Specialist Disability Accommodation explained

Having a home to call our own is more than a basic human right, it’s intrinsically linked to our identity, our hopes and dreams, and our relationships with others. For people living with disability, finding a suitable place to call home can sometimes come with extra challenges.

One option to consider, particularly for those that may have higher support needs is Specialist Disability Accommodation but what is it exactly?

What is SDA

Specialist Disability Accommodation – abbreviated to SDA – is a model of housing designed for people living with disability who have a certain level of extra needs.

The SDA Design Standard sets out requirements for all new SDA, and all SDAs must also comply with the Australian National Construction Code. There are four types of SDA known as Design Categories:

Improved Liveability: dwellings with better physical access (for example, very few stairs) as well as features that help those with sensory, intellectual and/or cognitive impairments navigate the space safely and easily.

Fully Accessible: housing with a high level of physical access features to accommodate people with increased physical challenges, for example the provision of wheelchair passage throughout the entire house.

High Physical Support: this housing comes with all the features of the Fully Accessible category with some additions, which can include ceiling hoists, backup power supplies, and home automation technologies such as voice control.

Robust: this high-strength and resilient accommodation may suit residents and carers who need help managing complex and challenging behaviours. These houses are built with likelihood of property damage in mind and can include secure windows and doors, high impact wall lining and soundproofing.


What do SDAs look like?

Modern SDAs are homes designed to cater for a vast range of different abilities, with residents’ independence and safety a priority. They can be houses, villas, or apartments and come with a range of outdoor areas, from private courtyards to more communal spaces for residents to relax in or entertain friends and family.

Contemporary SDA houses are spacious homes that can include open-plan living areas, extra-wide door frames, bedrooms with plenty of floor space, and adjustable kitchen benches for everyone to have access to when cooking.

SDAs may also include sensory responsive lighting, allow for line-of-sight support, and a range of other features to support different physical, sensory and cognitive abilities. Privacy is a big element of SDA living as well – with house designs with shared living including private ensuites for each resident and a separate office/room for support workers to use and bathroom facilities for guests.


How will an SDA home help me become more independent?

SDA homes are designed to enable you to take charge of your life, to cook and clean with support or independently, entertain and relax. Every SDA has different features to suit different needs, and your choice of SDA may include features such as:

Multifunctional living areas: modular living spaces designed to be easily reconfigured to suit your needs.

Wide doorjambs and hallways: increased space means more maneuverability, especially for wheelchair users, so residents with a range of mobilities can get around safely and easily by themselves.

Step-free accessibility: removing steps in favour of level access or ramps means everyone can move around the entirety of the SDA comfortably, easily and safely.

Accessible kitchens: adjustable benchtops so all residents can prepare their own meals in comfort, seated or standing.


What are the living arrangements in SDA?

SDA houses are usually shared between a small number of residents and are designed to give as much independence as possible, while also allowing for support workers to be onsite assisting as and when needed.

Creating a happy home is very important and the suitability of housemates is taken seriously. New potential residents are often interviewed and assessed, not only to make sure their ability needs will be met but to ensure they will get along with those already living there. Suitability interviews can include questions on hobbies, pastimes, TV show preferences and more.


Is it just residents who live there?

Normally, support workers will provide assistance where needed to individual residents, with the SDA’s accessible features allowing workers to offer support in a safe and efficient way.

Safe independence is the top priority of SDAs, so overnight supports are used in SDAs only when required, ensuring residents have both privacy and support if needed.


See Activ’s range of SDA vacancies here.