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Negotiating difference: disabled people's experiences of house builders

Burns, Nicola (2004) Negotiating difference: disabled people's experiences of house builders. Housing Studies, 19 (5). pp. 765-780. ISSN 0267-3037

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Recent changes in the building regulations have arguably signalled a growing awareness and recognition of the needs of different 'bodies' in the housing system. However, little is known of the ways in which housebuilders conceptualise the needs of those who do not conform to 'able-bodied' norms and how this impacts on their dealing with such groups. Drawing on the experiences of disabled people accessing the private housing market, this paper explores the processes of negotiation which take place between disabled house buyers and housebuilders during the purchase of new-build property. It is argued that underlying practical discussions around the (re)design of properties are negotiations around the concepts of disability and difference. These are played out and become apparent through the various roles assumed by each group. For example, lacking an institutional awareness of the needs of different bodies in domestic space, housebuilders are faced with the challenge of (re)viewing the needs and capacities of these 'Other' bodies. At such times, house buyers become the experts as they hold knowledge of their design needs which housebuilders clearly lack. The paper concludes by discussing the possibilities and challenges facing the housebuilding industry in engaging with the needs of disabled people and the role disabled people themselves can play in this.