The daily challenges of living with disability have been brought into stark focus in a first-person exercise for Lake Macquarie Councillors and Council staff in the main thoroughfare of Warners Bay today (Tuesday, October 16).
The Break Down the Barriers program gives participants a basic idea of what daily life is like for people with disability, from those in a wheelchair, to others who have vision impairment.
Mayor of Lake Macquarie, Cr Kay Fraser, was among the participants who got a real-world view of the difficulties for people with disability of getting around urban environments and undertaking every-day tasks such as shopping, banking, dining out and attending appointments.
“Hearing or reading about the issues people with disability face is one thing, but going out and experiencing it first-hand really drives home how important it is to make our city a more accessible and user-friendly place for everyone,” Cr Fraser said.
“These exercises are not just a gimmick or a novelty. They help us learn what we are getting right when it comes to disability inclusion, and what needs to be done better.”
More than six percent of people in Lake Macquarie require assistance with self-care, mobility and/or communication, well above the NSW average.
Lake Macquarie was a trial site for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, and Council last year adopted its Disability Inclusion Action Plan 2017-2021.
Manager Community Planning, Andrew Bryant, said people with disability faced barriers every day.
“It’s important that people involved in decision-making about the design and operation of our community have a good understanding of the needs of everyone,” Mr Bryant said.
“While footpath widths and surfaces, kerb ramps and crossings are important, simple things like the placement of street furniture and signs can have a big impact on people’s ability to access services and facilities.”
Healthcare and rehabilitation equipment provider Alphacare and Vision Australia provided advice and mobility equipment to make the Break Down the Barriers exercise as realistic as possible.