Back to Mythbusting

This year, while I am working mostly with my local community to develop ways to build better, inclusive communities, I plan to dedicate my time to helping bust some of the myths I have seen in my time since starting the No Permit No Park Campaign here in Australia. Some of the myths are old ones that have been perpetuated over and over but some have surfaced more recently due to a lack of information or clarification of information. The fault doesn’t entirely lay with the people sharing it. Disability Anti Discrimination law in Australia is deeply fragmented and mostly useless. It exists but breaking it is of little consequence (unless you’re disabled with a law degree and lots of time on your hands to push the issue through the process).

We’ve done some mythbusting before and much of it was due to common misinformation or questions asked by the public. If you have a question please feel free to ask. Best method is probably to contact me directly by email via fridayology@gmail.com so that I get it directly and can respond publicly. You will of course remain anonymous if you ask a question. I want to share the responses publicly because chances are if you’re asking, someone else is also wondering, so we can share it with more people and educate the community.

One of the things that I intend to address is the responsibility of disability parking inclusion and enforcement as it is one of the most difficult areas to understand due to the fact that it is covered by three levels of government and five areas of legislation.

I’ve spent the last three years studying the Access to Premises Standards and Disability Discrimination Act in Australia to better understand how they work and how they should be applied. We are all aware how much time we can waste complaining to people who have no jurisdiction or power to act on the issue. We need to refine that in Australia so that it is easier to raise discrimination issues and have them addressed…. with an actual consequence. The first step to refining the process is to understand how it works. After three years of study, and I don’t claim to be a genius but I’m not incapable of learning these things, I am still struggling to grasp how the process was intended to be successful when applied. There are so many ifs, buts, maybes and exemptions written into the legislation it makes it impossible to hold anyone accountable for discrimination against people with disabilities.

One thing I can tell you is that rest assured here in Queensland at least, I have badgered all levels of government and all objective departments into taking this more seriously than they have in the past and as a result we’ve seen some positive changes and progress. Still in almost four years, we’re still fighting the same battles. I’m still putting out spot fires while the wildfire rages away from me. This has a great deal to do with the continual changes in all levels of government. No sooner do I get through to one group, there’s an election and I have a whole new group of attitudes to change.

So stay tuned in 2017. I hope that I will be able to give you the tools and the encouragement you need to be a powerful advocate in your community. If nothing else I have learned that when a community identifies you as one of theirs, they respect your views much more than someone they may never meet.

Image: cartoon graphics of people shapes with conversation bubbles above them.

No more putting up with it.

We are done.
Done with being a silent many. Every voice rings out and carries. No we won’t just go back. Home without you hearing. The sound when the many say, we are done. – The Madden Brothers

Keep fighting the good fight.

Friday.

AS/NZS 3695.3:2016 – What is it and what does it mean for you?

I was alerted to an article published in various media sources that gave many mobility device users cause for concern and as promised, I have investigated.

I discovered there’s much ado about nothing.

The article (click here to read article) wrongly stated that changes were being made that would prohibit the use of certain devices on road related areas, public transport and other public space if they didn’t comply to the changes. It’s not surprising though that this misconception has occurred. They never write these documents in simple language and this one in particular has a significant number of past references to other documents so unless it’s read in context with those documents it’s jibberish.

So let me lay it out for you.

Australian Standards 3695 was already currently two parts. Parts one and two covered the design and testing requirements for mobility devices such as wheelchairs, powerchairs, power assist add ons and mobility scooters, to ensure they adhere to the safety standards required for sale in Australia. This third part is an additional part of the existing safety standard for a compliance labelling system called the Blue Label system.

What is the Blue Label System?

This will outline the requirements for devices that meet the compliance to safety standards for safe use of devices on public transport systems. There are already regulations and guidelines for safe use of mobility devices on public transport in each state of Australia. These requirements cover things such as width, length, weight and maneuverability of a device so that you can access public transport safely. The Blue Label System will make it easier to identify which devices are compliant to these safety standards.

See, what is happening now is that we are being sold devices that don’t comply to these existing regulations but many people are unaware until they try to use them and discover they don’t fit. It poses a serious risk of safety, particularly on the matter of weight, when the ramps that have be designed for loading us onto trains and such have a maximum load limit, and our devices exceed that limit.

So while the Blue Label System may make it easier for operators of public transport to identify that our device is not safety compliant and refuse us entry, this isn’t something new and it’s not a breach of the DDA because it is for our own safety. It is our responsibility to ensure that if we are going to need to use our devices on public transport that we acquire one that meets the safety requirements as this is what is also required to meet our needs.

The reference in the Standards draft document to road related areas is also an existing regulation under the Australian Road Rules that will be identified on a Blue Label or if a device is not Blue Label compliant, on a yellow label. It’s speed and slope stability. We are restricted to 10kph in public areas including footpaths and roads. Under the compliance requirements for the Blue Label your device will need to be either restricted to a maximum speed of 10kph OR, have an override switch that can restrict to 10kph and have a speedometer for use on road related areas. It also outlines the safety requirements for stability on slopes to a maximum of 7.1 degree pitch (although I do wonder about this one considering there are so many footpaths and access ramps that do not meet the safety standards for us to use them).

What does this mean for you?

Better safety. Better knowledge when purchasing a device.

Little Eleanor

Little Eleanor

Big Eleanor

Big Eleanor

I have two mobility scooters, known as Big Eleanor and Little Eleanor. I have two because they both serve very different purposes. Little Eleanor was my introduction to motorised mobility devices when I lost my capacity to drive independently. She’s small with a maximum speed of 8kph and easy to use in small spaces, such as buses and trains. I use her when I’m travelling long distances by public transport with short distances between destinations because her distance capacity is only small between battery charges. Big Eleanor is in excess of the size requirements for public transport. We tried. It doesn’t work. While I can get her onto the train she takes up the entry way and the wheel base width is in excess of the loading ramp width. She’s all terrain though and I can take her on all kinds of surfaces like the park with the kids, some beach surfaces and she handles the really crappy footpaths that are in dire need of repair but there never seems to be any budget for. She also travels long distances on one battery charge. She can’t go into supermarkets and she has a maximum speed over 10kph but also has an override switch to restrict her to less than 10kph. They both serve two different purposes but Big Eleanor will not be Blue Label compliant for public transport. She will get a yellow label outlining what her specs are.

I want to stress that there is nothing in the standards that prohibit you using a device that is not Blue Label compliant device in public areas provided it meets the regulations of the Australian Road Rules on the yellow label.

What concerns still need to be raised?

Well besides the fact that no matter how many organisations and websites related to disabilities in Australia that I am subscribed to I didn’t come across this document until AFTER public consultation had closed, I still have some concerns.

There is nothing yet to outline what if any, deadline there is for existing devices to gain a Blue Label OR how this will happen.
Who will re responsible for the expense if any of obtaining a Blue Label to continue using compliant devices on public transport.
Will there be any compensation for people who have unknowingly been sold devices that do not comply to the standards and cannot be used in any public area (lord knows there shouldn’t be any like this in Australia that are not for specialised use ie: beach chairs).

Unfortunately it’s not a simple task buying a wheelchair these days. It’s become as perplexing and expensive as buying a car. I hope this compliance system will make it somewhat easier for people to know what they’re getting into when they buy a new device.

To view the draft document of the addition to the standards click here

 

Who is really committed to building #InclusiveCommunities?

I’ve had an ongoing battle with my local council – Moreton Bay Regional Council – over their lack of understanding and commitment to access and inclusion for people with disabilities, mobility impairments and other users of wheeled devices such as parents with small children. After three years of battling the same arguments and being met with the same token generalised responses I decided to see where and how I could hold them to whatever commitments were put in writing. And there were none. My council doesn’t have an Access and Inclusion Plan. I emailed customer service asking where it is in case I couldn’t find it on the website and they replied they don’t have one, but they have a community plan which may have what I am looking for.

No. No, I am looking for an access and inclusion plan. I did look at the Community Plan. It’s very generalised and lacks promise or hope for people with disabilities even though we have a population of people with profound disability higher than that of Brisbane, Gold Coast, Logan, Townsville and Cairns Councils. Even looking for keywords showed very little thought for this significant part of the community.
The word Disability was mentioned once. In the entire 52 page document it was mentioned only once.
Accessible – 2
Ageing – 6
Inclusion – 0
Inclusive – 5
Cultural – 25
Corporate – 12
Asset – 11
Environment – 44
Business – 48

Hey, Moreton Bay Council, the 80’s called and they want their ideas back.

Qld councils population over 100k Access and Inclusion plans

*Population statistics are all taken from the same time frame for accuracy and may be slightly outdated to current statistics. Click link below to download the whole report in PDF

Qld Councils with Access and Inclusion Plans

 

With almost 5 % of the population in this council area having a profound disability plus another 17% having some form of disability NOT TO MENTION THE CARERS OF THESE PEOPLE, you’d think they’d get the idea it needs to be on the list of priorities up there with securing Ikea and Costco. I mean even North Lakes has it’s own special plan. The current most up to date statistics show there are 15021 people in North Lakes. There are 20593 people in all of Moreton Bay with a profound disability. North Lakes has a plan and we don’t.

Access and Inclusion isn’t just about disability. It includes the ageing population and carers of children. It means that our community is accessible to everyone in it. This is why we have the Disability Discrimination Act. Speaking of which, Human Rights Australia specifically recommends all governments, organisations and businesses that offer services to a community have an Access and Inclusion Plan. They can even register them on the Human Rights Australia Website.

Just thirteen out of 78 Councils in Queensland have developed an Access and Inclusion Plan of some kind with specific reference to disabilities. Only 11 of them are registered with HRA (some of these were pre – amalgamation). 14%

But this isn’t isolated. It seems when it comes to accessibility and inclusion Victoria is the place to be with 79 out of 79 councils having an Access and Inclusion Plan registered with HRA. 100%! Well done Victoria.

NSW has 58 councils out of 152 with a registered plan or 38%

South Australia has 28 out of 74 council areas on the same page of accessible and inclusive communities or 37%

But us in the land of the eternal summer, we’re way behind with just 14% of our Local Governments wanting to include us and make our communities liveable for us.

Note that it is understandable some Queensland Councils with populations so small and almost none of those living with a disability may not have it as their priority. But when there are councils with populations over 100,000 people, it’s just not good enough. We shouldn’t have to ask to be included.

Of course I’m not expecting much change any time soon since my own local councillor has no issue, just like her predecessor, about parking in disability accessible parking without a permit. I’ve tried walking the yellow brick road to the Emerald City. It was inaccessible. The channels they expect us to go through to voice our concerns have no accountability. We need more than one voice.

I’m running out of energy and running out of time to get these things happening but I am not giving up.
If you’re in an area that is like mine and you want to do more than just be a lone annoying squeaky wheel, do like I plan to do and get a machine full of squeaky wheels together.

That’s right MBRC, you haven’t seen the last of me yet.

As long as these things still exist in my community, you’re going to keep hearing from me.

paisley path2

Photo of a footpath that descends to a steep hill with the International Symbol of Access painted on the ground with the NO symbol painted over it indicating the path is not accessible.

%d bloggers like this: