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Grans wheelchair prison

  • July 5, 2008
  • Bruce Bromley

Hawksbury Gazette
TEGAN OSBORNE
26/06/2008 10:09:00 AM

IMAGINE the prospect of living the rest of your life in a wheelchair, and the obstacles you would face every day.

As Grose Vale’s Sandra Hunt will tell you, it’s not an easy thing to appreciate – until you’re directly affected.

In June 2007 Mrs Hunt had her left leg amputated, leaving her wheelchair-bound.

Now 12 months after her amputation, Mrs Hunt is frustrated by the number of Hawkesbury businesses including restaurants, cafes and retail outlets, that don’t have adequate wheelchair facilities.

Many times Mrs Hunt has tried to visit shops and restaurants in the Hawkesbury, only to find she can’t get in.

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Sandra Hunt can no longer access many businesses because
they lack wheelchair access. Photo: Kylie Pitt.

On one occasion, Mrs Hunt contacted a Richmond restaurant to make a booking and enquire about wheelchair facilities. She was told by staff that although they would like to accommodate her, the owner of the building was not willing to alter the building to accommodate wheelchairs.

Mrs Hunt said she would like to be able to dine at an a la carte restaurant in Richmond, but few had adequate wheelchair access and disabled toilet facilities. And although some Hawkesbury restaurants have wheelchair facilities, most do not.

Disabled Advocacy NSW individual advocate Bronwyne Chapman said disabled people faced wheelchair unfriendly businesses on a daily basis.

“It’s quite a large problem, she said. “Rural areas are a lot worse for access – we’re a lot louder in the city than in rural areas.

Ms Chapman said for most new buildings and developments, there were minimum disability access standards that businesses must comply with.

The Building Code of Australia (BCA) contains specific provisions for access to buildings for people with a disability, and applies to building work on both new and existing buildings.

There is a glimmer of hope, however the laws and regulations governing disabled access are currently under review.

But in the meantime, Mrs Hunt hopes Hawkesbury restaurants and shops will re-think their wheelchair access facilities, and do what they can to allow disabled people better access to public places.