Building Inclusive Communities?

ISAWhen we see this symbol, it is generally a sign that people with disabilities can access the area or facility. It’s a “People With Disabilities Welcome” symbol.

So when we see this symbol… it’s quite confronting.
disability not welcome symbol

People with disabilities not welcome? It actually means it’s not an accessible area. Which in reality means you’re not welcome. It says, we’re not going to make the effort to make this area accessible for you. No big deal you say? Many areas are not accessible right! Right! This is actually on a foot path. True story.

paisley park close up map

In a little wooded area on a main road in Lawnton is a disability accessible toilet… wait.. is that toilet block even accessible? Anyway, there’s a toilet block and a little park with a creek running through it. As you can see, there’s also a footpath.

paisley path2 20150622_154034

 

This symbol actually exists. When a campaign follower posted it to our Facebook page I had to go see it for myself. Some time ago, my friend Russell told me there was a footpath he couldn’t use but I wasn’t sure what he meant. He had to ask his local councillor to have the footpath on the other side of the road to be fixed to accommodate wheelchair access. So until that was done there was no realistic way for him to safely travel the route on which this path takes.

There’s a very logical reason why this symbol is here. I walked the path. I couldn’t make it back up the steep slope. I had to diagonal walk along the grass to get back to the top. No it is not wheelchair friendly. It’s not even person with mobility impairment friendly. Naturally you can appreciate a warning to tell you not to use the foot path right? Council is just trying to keep us safe. So what do you do from there?

 

 

paisley park distance map

The two red diamond points on the map are where the nearest pedestrian lights crossings are. That’s a bit of a hike back to cross the road.

 

The nearest lights suitable to cross the road are indicated on the map at the end of the red lines. In between is where the footpath warning signs are. There is no other notice or warning that the path ahead is not disability accessible. There is no accessibility map available for Moreton Bay Regional Council let alone this specific area. If you’re off on an adventure in your wheelchair or mobility scooter for the first time here the only way to learn is to find out the hard way. When I went to take these photos it started raining. I imagined myself having to make the trip all the way back in the rain just to cross the road.

This is life with a mobility impairment. No one thinks about the logistics involved for us. Particularly here in my local area. Why? Because they defunded the disability access advisory committee quite some time ago. I’ve even offered to form a voluntary committee that doesn’t require funding. I would volunteer just for the sake of building an inclusive community in my region! So far there’s no sign of my offer being accepted.

#MBRCFail

Hotspots are starting to appear!

Thanks to everyone who has downloaded the TowIt app and started reporting disability parking offences. I’ve already been able to identify two hotspots in Queensland and potentially more beginning to develop in other areas.

Why TowIt over reporting apps like Snap Send Solve?
Towit logs the data onto a map. This data we can then use to identify ‘hotspots’. Areas where offences are occurring at a high rate. We can then use this data to discuss with local councils and police in that area options to reduce the offences and keep the spaces open for those who need them. Reporting apps are mostly used by councils to gain information on things that need to be fixed or maintained in the area from it’s residents. Unfortunately it’s not feasible for them to use the information provided on offences to issue infringements. The main reason being, when a person receives an infringement notice, they are entitled to the option of taking it to court. This would then require the person who provided the evidence to appear as a witness. This becomes a very long, arduous and expensive process and thus, not one that our law enforcement agencies like to spend taxpayers money on.

The Right to Access – The Loo

Originally published under

Does that accessible toilet have your name on it?

Disabled Access, Information
Friday Wright

I get asked several times a week about accessible toilets. There is no law enforcement on toilets like there is parking. There’s a very good reason for that. So I’m going to explore the ins and outs (oh dear this is only going to go down hill from here) of access to public toilet facilities.

Example of a disability accessible toilet set up

 

 

 

International symbols for toilets Man – black image of person Woman black image of person with skirt Disability – white image of person in wheelchair on blue square the word Toilet Braille underneath

The Access to Premises Standards state the requirements of buildings to provide toilet facilities that are accessible to people of all abilities. This is governed by the Disability Discrimination Act. Various other Acts and Codes of Practice are incorporated in the access standards including the Building Code of Australia and Local Government by laws.

The purpose of the Disability Discrimination Act in Access to Premises is to ensure that people are not excluded from the equivalent access that the rest of the community enjoy due to their disability.

 

So lets look at it in perspective. Public toilets. When you gotta go, you gotta go. We all know how much we’ve loved the blessing of being able to find a toilet when you’re out at one time or another in our lives. We also all know the joy of finding said toilet only to discover people have lined up out the door and down the Pacific Highway to use said toilet. It happens. To all of us. Not just those with disabilities.

I saw a tweet a while ago on Twitter  from a person of some significant prominence in the disability community. The person is a wheelchair user. It said “The person in this disability toilet had better be in a wheelchair.”

I used a great deal of restraint that day to not reply. Lets get something sorted right here right now, using a wheelchair is not the only need for access to a toilet.

There are many types of mobility devices that would restrict a person attempting to use a standard type toilet. Those people have just as much right as wheelchair users to access. Including, the accessible toilet.

I’m prepared for the condemnation I’ll receive for saying this but seriously, unless that toilet has your name on it, you’ll just have to wait like the rest of us. Now, before you go all hell hath no fury on me, remember I have used and still on occasions use a wheelchair and there are times my mobility is so restricted I cannot control my movement enough to even speak clearly. So the “you don’t know what it’s like” argument just went out the window.

This is how we need to perceive accessible toilets.
1. Are they provided?
2. Are there enough to cover the equivalent use of standard toilets? That means considering up to 10% of the population NEEDS an accessible toilet is there 1 to every 10 standard toilets (both male and female) provided.
3. Are they being used reasonably? That is that the people using them have a NEED to use them because they can’t use a standard toilet in their situation and there are no other facilities provided to suit their needs AND are they using them for the purpose of sanitary hygiene needs?

The reason I point out the specifics in point 3 is that prior to writing this I have actually done a bit of research. I’ve spoken with shopping centre security and managers, and I’ve had a real eye opening education about what goes on in public toilets. One shopping centre staff told a story of a couple who regularly meet and use the disability accessible toilet for a ‘romantic encounter’. One of these people uses a wheelchair and the other person has other disabilities. True story. There were other stories about people who fall asleep in toilets, use them as change rooms and unload their shoplifted stash into bags to look like purchases.

The most shocking part of this is that every one of these stories featured a person with a mobility disability. So they had every right and need to use the toilet however they weren’t using it reasonably.

We really need to stop ableism but just as much I think we need to stop able-hate. The assumption that access facility abuse is only by able bodied people is clearly wrong. We already know the amount of abuse of parking permits by permit holders that goes on. No it’s not appropriate if you are the permit holder to use the disability parking to pick up your able bodied child from school while you sit in your car and wait.

So the question posed so often to me “Are disability accessible toilets for the exclusive use of people with disabilities?” has the answer of NO.

What does the Disability Discrimination Act say about accessible toilets?
Do accessible toilets have to be reserved exclusively for people with disabilities?

No. There is nothing in the DDA to mandate accessible toilet facilities being exclusively for use by people with disabilities – so long as in high use areas there are sufficient numbers of accessible facilities to give users with disabilities equivalent convenience of access.

Where there are multiple toilet facilities, venues may well make their own decisions to reserve accessible facilities for use by people with disabilities only, or to implement a priority system. That is however a matter for management decision in the circumstances of each venue, rather than for the DDA. Other users without disabilities may likewise decide voluntarily as a matter of courtesy not to use an accessible toilet if possible where another toilet is provided, to avoid delaying a person who does not have a choice. Again, however, that is not a matter for the DDA.

Of course, the only way to ensure absolutely equal access would be to require that each and every toilet be accessible – but no one has argued that the DDA or other laws require that, in recognition of the additional space that an accessible toilet facility requires.

The position where parking spots are reserved for use by people with disabilities is different. A parked car typically remains in place much longer than a person using a toilet does, so that parking in “disabled” spaces by drivers without a disability can effectively deny people with a disability access at all, rather than only requiring a short delay.

So in a nutshell…. if the building has provided the required access for people with disabilities their job is done. No discrimination has occurred.

It then comes down to the person using the facility. Have they caused discrimination against a person with a disability? Have they used the toilet instead of using standard toilets that were available at the time? Have they used the toilet reasonably?

It’s tough to control the use of toilets. It relies heavily on people being considerate and having morals. Perhaps we need to have signs on all the accessible toilets where standard toilets are also provided that say “Do you really need to use this facility?” If you gotta go, you gotta go and all things considered, we’re damn lucky to live in a country where we have the right to fight for equal access. Let’s enjoy that. Even if we have to wait our turn.

 

Tow It! – The App

I’m excited to announce a new partnership with No Permit No Park!

For a while I’ve been searching for an app to assist us with the No Permit No Park Campaign. There are plenty of parking reporting apps but the issue I’ve faced is that they all have the goal of reporting an offence that very few of our enforcement authorities will recognise as evidence to act upon.

TowIt is different in that it maps the offence which allows me (and hopefully in the future other interested parties who want to make a change for the social good of inclusive communities) to look at areas that have high offences reported and mark them as “hotspots”. I can then use this information to provide to enforcement authorities to encourage them to find solutions to the problem that may be causing it, even if it is increasing patrols and issuing infringements.

After many weeks of emailing back and forth and making plans, falling to sleep watching terrible TV shows and having my manic unpredictable life get in the way, I finally had the opportunity last night to stay up late and have a Google Hangout with the founders of the app to discuss what vision I have for it here in Australia.

Based in Toronto Canada, Gregory and Michael came up with the idea for TowIt through the same frustrations as most of us at No Permit No Park. Selfish people blocking roads and access for others. They’re currently working on an update of the app soon to be released and I was very excited to hear that some of the suggestions I had will be included to make it work better here for us. I’m looking forward to working further with these guys, their vision fits in with our goal of accessible and inclusive communities and they have the drive to find solutions to any issues.

So help me out to start producing data I can use by downloading the app and start using it to report disability parking offences. It currently only allows one photo to be taken so try to make it a shot of the car with the rego clear and the disability sign or road marking where ever possible. Future updates will allow you to tag #NoPermitNoPark in the report so that we can log the number of incidences and search them, and they’re hoping to include the option of multiple photos, not that it is the most significant detail right now as my priority is building hotspot maps rather than individual reporting.

This app could go much further here in Australia in being a solution for owners of non government parking facilities to request towing services to remove vehicles they’re legally allowed to remove. The TowIt team are also planning to include an option where users can sign up and be notified if their vehicle has been reported.

“Whether the vehicle is towed, or the owner moves it, the result is that the obstruction is cleared allowing roads to be used freely even if an infringement isn’t issued, which is a better outcome for everyone.” – Michael McArthur Co-founder of Towit

So please go to their website or search the app in your phone’s app store and lets make Australia their biggest user base!
https://towit.io/

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/towit/id959413790?ls=1&mt=8

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=io.towit

And don’t forget to like them on Facebook! Share the love!
https://www.facebook.com/towitapp?fref=ts

 

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