Walk in my shoes

Staff at the City of Glenorchy in Tasmania have developed new insights into the world of people who are disabled. Through a pilot training program, staff experienced being disabled for a day. The program was introduced after it was discovered that, through an oversight, building approval had been granted by Council for a local development which made no provision for access for the disabled.

Glenorchy has a relatively high proportion of residents who are elderly or suffer some disability, so such a program making staff more aware of the physical and social implications of living with a disability was in order.

Organised by Heather Cuthbertson, Council's Community Development Officer, the new training program is a first for Tasmania. Staff are given the opportunity to experience, first hand, negotiating their way around their workplace and the community while being confined to a wheelchair, blind, deaf or having some other form of disability.

The first participants in the Disability Awareness Training Program were drawn largely from the Design, Construction and Planning areas of Council with a view to ensuring immediate recognition and understanding of the needs of people with a disability when processing development and planning applications. Being a new program, an extensive evaluation was carried out to measure its effectiveness and future applicability.

While many participants were initially apprehensive about the simulated disability section of the program, this has since proved to be the most successful and enjoyed part of the training.

Among the experiences recounted by participants were, traffic lights changing before a wheelchair could be realigned, causing the 'disabled' person having to get up and flee oncoming cars, being ignored in shops and work tasks taking longer to perform.

Overall the program was regarded as highly successful resulting in a greater commitment to improve design plus greater consultation with the Community Development Officer and Access Committee to develop policies which take account of disability, ageing and access.

For further information contact Heather Cuthbertson, telephone (002) 74 0700.