Poplar HARCA: Shared Ownership helps Graham find his perfect home

Graham Naylor grew up in Worsthorne, a village on the outskirts of Burnley, Lancashire where he enjoyed art and music as well as an active outdoor lifestyle, exploring his natural surroundings, bmx-ing and mountain biking. After stints in Manchester and Australia, he moved to ‘the big smoke’ in 2005 to pursue his career as a freelance graphic designer.

Graham has always been an extreme-sports enthusiast, but in 2012 he was involved in a major snowboarding accident as an avalanche hit the mountain. The last thing he remembers was “cracks appearing all over the mountain like crazy paving, and a torrent of snow rushing down”, before he was buried so deep in snow that it took over 30 minutes for a sniffer dog and his handler to find him. He suffered a hypoxic brain injury which left him with a very rare condition called action myoclonus, an injury to the part of the brain that controls motor functions including swallowing, speech and limb movement.

Before the accident, Graham was living in a flat near Brick Lane. It had great transport links and good access to green spaces, but what he required from a home changed after he became reliant on a wheelchair. Poplar HARCA’s Shared Ownership team worked closely with him to help him move into a more suitable flat in Duesbury House (along St Paul’s Way, Poplar). They have maintained a close relationship and provide ongoing adjustments to help make the flat as accessible and homely as possible.

Photo of Graham on the balcony sofa in his Shared Ownership home

How did the accident change what you require from a home?

In my previous flat, I didn’t have a balcony or access to a garden which wasn’t a problem in the early days as I was free to come and go as I wished, but that became very restrictive after my accident as I was unable to go out without my carer. The numerous nearby transport links had been extremely useful for me when I was working but after my accident I was no longer able to use the tube, the constant hustle and bustle of people and streams of nearby traffic became a source of irritation as I was stuck in the flat for much of the time. Also, what had originally seemed like easy access to parks and green spaces was much more difficult for me as a wheelchair user. Some of my furniture had to be moved to allow for a wheelchair route and plenty of my belongings remained out of reach because there was no room to store them at a lower level. I could only access the near side of my bedroom in my wheelchair and I had to crawl over the bed to reach my exercise bike as there was no other available space for it.

How has moving to your new flat in Duesbury House impacted on your life?

I’m enjoying the freedom of being able to go out on the balcony under my own steam, weather permitting! It’s a much quieter area which is good both when I’m at home and when I’m out and about in my wheelchair. I’m getting 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night which has got to have major benefits for my rehabilitation. The area has good transport links and access to a range of shops, cafes and other facilities so although it’s quieter I don’t feel cut off from the community. It’s much easier to manoeuvre around this flat with its wide doorways, hallways and spacious rooms. I’ve had grab rails fitted in the bathroom and additional kitchen units and extra sockets installed so most of the practical problems that I found after moving in have now been sorted. I’ve been invited to a couple of housewarmings from neighbours so I think I’m going to enjoy living here!

What support did you receive from Poplar HARCA?

Poplar HARCA have been very supportive both throughout the long and tedious legal process and ongoing flat adaptations. Nothing has been too much trouble for them and any queries or problems have been promptly addressed. They’ve also made every effort to make me feel welcome, help me become familiar with the area and to begin to integrate in the local community.

Do you have any advice for other people in a similar situation looking for a suitable home?

I’d recommend anyone with a disability to contact Poplar HARCA and see what properties they have available as they can feel confident that help will be available if needed.

A big thank you to Graham for sharing his story with us.

For more information about Duesbury House and our other Shared Ownership properties, click here.
If you have a disability and would like more information about adaptations or equipment that you may be entitled to, click here.
To see how Graham incredibly returned to the slopes in January, click here.