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Swap houses with other disabled people!

http://www.matchinghouses.com is a new enterprise enabling disabled people to travel more freely has been launched by a group of friends frustrated by lack of choice.

A new enterprise enabling disabled people to travel more freely has been launched by a group of friends frustrated by lack of choice.

Called Matching Houses, the project is based on the established principle of house swapping but has been adapted to suit the needs of disabled people by offering a website (www.matchinghouses.com) to bring people with the same or similar accessibility requirements together.

The concept is the brainchild of Theo Blackmore, who is currently doing a PhD in Disability Studies at Exeter University and has had Multiple Sclerosis for over 10 years. He got together with some friends, some of whom also have disabilities, to develop a website with a sophisticated database which can link people anywhere in the world with the same access needs and allow them to arrange a house swap.

Visit Matching Houses.com

 

"The inspiration behind 'Matching Houses' was the idea that disabled people will often travel abroad on the understanding that the accommodation that they're going to is fully accessible, only to find that their access needs have not been met. For example, you get a wheelchair user who goes to a hotel in Spain to discover on arrival that there's a massive flight of stairs up to the front door and so they can't even get into the building," said Theo.

"The idea of a house swap came about because, for example, a wheelchair user in Cornwall will be able to swap houses in eight of out ten cases with a wheelchair user anywhere else in the world. They will have similar requirements wherever they go, so if a wheelchair user lives in Majorca, they might want to swap houses with someone who lives in this country so they can go on holiday. Somebody from this country wants to swap with someone in Majorca and away they go."

Theo went on to explain how the Matching Houses website works. "You enter your details, which are kept confidential, on the website including your access requirements. The search engine in the website will then pull out from the database all the other entries that match with yours, ie. all the other accommodation details that match your access needs.

"The database does all the hard work, sifting through a huge number of properties and comes up with the ones that exactly match your needs. It also comes up with the ones that don't quite meet your needs but prioritises them all for you - those at the top of the list are those that are most accessible for you, those at the bottom of the list are ones that you need to clarify exactly what might not meet your requirements.

"There is a then a link that you click on to send a potential swap an email directly, asking them to get in contact, then you strike up a one-to-one dialogue with that person. There is also an online forum and an online meeting room where you can meet people and just generally talk about properties in Spain perhaps, if that's where you want to go."

Because the project is still so new, they are currently offering free membership to the first people to sign up to the site in order to develop the database.

"At some point we will have to charge. The length of time that the free offer will last is dependant upon the size of the database. We've restricted it so that the first 1,000 people on the database will definitely be able to register for free. It's not necessarily
time-limited at the moment, but the quicker you register on the database, the more chance there is that your membership will be free. In a month's time there might be 2,000 people on there, in which case the free offer will have closed," said Theo.

The Matching Houses website also offers clear, step by step guidelines on how to organise a house swap so both parties are completely clear as to what to expect. There is also a section which helps dispel any of the concerns you may have about swapping houses with a stranger such as security and confidentiality.

Theo was keen to stress that the pros far outweigh the cons in house swapping and that worldwide over 250,000 successful swaps are arranged every year.

"Rather than thinking that you have strangers staying in your house, you should think of it instead as not leaving your house empty and having it cared for while you are away. Also, the connections you make with your house swap partners can turn into lifelong friendships," said Theo, adding: "You also get a much better feel for the places you visit and enjoy more flexibility and freedom. You can prepare meals at home, and come and go as you please whilst enjoying greater privacy. What's more, it's a free place to stay!" he said.