Committee advise council on disability access

  • July 5, 2008
  • Bruce Bromley

Bega District News
13/06/2008 7:43:00 AM

IN THE last 20 years there has been a tremendous amount of progress for people with disabilities and their means to get about.

Now practically every pavement, and certainly those in the central business district are accessible, as are all government buildings, be they council, state or federal.

However there is a grey area where businesses and offices do not need to have ramps or lifts because the business conducted in the premises is the same sort of business that was ongoing when the regulations for disability access were legislated.

No matter whether the business changes hands, it is only if the buildings have a change of trade or function that disability access is needed in the development application.

Bega Valley Shire Council\”™s access advisory committee has developed into an important advisory body on matters relating to disability access.

The committee was established by council to provide people with a disability and people with restricted mobility (and/or their advocates) with an avenue to address access issues within the Bega Valley Shire.

The chair of the committee, Ian Dalwood, believes the people that make up the committee are the “eyes and ears of council regarding disability issues.

“The committee currently is working on several projects including the development of a disability action plan, Mr Dalwood said.

\”The committee make recommendations to council regarding development applications referred to it for comment.

The Australian Standards are applied and the committee brings the experience of their various disabilities in making recommendations to council and developers to improve access to public facilities across the shire.

The committee works

closely with various sections of council to ensure that new developments are as accessible as possible for everyone in the shire and it also identifies particular access barriers and makes recommendations to council on priority areas in the shire.

The committee currently is working on the following issues:

Improved access across the range of council services and facilities for people with a disability;

Increased awareness of issues affecting people with a disability;

Input into the development of a disability action plan for council,\”? Mr Dalwood said.

Although neither council nor its advisory committee can do anything about the problems at the moment, the fact that the access legislation is not retrospective is a problem for those with disabilities.

This is especially so in the central business district where a number of retail outlets have entrances that cannot be used by those in a wheelchair.

It is believed that the staff of these businesses will come outside and serve wheelchair bound people, but because those with disabilities are unable to move into the shops and check out all the products on display they are very much at a disadvantage and only have limited access to the range of goods.

The NSW Government is reviewing the building code and the disabled hope that in this review the anomalies in the access legislation will be amended or rectified.

There is no date known for the completion of the review.