date?

Whether you’re just popping into town or going further afield, first check The Great British Public Toilet Map for up to date information about public toilets.

Ever heard of a Radar Key? There are over 9000 public toilets that are sometimes locked; the Radar Key opens them. The Radar Scheme has been going since the 1970s and is available to any disabled person.

Cost: The map is free to use and update. A Radar Key costs from £5, and some local councils give them away for free.

Get your Radar key here.

Step 12: Charities That Offer Grants and Assistance

As a general rule of thumb, most charities will expect a disabled person to have applied for government-backed assistance before considering whether to offer a grant or other type of financial help. Still, there are many exceptions to this rule.

The charities listed below offer either grants, free disability aids, other goods, advice, and other types of assistance. Unfortunately, many charities have now scaled back the help they offer due to Covid-19, and some have suspended grants altogether; we’ll update this list as required in the future.

Children's Disabled Charities:
KIDSCreches, nurseries, youth clubs, short breaks, residential stays.
Rainbow TrustSupporting families with seriously ill children.
Make a WishGranting wishes to seriously ill children.
Kids OutProvides days out, experiences, gifts.
General Charities
Disability Rights UKInformation about disabled rights, including for employers.
Leonard CheshireProvides residential care, care at home and respite care.
McIntyre CharityLearning, support and care for children and adults with disabilities
Percy BiltonGrants for individuals and organisations.
Family ActionProvides small grants from £200 to £300
MS SocietyGrants for carers of persons with MS (Grants paused due to Covid-19)

About This Guide

This guide was created to give the newly disabled a head start by covering some of the most common grants, benefits, car/home adaptations and online tools and services available. It was never intended to be a complete list, and we are fully aware that disabilities range across a very wide spectrum. We hope you found this guide insightful; we’ve tried to list the most important suggestions in a compact format because most of the information online is complex and spread out across multiple websites and pages.

More From Daniel Woodley:

I really hope you found this guide insightful, my name is Daniel Woodley.

I’ve posted this in the Off-Topic corner of my website here at DIY Gardening.

More About Daniel Woodley.

Daniel Woodley

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