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

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.

 

About this Parents With Prams Parking thing…

This is a revamp of an old post lost to the black hole in the internet:

You may be surprised I once advocated for parents with prams parking. Yes! I actually did. I was a young mum who had just moved from a big city to a small seaside town and was horrified to find the local shopping centre’s idea of a baby change room was the hand basin bench and a plastic chair. I breastfed my baby in the middle of the shopping centre and anyone who complained I led them to the women’s toilet and showed them the alternative. One of the issues the town was having was getting young people to stay. There wasn’t much work and not much more to keep them entertained. Nor was there access to facilities and services young families needed. So, that was the start of my campaign to get the town to rethink their strategies for planning and include more family friendly things to keep people and attract more.

Part of that included parents with prams. I actually don’t mind pram parking. In big shopping centres. Shopping centre car parks are notorious for accidents especially ones involving pedestrians. People not watching where they’re walking or driving, busy looking for a parking space, difficult to see amongst the 5000 other obstacles around them. They’re a dangerous place, especially for the disabled and small children. But shopping centre car parks are the only place I think have a need for them. We’re talking car parks where they cram 5000 spaces into the smallest square metre area possible. More spaces more shoppers.

With the inclusion in shopping centres of play equipment and even child minding for children prams parking is an ideal way to attract that customer base.

That’s where it should stop. It is about access and lets face it, they don’t make prams – or cars – like they use to. I watched a young mum of twins recently getting the double pram out of the car. It was a struggle. Seriously I reckon the pram weighed more than she did. If we can do something like this to help make doing the groceries a little easier for these mums and dads, then why not?

However, it should not come at the expense of access for anyone else. Especially people with disabilities. No matter what, you can always get a child out of your car even if you have to park in a normal space. While pram parking is convenient and helpful, parking for disabilities is more than just a convenience. It’s necessary for inclusion. Without accessible areas, people with mobility impairments, particularly those who rely on mobility aides, cannot be included in their community. Exclusion based on a person’s disability is discrimination, hence why, disability access is becoming mandatory through legislation.

Having been a parent who acquired a disability later in life, I can honestly say I was never excluded from my community like I am as a person with a disability. It shouldn’t happen. There’s just no excuse for it.

The legislative protection on disability accessible parking is quite clear and specific. To use a parking space marked for people with disabilities you must first obtain and display the Australian Disability Parking Permit or other government authorised disability parking permit in your state. This is under federal legislation. Most state legislation does require the permit holder to either be getting in or out of the vehicle at some stage while it is parked in the disability accessible parking zone. While not all states specify this we do encourage people to consider asking themselves “Do I really NEED to park here?”. To obtain a permit you must meet the criteria, which for the ADPP is:

  • The applicant must be:
  • unable to walk and always require the use of a wheelchair or
  • their ability to walk is severely restricted by a permanent medical condition or ability to walk is severely restricted by a temporary medical condition or disability that you will have for 6 months or more as certified by your doctor or occupational therapist.

Applicants with intellectual, psychiatric, cognitive or sensory impairment alone do not meet the eligibility criteria unless the applicant also has a mobility impairment that impacts on their ability to walk.

This specific criteria and outline of how disability parking can be used is what makes it enforceable.

If we want to make pram parking enforceable it opens a whole can of worms.

Some councils have attempted it in Western Australia. It is very specific although difficult to enforce. The vehicle must have a child occupant in the vehicle that is being transported by a pram or other wheeled child transport under the legislative definition. This would exclude parents who use baby slings, trolleys or pushalong bikes. It would also exclude those who pull up into the pram parking outside the bottle shop with the car full of kids and mum stays in the car while dad runs in. Enforcement only relies on visual observation of the relevant council authority.

Below are some examples of the tried legislation on pram parking. So complaining mums and dads.. you need to consider, before you demand enforcement on the issue…. would you comply every time?

http://www.joondalup.wa.gov.au/Libraries/Council_Policies/Dedicated_Car_Parking_for_Seniors_and_Parents_with_Prams_Policy.pdf

http://www.joondalup.wa.gov.au/Libraries/Local_Laws/Parking_Local_Law_1998.pdf
48B A person not being accompanied by a child and using a pram to transport that child at the time shall not stop or park in a parking bay set aside by a “parents with prams” sign.

 

Disability Rights are not your click bait

Former journalist and State MP for Cairns Gavin King does it again. Completely diminished the Disability Rights movement in a single click.

You may remember last year Mr King accidentally on purpose parked in what he thought was a loading zone because despite the disability symbol painted on the ground, it was not clear enough for him because there were yellow lines marked in the area as well.
http://www.cairnspost.com.au/news/cairns/cairns-mp-gavin-king-demands-apology-over-parking-feud/story-fnjpusyw-1226972879267

Rather than humbly apologising and moving to have the area marked clearer, he started screaming accusations of defamation against long time disability rights advocate and now current State MP for Cairns the Hon. Rob Pyne for publishing the photo. He demanded an apology and sadly my very well written apology was lost in the great website crash (what can I say I lose all my best work that way). Even after council rectified the problem of the ambiguous signage that seemed to be accepted by everyone else in the community, at no point did Mr King offer an apology of any sort, remaining defiant that his action was but the quintessential example of a citizen of the community he believes himself to be.

Did it encourage him to become a champion for disability rights and access? Yes! I mean NO! Well, yes… not really.

He decided to go and post on his blog (he thinks it’s a media outlet but let’s face it, he’s no more a journalist than me. Dare I say it mummy blogger!), a photo of car bearing the plates 02ALP and a sticker on the back referring to current State MP for Mulgrave the Hon. Curtis Pitt claiming that it was he who owned the car and parked it in a disability space. Little did he know! The car is actually the Member’s mother’s who is a lovely elderly lady who is also a disability permit holder. It hasn’t been confirmed yet but it does appear in the photo that the permit is possibly displayed on the dash although not as clearly as we prefer to see them.

 

King Vs Pitt

As well as it appearing there is a permit on display (circled in black) many have commented on the strange nature of the disability road marking suggesting it appears to look as though it’s a rug placed under the vehicle.

If the driver of the vehicle did park the car forgetting to display their permit well we would have posted the photo too. However on clarification that it was actually a permit holder we would remove it with an apology and a polite reminder to display your permit clearly so that you don’t find yourself having to appeal an infringement.
So what’s the issue with Mr King doing it? Well lets look at it from this perspective. Left without gainful employment after losing the election, and not a position in journalism anywhere to be found for him, Mr King decided to turn to blogging (in the hope of building his own media empire perhaps?). Move over Rupert Murdoch! The content seems rather autocratic and his exemplary literary skills shine through. Despite this HUGE – not really – follwing/circulation that he has and the high incidence of disability parking offences, it seems Mr King has never once before ever published a picture of any other car in the act of this offence nor has he ever written anything to challenge or defend the rights of people with disabilities.

He shows here his very strong connection to the disability community through the publication. It’s demonstrated with use of phrases such as “Mr Pitt’s taxpayer funded car parked in a disabled spot at Cairns Central – with not a disabled person’s registration sticker in sight.” Now call it political correctness if you like but if you’re going to scream like a banshee of someone’s discrimination against people with disabilities at least learn something about us. It’s a disability parking permit Mr King! Gosh who am I screaming at!? It’s not like Gavin King is so narcissistic that he’d ever Google himself to find where he is being mentioned on the Internet… would he?

No, Mr King had no intentions at the time of publishing the article (and I refuse to share the link because I’m disgusted he thinks it’s okay to profit from it but Google it if you must), no intentions at all of being a champion for disability access or any other cause for the rights of people with disabilities. No, he’s just still bitter over being caught out, losing the election and lets face it… giving up his journalism dream to be a one term wonder and now suffering the like plight of the thousands who lost their jobs (voluntarily opted for redundancy – not really) under his government’s short and very bittersweet reign. What does he have to show for all of his efforts? A blog and hope that he’ll someday become a famous writer if anyone ever wants to buy the biography of Campbell Newman.

After trying to discredit his successor Rob Pyne as well as Independent MP Billy Gordon at the expense of his family for things in their past they’ve worked to overcome, he’s now seemingly unaware of the egg on his face in yet again failing to trigger the demise of another nemesis in Curtis Pitt at the expense of his poor dear old mum who was just minding her own business doing a bit of shopping. One can’t help but wonder, who will be his next victim of clickbait! Me? (Oh please let it be me!)

No Mr King and any other media attention whores out there. Clickbait is not the same as activism or advocacy. If you’d like to join the cause feel free to contact me for interview.

clickbait
ˈklɪkbeɪt/
noun

informal
  1. (on the Internet) content, especially that of a sensational or provocative nature, whose main purpose is to attract attention and draw visitors to a particular web page.
    “these recent reports of the show’s imminent demise are hyperbolic clickbait”

How ironic.

The Exclusive Discrimination Club

It’s not unusual to be excluded or even feel excluded from areas of our society. Sometimes there are things we’d rather not be included in. Making the choice to exclude yourself is exactly that, your choice. When you are excluded because someone else makes that decision, we enter the still rather grey area of discrimination.

As an advocate for Inclusive Communities I am often confronted with issues of exclusion that need to be dealt with. Educating the community is quite a challenge especially as the human race is quite a tribal species. We form our groups and sub groups and not everyone has the capacity to easily transfer from one group to another. We don’t need to be a part of every group or community however access to these communities is the key issue. Of course with great power comes great responsibility. To have access to our community we have a list of legislated rights.

For those of us who live here on planet earth, we have what is referred to as human rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations on 10 December 1948. It sets out the basic rights and freedoms that apply to all people and has become a foundation document that has inspired many legally-binding international human rights laws.

The Australian Government has agreed to uphold and respect many of these human rights treaties. The categories in which our human rights are divided are:

Civil and political rights | Economic, social and cultural rights | Rights of indigenous people | Women’s rights | Children’s rights | Disability rights | Rights of older persons | Sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex

Naturally I vast amount of the work I do involves disability rights. With one in five Australians living with either a permanent or temporary disability, you’d expect that our communities would be more understanding and inclusive of disability issues. Sadly though we still find day to day cases of unfair treatment and exclusion of people based on their disability or impairment. The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 protects individuals across Australia from unfair treatment in many parts of public life. This means that in Australia, disability discrimination unlawful. The purpose of the act is to promote equal rights, equal opportunity and equal access for people with disabilities.

So what happens when you’re faced with a situation where you are excluded? To determine whether or not it is discriminatory is not always black and white. As the way we live our lives continues to evolve, these rights need to evolve with us to ensure we are always protected.

Many people enjoy the access to online socialising. Whether it is social media sites, communication through Internet protocols, or just accessing information, we all have the opportunity to access it. Social groups and community forums have become a significant part of Internet socialising. The funny thing about the Internet is that being digital, once it’s out there, it’s out there. Getting it back is very difficult. So everything we say and do online is at a risk. Understanding how to use this great power responsibly is often one of those things people just have to learn through life’s lessons. A bit like running across a lawn without shoes on. You discover prickles one time. You learn a lesson. After that you make a choice based on your knowledge from experience whether next time you run across the lawn you go to get your shoes first or not.

I’m guilty of letting my emotions get the better of me on the Internet for all to see. I’m a big girl though, I can stand up to the misuse of my great power (rights) and make apologies where appropriate or in the very least, give explanations (responsibility). I always like to offer a person the opportunity to learn from any unfortunate event that happens.

So what happens when someone creates an online forum designed to attract people from a certain community, but selects to exclude specific people?
Exclusion must not be discriminatory.

In 2007, the United Nations passed a new law: people with disabilities have the same rights as everyone else. If we want to catch the bus we should be able to catch the bus. Telling us we should use another service because they don’t want to provide the assistance we require to catch the bus is discriminatory.

If we want to be involved in community discussion about issues and events happening in our neighbourhood in an online forum, we have the right to that. To tell us we cannot share our views because someone has a different opinion is discriminatory.

Twice so far this year I’ve been excluded from local community group pages on Facebook.
On the first occasion it was one called the Riverwood Murrumba Downs & surrounds Community Group. The sole administrator Jaimie Mulders seemed to have taken offence to a comment I made about someone who had allegedly harmed an animal needing psychological help. While I understood her response the last thing I wanted to see was a community lynch mob after someone who had not even been identified.

jaimie mulders

Of course my very offensive response in between those two comments doesn’t show because I was simply ousted from the group. No notification, no explanation, even on request. Nothing.
What did I say that caused so much offence to be excluded?

“All mental illness should be treated. Firstly with understanding.”

Moral of the story, if you want to be part of Jaimie’s exclusive discrimination club, don’t defend anything to do with mental illness. Oh and the horrible act? Someone found a dead bird on a nail on a copper log. Has to have been a serial killer.

More recently as posted on the NPNP Facebook page, I jumped in to defend the rights of people with disabilities. Mostly from the uninformed, just plain ignorant and those few who still think we need to be hidden away in an institution so we don’t embarrass them.

It was quite the saga of the day. I’ve been a part of the Kallangur & Surrounding Neighbourhood Watch Facebook group for a while. The largest group of it’s kind in my local area (and I try to get across all of them to keep up to date with local issues and events) boasting 3587 members (3588 yesterday) I have been using it to communicate ideas, get feedback and connect with other like minded people in my local community.

A young woman who had posted about her frustrations with a public transport company caught my eye. I identified she was very upset and knew that some of her remarks would easily be taken out of context so immediately I jumped in to offer my assistance to resolve the issue and left my email address. I thought that would be that but the comments that followed were too much to just leave the poor girl to have to defend herself. I made one particular comment in response to something someone had said about her using assisted transport services instead of the bus.

Jaidie is blind. She wants to be independent. She has undergone a lot of training to do so and the public transport charter requires buses to be disability accessible. It wasn’t a one off event, she’s had numerous issues and has become very disillusioned in her quest for independence. It did not seem that the company involved had taken any steps to gain more information from Jaidie about how they can better service her needs. The only option she was given was if it happens again call and make another complaint. Naturally I’m following this up, but that is the part I can manage easily.

While I know some people just want to help, there are often times they don’t realise their suggestions are forcing us back to being dependent and we lose sight of our goal. It also allows our community to continue avoiding development into an inclusive community.

I don’t have a screenshot of my response but it was something to the effect of:
(commenter’s name) why should she have to be forced to use special services just for people with disabilities? (something about the public transport and rights to access legislation blah blah) Why do we keep building playgrounds for children who are abled here while the liberty swing for kids in wheelchairs is all the way…… over there? (that was reference to a specific issue I am dealing with in my local community). No (commenter’s name) Jaidie has just as much right as anyone else to expect to be able to catch a bus. If she wants to catch a bus then she should be able to catch a bus not be told to use a taxi.

The person I replied to accused me of “being so rude” to which I responded that I was not attempting to be rude.

Then, that was it. Expelled. Kicked out, bumped, access denied, computer says no. I was out.

I tried to contact the administrators of the group to ask for an explanation and request to be allowed to rejoin. I didn’t get very far. So Wendy Watkins and Jill Zackeresen get to have victorious reign over excluding me from accessing that community. Not because I was offensive, but because, in their opinion, I was attacking someone. Their opinion.

Now I’m not aware of any cases like this being taken to the Anti Discrimination Commission yet but imagine… just imagine the precedent it would set!

In all honesty though, I don’t really want to be amongst people I constantly have to defend my rights against. So Jaidie and friends are coming to join our community. We fit in here. We get each other.
Enjoy the read. Try not to explode, just laugh, cos at the end of the day that’s all we can do.

message with jill zackerensen

conversation wendy watkins

conversation wendy watkins part 2

 

conversation wendy watkins part 3

 

 

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