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ChangAbility how far is Australia behind?

By John Bedwell 

If you believe one per 2 million people can be compared to one per 124 thousand people then you might reply to my title “Not very far.” If I then asked you to compare a total of 10 per nation namely Australia with a total of 450 per nation namely the UK? I bet the answer would most probably be “A long way.”  

By now I imagine you are thinking “What is it this writer is referring to?” so here are a few clues. 

Everyone living in Australia has the right to live within a community. In addition they should be free to move around within that community and most importantly to be able to access all its facilities in an equitable manner. The Federal and State Governments are promoting the National Disability Insurance Scheme in addition to their continual promotion of the concept of integrated community participation and active citizenship. All these admirable statements and intentions are welcomed but unfortunately they become insignificant when you compare the requisite dedication of care givers, together with the indignity, and immediate risk to of infection suffered by people with severe disabilities caused by having to be changed upon toilet floors due to the fact that in Australia there is believed to be only one fully accessible toilet per 2 million of our population. People with severe disabilities are still being denied the right to active citizenship throughout the Country. 

It is well documented by the Department Bureau of Statistics that the number of people with severe disabilities is growing. The lifespan of the average Australian is becoming longer with each generation which means that there will be more people requiring Changeability toilets. If we take attendance at Sporting Events as an example 927,000 persons over 18 who have a disability attend at least one sporting event each year this is 27% of all adult persons with a disability. Of this number 166,000 had by definition profound or severe core activity impairment. Bear in mind we are only quoting Sporting Events just think how many other types and classes of Events there are, then imagine the numbers involved! 

The Premises Standards were published in 2010 despite the information I have quoted from the Department Bureau of Statistics being readily available, in addition substantiated and documented detailed submissions were made to the Senate Sub-committee by Changing-Places organization which went as far a suggesting the wording and specification content for inclusion of Fully Accessible Toilets within the Standards. No legislation has been produced. 

I fail to understand in the light of statistical information why Australia has no legislative standards for the construction of fully accessible toilets. They should be provided as an initial minimum in new developments such the following location 

·          Major Shopping Centre’s 

·          Airports 

·          Entertainment and Sporting Venues 

·          Civic centre’s 

·          Major Railway Stations 

It is possible that there are in Australia some standard accessible toilets that could be converted into fully accessible ones with some creative design skill being applied and refitted accordingly. It is pleasing to find that campaigns for Changing Places in Queensland and Victoria are starting to gain momentum and that a small number of fully accessible toilets are under consideration at design stage. So congratulations to those visionary councils who are now becoming pro-active and recognizing the alarming lack of provision of these Changeability amenities, and the thousands of people young and old who would experience life changing benefits as a direct result. It will mean that in the future people with severe impairments, their families and their care givers can go out into the community and enjoy the same equitable and dignified environment as other families and their friends enjoy such as spending a whole day out without having it curtailed by lack of suitable toilets 

I hope I have provoked some perhaps inspirational thought processes for readers of this article. Did this one occur to you? In Europe they have at major Events Re-locatable fully accessible toilets the Olympics was an example. How good would it be if at just one of Australia’s major sponsored All Day Grand Prix Event a company could “Front up” and sponsor just one of these Changeability fully accessible toilets for people with severe disabilities. I am sure at most major events it would make a refreshing change from the usual tired “Old hat” freebies. Just imagine the pleasure that could be given by enabling severely disabled people and their families the chance to attend a major event and see their favorite stars competing or performing. What a worthwhile sponsorship commitment that would be. Could your company be that Sponsor? Let me know if you can. 

For my part I will continue to write my articles specifically relating to the need for Changeability Awareness in our supposed to be all inclusive community, and seek to identify Australian locations of fully accessible toilets for publication. 

John Bedwell lives in Sydney he is the local director of the NSW Office of Accredited Disability Access Consultants Obvius Access. He has published numerous articles relating to Disability Discrimination and the need for better public and political awareness of the level of accessibility denial that exists in our communities today read more on  www.accessconsultant.com.au

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