25 Jul 2014

Braille to cutlery: why a disability costs £550/month extra

Thousands for braille displays, £31 for a knife, a fork, and two spoons, and £4,000 for a wheelchair. Disabled people tell Channel 4 News why everything costs more, just to live a normal life.

Charity Scope estimates that on average disabled people face paying an astonishing £550 extra in living costs every month – more than £6,000 a year.

The additional costs include having to pay more for everyday things, like heating, or getting taxis to work; paying for specialist items, like a wheelchair; and paying more for everyday products and services like insurance, travel, clothes and cutlery.

A new independent commission has been launched to find out why disabled people pay so much extra just to get by. People will be encouraged to tell their stories so the panel, led by businessman Robin Hindle Fisher and supported by the Barrow Cadbury Trust, can work out over the next year why markets are not working efficiently for them.

Minister for Disabled People Mark Harper said: “No-one should have to pay excessive costs because they are disabled, as Scope rightly highlight. We are absolutely committed to supporting disabled people and continue to spend around £50bn a year on disabled people and their services. But many businesses are failing to adapt their services and goods for the 12 million disabled people in this country, subsequently driving up prices.”

However, disabled people point out that reductions and changes to disability benefits have left many in a worse situation.

Here are some of the stories Channel 4 News has heard from disabled viewers pointing out what everyday items cost more.

Shani Thomas writes on Facebook: “Higher fuel bills, because of charging/using equipment. Taxi fares… public transport is mostly inaccessible. Food bills, because I have to buy ready-prepared items. I also self-fund a lot of equipment that wouldn’t be available on the NHS or through social services, but which make my life a lot better.”

Jackie Smith adds: “Agreed, Higher fuel bills, taxis – I don’t even qualify for a taxi card as my partner has a car and I therefore have access to it. What am I supposed to do when he’s in work? Equipment as NHS stuff is mostly cheap and shoddy. Special clothing – I could go on…”

Simon Green writes on Facebook: “£4k on a wheelchair so I can get out and about and lead a normal life. Yes I could get a free chair via NHS but they are so heavy, be impossible to get about, my lightweight chair helps me get about easier, especially as my disability prevents me from driving.”

The charity Scope has other examples – Amanda, who needed cutlery for her disabled son, had to pay £31 for one spoon, one knife, one fork and one teaspoon, even after shopping around for the cheapest option.

Or Jean, who could not afford to buy her mobility scooter outright and so bought it on hire purchase. This cost her an extra £2,000.

Another Amanda, with a 13-year-old daughter called Livvy, is charged around £8 when she gets a taxi into town from her home in Brighton on her own. When Livvy is with her, it costs £14 because the company charge her for the time to get the wheelchair in and out of the car.

Holidays are also an issue.

Dean Brenton-Davies writes: “With all holidays, disabled people can’t have last minute deals as they have to book so far in advance to get a room that they need for their wheelchair – this is particularly common with cruises.”