Life is about to become a whole lot more accessible for people living with a disability in Moreton Bay, Queensland, where the region’s first Disability Access and Inclusion Plan has just been adopted, committing Council to the development of an inclusive community.
People living with a disability make up 18 percent of the national population.
As a key provider of community infrastructure, services and information, Local Government has an important role in supporting people with disabilities.
Under the Federal Disability Discrimination Act 1992, discriminating against people with disabilities is against the law, including through the provision of services provided by local governments.
To assist in compliance with the Act, the National Disability Strategy 2010-2020 has provided a 10-year plan for working towards enabling people with disability to participate as equal citizens in Australian society. It commits all levels of government to improving the lives of people with a disability and to providing leadership for a community-wide shift in attitudes.
Council has an important role in supporting people with disabilities living in and travelling to the Moreton Bay region to have full and equal access to participate in community life.
Mayor, Allan Sutherland, said, “The plan articulates a clear strategy starting this year through to 2022 to make our region more accessible and inclusive for people living with disabilities and to improve access and inclusion in our community.”
An extensive community engagement process conducted by Council resulted in a number of actions being proposed to improve accessibility and inclusiveness under five priority areas: pedestrian mobility, parking and transport, buildings and facilities, parks and open spaces, events and programs, and council services.
“Through this plan, council can identify opportunities to improve infrastructure and services for people with disabilities so they can better access our stunning nature trails, beaches and fun-filled events,” the Mayor said.
“There are a number of actions that Council is already undertaking to ensure we are supporting the needs of residents of all abilities such as region-wide inspection of our footpaths and upgrading bus stops to meet the required standard for accessibility.
Some areas identified by the community that provide opportunities for Council to improve accessibility include:
- investigating the delivery of ‘Changing Places’ toilets in key locations throughout the region to meet the high-care needs of individuals with profound disabilities and their carers
- engaging with Surf Life Saving Queensland to investigate the provision of accessible beach chairs and matting at Suttons Beach in Redcliffe and Woorim Beach in Bribie Island
- providing AUSLAN interpretation as part of selected Council events and programs
- investigating the installation of Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs) at key Council managed community buildings and facilities
- investigating opportunities to trial recharge points for electric mobility vehicles at appropriate council facilities
- identifying and promoting appropriate accessible trails in natural areas throughout the region.
Council received strong support from the community for its proposal to incorporate inclusive play elements into new and existing playgrounds so that they are accessible to children of all abilities.
Council has already begun improving access. The multi-million dollar upgrade of Scarborough Beach Park completed last year included wide shared pathways, unique wheelchair-accessible tables and handrail and ramp access to make the area more accessible to park users.
Spokesperson for Lifestyle and Amenity, Councillor Denise Sims and Councillor Matt Constance, who both worked closely on the plan along with local access and inclusion advocates, said they were pleased the community had provided constructive feedback during the consultation period.
Cr Sims said, “It’s important to remember that this is a living document that is updated to respond to the ever-changing needs of Moreton Bay, and the only way we have been able to do that is with [community] feedback.
“I thank my colleagues for their unanimous support in backing this initiative and the council staff and local advocates who have poured their hearts, time and energy into this excellent piece of work.”
Cr Constance said, “To see so many people taking the time to provide feedback on this plan is fantastic and demonstrates just how important this issue is for many of our residents and visitors.
“Simple changes like widening footpaths, installing voice recognition technology and changing the height of locks or buttons can make an enormous difference to people’s lives.”
Local Disability Advocate and Kallangur resident, Elisha Wright, said the launch of Council’s first Disability Access and Inclusion Plan was great news for the entire Moreton Bay community.
“What this plan means for us is that we know that things are going to change and they are going to change on a broad spectrum of things,” Ms Wright said.
“There is so much that has been included in this plan that we can really be excited about and there are going to be things that we didn’t expect would happen.”