How many sticks to build a footpath?

Australia ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on 17 July 2008, one of the first western nations to ratify the convention.

Good. Now comes the hard part – getting various levels of Australian governments, government agencies and people in general to make inclusion policy reality. Time for deeds not words guys. We’d like to receive some inclusion action at least as good as the NSW Government offered to pilgrims with disabilities who visited Sydney during World Youth Day (week).

Maybe the Convention will be a bit of a legal stick. Inclusion is not a noticeable feature of the affluent area of Sydney that I live in; clearly the “carrot” of simply valuing diversity has had no effect. There is a little talk but not much action to enable inclusion for everyone, regardless of ability.

Indeed, my local council cannot afford to provide footpaths/sidewalks to enact their policy of “accessing the community”, despite collecting rate payments from homeowners in an area where most residential properties sell between AUD $800,000 and AUD $3 million.

Council has invited me to spend AUD $20,000 funding the construction of a public footpath on our street, whose development approval they will expedite. Isn’t that big of them? I guess I’ll own the footpath then. As Queen of the Footpath I may let the power go to my head and refuse permission for some people to “access” my footpath.

I had asked the local council to provide a footpath and a safe road crossing so my 13 year-old son could take himself independently between home and high school. This is a distance of under 1 kilometre, which currently we drive in our van as I won’t let him drive his powerchair on a busy road, mean mother that I am. Although, there is no accessible parking near his school anyway.

I can’t write to Council rejecting their offer of privately funding a public footpath until the steam has stopped coming out of my ears and the expletives stop whirling around in my head. In the meantime, I will send them this:

NOT ACCESSIBLE

NOT ACCEPTABLE

And a link to the UN Convention website. Article 9 is a good starting point – here’s an except:

On the fundamental issue of accessibility (Article 9), the Convention requires countries to identify and eliminate obstacles and barriers and ensure that persons with disabilities can access their environment, transportation, public facilities and services, and information and communications technologies.”

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5 Comments

Filed under activevoice1

5 responses to “How many sticks to build a footpath?

  1. Geez. Just when you think that the big wigs can’t come out with anything stupider . . .

  2. If you visit the website of any local council there will be pages of policy dealing with inclusion of people with disabilities. Apart from empty and meaningless gestures Councils have no-one on staff who have any notion of what inclusion really means. Rarely does policy reach beyond worthy words, as if the inclusion of the word inclusion in policy makes it so.

    We also have a federal department of social inclusion what is its brief. Our deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard is the Minister for Social Inclusion. She is a very busy woman with the enormous demands of her two other portfolios of WorkPlace Relations and Education there is perhaps little time for her to devote the attention that is needed for the Social Inclusion portfolio. It perhaps should be a stand alone portfolio on which an enterprising young parliamentarian might cut their teeth and really make it something practical and inclusive.

    I urge all of you who have children with disabilities who need access to the physical environment to ensure there is a practical expression of what is written in policy by local councils, by state and federal governments.

    Write to Genia McAffrey who is the President of the Local Government Association of NSW and put to her that all local councils need to do more to include people with disabilities, more than just words. It’s the deeds not the words that speak most loudly.

  3. Glee

    Most local councils have a Disability Action Plan which maps out how they will progressively provide equity within the area including all their buildings, services and streetscape. Ask them for a copy of their Action Plan.

    Tell the council that if they do not provide the access then you will take them to HREOC and make a complaint under the Disability Discrimination Act. They are breaking the law in the first place and then further discriminating against you (as an associate you are covered by the DDA as well) and your son by saying you must pay for the access. Go to this site http://www.hreoc.gov.au/complaints_information/lodging.html#online and lodge an online complaint.

    Good luck. Often just the threat will make them move! They know the score and they will use bluff to get rid of you. Call their bluff.

    cheers
    Glee

  4. activevoice1

    Thanks for comments. Glee, this council does not have a disability action plan nor an access committee – disbanded it. It is in one of the most affluent areas of Sydney. I quoted article 9 of UN Convention to them and also asked some Federal politicians to chat with them about their strange and illegal views. I know we can drag them through HREOC, just have to choose my battles/bureaucracies, and we seem to have plenty to choose from!

  5. Glee

    That’s a bummer activevoice1. I know all about having to choose which battle to fight and appreciate what you say.

    I guess they think they are above the law. Sigh.

    cheers
    Glee

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