24 May 2022

Feedback needed to make QPRC more inclusive

| Claire Fenwicke
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Woman and child learning sign language

The QPRC draft Disability Inclusion Action Plan 2022-2026 has been posted for public comment. Photo: QPRC Facebook.

More inclusive streetscapes, work opportunities and increased community awareness were all targeted in the Queanbeyan-Palerang region’s draft Disability Inclusion Action Plan 2022-2026.

The plan was unanimously endorsed by Queanbeyan–Palerang Regional Council and the community’s been asked to make further submissions.

“Inclusion is about identifying and removing barriers so that everyone can participate in community life to the best of their abilities,” mayor Kenrick Winchester said.

“Through this plan, council will work to create more liveable communities, develop positive community attitudes and behaviours towards people with disability, improve access to services and support meaningful access to employment.”

This is the second Disability Inclusion Action Plan developed by the council to support the nearly 2200 people in the area who need assistance in their day to day lives due to disability, long-term conditions or old age.

There are also more than 5000 unpaid aged and disability carers in the community.

Some suburbs in the region have a higher proportion of residents with a disability, such as Queanbeyan (7.5 per cent), Braidwood (5.1 per cent) and Karabar (4.9 per cent), according to the 2016 census.

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People with a disability in the community, carers and key stakeholders were asked to submit what issues they thought the council needed to address in the plan.

Improved accessibility of Queanbeyan, Braidwood and Bungendore’s town centres was a key issue with those consulted, which included better footpaths, road crossings and bus stops.

“Today I walked around town a lot with my guide dog and I had to avoid no less than 16 obstacles on the footpath. For me it means walking on the road with a guide dog,” a consultation survey contributor said.

Improved access to Braidwood’s town centre, shops and services was flagged as a priority. However council noted heritage issues presented a challenge.

“In a heritage town there is much difficulty accessing buildings and retro-fitting those buildings to be able to cope with wheelchairs, vision impaired, et cetera,” one consultation survey contributor said.

Within the draft document QPRC noted it would apply for grant funding to undertake an access audit of Braidwood CBD off the back of the Monaro Street Access Audit in Queanbeyan.

The Monaro Street Access Audit recommendations also needed to be implemented, with a focus on pedestrian accessibility and accessible parking, which gave easy access through main alleyways onto Monaro Street.

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Another issue raised was the need for increased accessibility of public recreation spaces, such as swimming pools, parks and fenced inclusive play spaces and more accessible public toilets and change rooms across the local government area.

“What isn’t working well is access to parks for kids, especially children with autism or physical disability,” one consultation survey contributor said.

“Young people with disabilities but too old for school need inclusion activities and programs at the pools and recreational centres throughout QPRC,” said another.

The Council noted its plan to advocate for transport bodies to increase wheelchair-accessible taxis in Queanbeyan and the surrounds and increase community transport to and from Braidwood.

A high priority in the report was to ensure council’s website provided up to date information about access and inclusion across the local government area, including inclusive play spaces and a link to the National Public Toilet Map.

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At the meeting council noted it is not responsible for achieving all actions outlined in the plan and it could be a facilitator, advocate or regulator.

No specific costs were listed in the plan; however some money had been set aside in the council’s budget.

An annual training plan for QPRC will be established to consider training requirements for the entire organisation.

The Disability Inclusion Action Plan 2022-2026 is available for public comment until 10 June. If no submissions are received, the plan will be adopted in its entirety.

Council is required to have this action plan published by July 2022.

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