Councils in New South Wales are hoping to make their towns and cities more accessible and have asked residents to help by getting involved in the consultation process. As part of a new disability initiative, towns in the state are asking communities to give their opinions on what needs to change. Local council leaders are also taking part in exercises to understand the difficulties faced by disabled residents.
Members of the advisory group, Disability Action Plans, led Mayor Jamie Chaffey and his fellow councillors through the town centre of Gunnedah in a wheelchair. They were also asked to put on low-vision goggles and blindfolds to give them an understanding of how accessible the town actually is.
The council’s community and social planner, Debra Hilton, commented: “It was a very powerful experience. Our access group organised the experiential exercise to raise awareness among councillors that disability access is not just about ticking boxes, but things like space, signage and colours can make a vast difference to enhancing accessibility.”
Wheelchair Accessible Towns and Cities
Dubbo is also keen to make changes in order to become the most disability-friendly city. Mayor of Dubbo, Ben Shields, has approved $2 million of funding over a four-year period for accessibility infrastructure. He has also recruited a panel of seven people living with disabilities to advise on how the money could be best put to use.
The city will make changes to roads, footpaths and other public areas to make them more accessible. Residents often struggle to get to their wheelchair accessible vehicles or use public transport and the Mayor is hoping to change this. Mr Shields commented: “Over my time in council I’ve received so many complaints about footpaths and gutters that haven’t been up to standard for people with a disability.”
North of the state in Narrabi officials are also working with locals to tackle the problems and find out what changes they would like to see. The locals are being asked to help make decisions so they have a say in accessibility.
The council’s community development officer, Rosalyn Solomon, said: “In the past we’ve used public exhibitions as a way to gauge the community’s feedback.
“This panel is about being more proactive. Rather than us approaching locals when much of the planning has already been done, we’re changing our approach to ‘this is what we’re thinking about doing, what do you think about that?’ It’s a more positive way to approach accessibility.”