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More MS news articles for May 2003

Wheelchair access a new town priority

Tuesday, 13 May 2003
Erik de Wit

A COMMITTEE advocating improved wheelchair access will be re-established in Glen Innes.

The Access Committee will be re-established under the umbrella of Glen Innes Municipal Council.

The committee would have to be set up again before November next year to address concerns raised in a council social plan, which was being prepared as part of the management plan.

The committee would probably include council staff, councillors, Chamber of Commerce representatives, a person with a disability, someone from the Young Mother's Group, a service provider or advocate of people with disabilities and a community health official.

This comes after former resident Margaret Dunn raised fears she could not return to Glen Innes to visit family because wheelchair access was limited.

Ms Dunn used an electric scooter because she had multiple sclerosis.

There were no hotels or motels listed with the RACQ or NRMA as having wheelchair access, she said.

The town did not have a taxi for people with wheelchairs, she said.

"I want to be able to visit my mother. I have not been able to visit her. She has been in Glen Innes for two years and I have not visited her in that time, she said.

"I had a sister's birthday in Glen Innes. I couldn't go. I felt left out.

"Most larger towns have wheelchair access. Little towns like Glen Innes and Guyra are not as well serviced.

"It is 2003. I thought this could not happen any more. I get so angry.

Glen Innes Municipal Council's Garden Court Centre manager Marie Williamson said wheelchair access was an important issue in the town.

This was recognised in council's social plan, Mrs Williamson said.

The issue covered not only people with wheelchairs, but the elderly and young mothers with prams, she said.

"Today, people with disabilities are more mobile. A lot have wheelchairs and a lot drive.

"There are also young mums with prams, or families with twins in double strollers. They are struggling with steps.

"We have an ageing population. A lot with walking frames and a lot with gophers. They can't get into a lot of shops because of the steps or the way displays are set up. There are a whole gambit of issues.

"The biggest problem is absentee landlords and getting them to realize the importance of access. A lot of buildings don't have it.

Yet there was no council requirement for wheelchair access to be installed unless major renovations were planned, Mrs Williamson said.

"It is a fair process. Owners need to want to do it. It is their decision.

"It can become quite an expensive effort.

"There is no government money to address access issues.

"Council is talking about beautification of the main street. A lot could be addressed then.

"About 40 per cent of the buildings in Glen Innes are accessible. That is not too bad in a country town. Most important buildings you can get into.

Copyright © 2003, Glen Innes Examiner