Our new report The disability price tag highlights how disabled people on average face extra costs of £570 a month related to their impairment or condition. Many disabled people have shared their experiences of extra costs with us, and the impact that this has on their lives. It’s an injustice that needs to change. In this blog, Piers, a student in Wales, shares his experience.
I’m currently studying for a Masters in Physical Oceanography. Being at university, surrounded by my non-disabled peers, has really highlighted the sheer amount of extra money that I have to spend, just because I happen to use a wheelchair.
“I’d say that every month I have an extra cost of about £1300 compared to my non-disabled friends.”
Firstly, my wheelchair itself was incredibly expensive and I had to pay for that myself. The wheelchair offered by the NHS was unsuitable for my needs, so I had to pay over £4,800 for one just to be able to get around and go to lectures just like everyone else.
On top of that, on average, I spend another £300 a month replacing parts and maintaining the chair. Even with this upkeep, it needs to be completely replaced every three or four years.
My housing is also more expensive than my friends – the only accessible student housing available is £110 per week, whereas friends of mine pay as little as £40 a week for similar housing.
Travel costs are increased due to the unreliability of public transport, the nature of hills in North Wales and the location of my lectures. I have to spend about £400 a month on taxis just to get around.
Food costs are also higher. I require easy to prepare food, either pre-chopped or in small quantities. My friends can buy items like pasta in bulk or do a large shop and carry it home. Unfortunately as a wheelchair user, it’s really difficult to manage more than a small basket of items whenever I go shopping. So this can increase my monthly bill compared to my friends by an extra £150.
Related to that, because so many shops aren’t accessible, I have to order a lot of the things I need online and get charged for postage. It may not seem much per item but all of those payments add up over the year.
Financially, I’m screwed
My income each year is decreasing. Even with a student loan, Disabled Students’ Allowance and Personal Independence Payment (PIP), I still face a monthly shortfall.
It plays havoc with my social life because I can’t afford to do much, and if I do anything I’m worried about its cost. I have to take almost every freelance opportunity to earn any money I can to try to keep myself afloat, which impacts on my studies.
It’s socially exclusionary as well because my friends stop asking me to go do things with them because they assume I can’t afford things, which means I do even less.
Basically I’m 22 and financially screwed. It’s almost impossible to get a part time student job just because I use a wheelchair. I’ll be leaving university with at least £130,000 debt.
What needs to change
Firstly, businesses have a huge role to play. I’d love it if the items I needed to live independently weren’t extortionately priced. Companies know that as a disabled person I need the item so they can charge whatever they want. And there should be no delivery charge or a minimum spend for disabled customers.
There should be increases to PIP so it’s in line with the reality of these extra costs and investment into accessible housing so that it isn’t a quality that increases prices of housing astronomically. I also want to see the NHS bespoke wheelchair service restored and free NHS treatment – this would greatly reduce my extra costs.
Related to this, there’s the issue of employment. Extra costs aside, people rely on employment for financial security, yet there are many barriers to employment for disabled people – employers’ attitudes and discrimination being one of them.
Help us tackle the extra costs faced by disabled people. Find out more about extra costs, then share our report on Twitter or Facebook.