July, 2010

Jul 10

Disabled control wheelchair by sniffing — from today’s SMH Online

An interesting article reprinted today, originally from the LA Times.

Read it here


Jul 10

Livable Housing Design Guidelines

Here’s the link to the detailed design and building guidelines for livable housing. I’ll take the time to write my impressions in the coming days.


Jul 10

Promoting Livable Housing Design in Australia

Yesterday marked a significant day in access for those of us with mobility limitations. Bill Shorten, Federal Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities, launched a new voluntary code for ‘Livable’ housing.

While personally I don’t think the code goes nearly far enough, it’s a move in the right direction and should be applauded for what it is.

As soon as I can get hold of a full copy of the guidelines I’ll publish my analysis here.

Until then, I’ll just report the spin and what real information I can find. Here’s Bill Shorten’s media release, which you can also link to here.

Promoting livable housing design in Australia

Leaders of the housing industry, disability sector and community have today agreed to an aspirational target that all new homes will be built to disability-friendly Livable Housing Design standards by 2020.

Today’s announcement is the outcome of the National Dialogue on Universal Design, convened by Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities Bill Shorten last year, to improve the availability of Livable Housing and get industry and disability groups working together to promote it.

The voluntary Livable Housing Design guidelines consist of three levels: Silver, Gold and Platinum and outline the key features required to meet each standard.

Mr Shorten said Livable Design aimed to build houses that could be adapted to meet the changing needs of residents over their lifetime.

He said that it would become increasingly important as Australia’s population aged and disability became more common.

“These are houses which are easier to live in, can be adapted more cheaply, and will be easier to sell,” Mr Shorten said.

“Livable Housing Design is housing which meet the needs of all people, including people with disability and senior Australians,” Mr Shorten said.

“Families with young children, anyone who suffers a temporary injury, or has a friend with disability to stay the night, will also benefit from Livable Design.

“A few simple design features, such as a reinforced bathroom walls, a flat entry to the house and wide corridors and doorways can make a home suitable for an older person or a person with a disability at minimal cost.”

“A Livable house can give a person with disability a life of independence and dignity, and improved their chance of employment and involvement with the community.”

The industry has also agreed to a set of voluntary guidelines for housing, which will be used to inform consumers and the industry about Universal Design, and increase its application.

The Gillard Government will invest $1M over four years to drive an innovate partnership with leaders of the construction and property sectors to promote Livable Housing.

Although the standards are voluntary key industry groups including the Property Council, Master Builders Australia and the Housing Industry Association have supported them and committed to the 2020 target.

They will also provide useful information for consumers seeking to introduce universal design features into a new home and could also be readily applied within an existing home.

Dialogue members have agreed to develop a national awareness campaign and brand for Universal Housing Design.

Property Council CEO Peter Verwer said that developing the guidelines had been a great example of collaboration between the industry and the disability sector.

“Livable Housing has great potential for the future. It has low costs and huge returns both for homeowners and the broader community.”

Australian Bureau of Statistics research shows that between 1981 and 2003, the number of people with a disability more than doubled from 1.9 million to 3.9 million.

The ABS estimates that the number of Australians with disabilities will continue to increase through the first half of this century, due to the ageing of Australia’s population.

The requirements of the Silver standard are as follows:

Silver Standards

  1. A safe and continuous path of travel from the street entrance and/or parking area to a
    dwelling entrance that is level,
  2. At least one level entrance into the dwelling,
  3. Internal doors and corridors that facilitate comfortable and unimpeded movement
    between spaces,
  4. A toilet on the ground (or entry) level that provides easy access,
  5. A bathroom that contains a hobless (step-free) shower recess, and
  6. Reinforced walls around the toilet, shower and bath to support the safe installation of grabrails at a later date.

The members of the National Dialogue are:

  • Australian Human Rights Commission
  • Australian Institute of Architects
  • Australian Local Government Association
  • Australian Network for Universal Housing Design
  • COTA Australia
  • Grocon
  • Housing Industry Association
  • Lend Lease
  • Master Builders Australia
  • National People with Disabilities and Carers Council
  • Office of the Disability Council of NSW
  • Property Council of Australia
  • Real Estate Institute of Australia
  • Stockland
  • Victorian Building Commission

Probably the most important document released so far is the The National Dialogue Strategic Plan which is now downloadable from the Property Council’s website, here.

Other coverage and reports today are:

From the Property Council of Australia, a media release.

From Architecture and Design magazine, a piece titled Guidelines for ‘Liveable’ Housing Released — But Voluntary.

There’s a good item in the Domain section of the SMH Online too. You’ll find it here.

I’ll post other links as I find them, but not just news reports, which all seem to say the same.

Happy reading!

Jul 10

Heritage Park, Lismore

Heritage Park

If you ever need to spend a half day in Lismore, I can recommend a park that is great for kids of all ages, has pleasant spots for adults to sit, eat and watch, and is perfectly accessible to boot. Heritage Park, on the corner of the Bruxner Highway and Molesworth St, is also right next door to the Lismore Visitor Centre. There are well maintained accessible toilets (MLAK) at the base of the Visitor Centre.

The playground has a great range of play equipment, including rides, slides and activities for all ages. There are separate sections for bigger kids and tiny tots. For kids of all ages (and from what I saw, quite a few adults!) there’s a wonderful miniature railway ($2 per ride). For the most active, there’s also a skate park.

For picnics, there are free barbecue facilities and a generous number of tables with bench seating.

Best of all, there’s abundant open green space with large trees — just what you need if you’re taking break from a long drive. It’s a location well worth noting if you need to meet friends or family in Lismore.

Jul 10

Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary

Free-flight bird show

A visit to Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, 8km north of Coolangatta, isn’t part of the regular ‘worlds’ circuit. But that doesn’t make it boring day out – far from it. With hundreds of native Australian animals on display in natural bushland and rainforest settings, Currumbin provides a rare opportunity to get up close to some amazing native wildlife. Upon arrival, we watched the excellent Free-flight bird show, where everything from pelicans to wedge-tailed eagles were on display.

Set within 27 hectares of lush eucalypt and rainforest, there are tens of kilometres of paths, trails and boardwalks. While these are all, in principle, accessible, unless you are in a power chair or scooter, or else in pretty good shape, some of the higher walks would be very challenging. They are very steep, and often unrelenting. In the power chair, however, I found them fun. The rewards are significant too. The boardwalk takes you through subtropical and tropical averies where the birds are quite beautiful. Note also that that many of these averies are ‘double gated’ – you need to close one gate before opening the second. I found coordinating this tricky in the chair and was appreciative of help.

There are a number of trails around the Green Challenge circuit marked ‘pedestrian access only’; these I found only passable with great care. For those sticking to the lower tracks, there’s still plenty to do and see. I’d especially recommend the kangaroo enclosure, just beyond the Green Challenge circuit.

There’s also a train that circumnavigates the sanctuary, and while it can carry a wheelchair, you need to be able to transfer into a seat.

Accessible toilets are dotted throughout the sanctuary (not MLAK) and are clean, useable and well maintained.

Green Challenge

If you (or more likely your kids) are looking for exhilaration the Green Challenge high ropes adventure course has giant flying foxes and a tarzan swing. The Green Challenge takes participants higher and further into this spectacular natural setting. Of great interest to parents waiting at the bottom, there’s excellent coffee at the base station cafe.

For smaller kids, the Wild Safari playground offers excellent options. There’s a flying fox, a series of tunnels, a spider’s web and various climbing equipment.

Overall, I think it’s well worth a day trip to Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. It’s an interesting, active, educational, and accessible day out.

Jul 10

Seaworld on Queensland’s Gold Coast

As we stood in the queue to enter Seaworld, it looked like a mobility equipment convention. There were wheelchairs, manual and electric, being driven by fit looking young men and others being pushed by friends and carers, as well as scooters and walking frames. My first thought, I’ll admit, was purely selfish. ‘Long queue for the accessible loos today…’ But I need not have worried. Seaworld caters well for wheelchair users. And there’s an accessible toilet around every corner.

There’s almost nowhere a wheelchair user can’t go in the entire park. Although all disabled parking spots where taken when we arrived, general parking is plentiful and close. On entry, we were given a hefty discount on the ticket price without any request for ID. There is ramped access to any elevated platform and reserved, designated front row seating at shows and performances. There’s plenty of room for turning and manoeuvring, even in tunnels and isles. In general, I found a good attention to detail in the access design. Bizarrely, I found two shops in the piazza with a step at the front. One was a gift shop and the other served food.

In principle, while I saw no rides specifically designed for wheelchair users, I guess there’s no reason why a wheelchair user couldn’t also go on most of the rides, assuming you had enough helpers to get you in or on the ride. Me, I chose to watch. I watched my kids go on rides, I watched the dolphin show (very impressive), I watched the fish from the underwater viewing tunnel (also excellent). There was plenty to keep me interested without scaring myself witless on a roller coaster.

My wife observed that power wheelchairs should be marketed as a tool for families for just such outings. At one point I was loaded with all the bags, three raincoats, spare jumpers as well as a child on my lap and a coffee in my tray holder. Try doing that with two arms!

Overall, Seaworld is a good, and very accessible, family day out.

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