March, 2011

Mar 11

Parking desperation

Picture this: it’s a rainy Saturday afternoon at Leichhardt Aquatic Centre. The Tigers are playing the Warriors at Leichhardt Oval next door, so parking – often a challenge in Leichhardt – is at a premium. A chap who has been at the pool with his kids returns to his neat European car, parked without a permit in a disabled space, and finds 2 parking officers booking the car beside his, which is also parked illegally. At this point, most people would count their blessings at returning in the nick of time, look embarrassed and get out of there as quick as possible. But not this fellow.

‘That’s really rough’ he says to one parking officer. ‘We haven’t booked you’ she replies. He continues that they are still way out of line, because ‘there’s absolutely nowhere to park here when the football is on’. He’s aggrieved on behalf of the person parked beside him! He gesticulates in the direction of the general car park ‘why don’t you do something about them?’. (I’m not sure what a parking officer is supposed to do about 500 cars parked completely legally.) His complaints increase in heat as he gets into his car. He then winds down his window and shouts abuse at the parking officers as he drives away.

Disabled parking spaces exist for a reason. Many people with a disability cannot park elsewhere. Normal parking spaces may be too far away, or too narrow to unload a wheelchair, or without gutter ramps, or the ground too rough to traverse. Able-bodied folks face no such issues. There were parking spaces near the Aquatic Centre that day; they were just further down the hill, necessitating a walk back up the hill in the rain. That’s a pest for a person who walks, but an impossibility for many who don’t.

Sitting in my wheelchair, watching this nasty event unfold, I wondered what this fellow’s kids took away from the encounter. Did they learn to respect authority and uphold the law? To control their anger in public? To appreciate the needs of others? Perhaps to put things in perspective? In a city where a good parking spot can move some people to tears, I’d like to hope their dad later reflected on his tirade and told them it was an example of how not to behave. But, somehow, I doubt it.

Mar 11

Luna Park, Sydney

The Amusement Park with the Multi-Million Dollar View

They say familiarity breeds contempt, but in this case it bred considerable admiration. Admiration for a true case where making a facility accessible is in no way at the cost of the general user.

Courtesy of an annual pass gift to my daughter, I’ve spent 38 hours entertaining myself at Luna Park this summer. Rather than having one of those crazy and out-of-control Luna Park parties where large groups of kids run in all directions, she attended with a different friend each day.

Anyone can enter and leave LP at will; you only need a pass to go on rides. For me, that meant I was free to cruise the park and explore while the kids rode, so long as I kept all the bags, hats and surplus clothes and had meet points prearranged.

There are bars and cafes spread throughout Luna Park. Some of these are outdoors with umbrellas for shade; others are indoors with full facilities. Of these, my favourite was The Deck. It’s a very pleasant bar and cafe, with large open windows looking over a full panorama from Balmain to Wooloomooloo. You can buy coffee, a beer, wine by the glass or even a cocktail and sit by the windows and enjoy the breeze. Or just watch the ferries come and go. There is music, but it’s mostly just in the background; it’s genuine respite from the sights and sounds of the park outside. The Deck is air conditioned, but on the days I was there, it wasn’t needed. Being right beside the harbor makes a huge difference in temperature — even on very hot days. The accessible toilet has a sliding door, which is easy to use. As usual though, I couldn’t get it locked.

Another bar/cafe is The Big Top, which is also air conditioned. But with constant background of Top 40 video hits. For an hour or two that wasn’t so bad. I now consider myself an expert on 2010 pop songs, just as we start 2011. It also has a good accessible bathroom.

There are also accessible toilets at either end of the main concourse. As these are part of regular male and female toilet facilities, they won’t suit everyone. Never fear, both The Deck and The Big Top have their own standalone accessible toilets. The Deck has a manual sliding door and The Big Top is outward opening. Both have their own basins.

Getting to Luna Park is simple. The Milson’s Point ferry stops right at the entrance, so you can take a ferry or rivercat from any waterside locatIon. The ferry and wharf is accessible. Trains to Milson’s Point are numerous, and the station is accessible. There’s also plenty of parking.

The space at Luna Park is large, for such an inner city location; such that it really doesn’t feel too crowded, even in peak season.

The ‘street’ entertainers are pretty good. There are 1950s retro dancing girls, fun patrol surf boys doing the same and all manner of trumpeters, brass bands, stilt-walkers, clowns and more. After a few hours the non-stop energy got too much for me; they go all day and I was amazed at their stamina.

I was under strict instructions not to take any rides during my visits — I was purely an observer. However, the use of rides by guests with disabilities isn’t ignored at Luna Park. Every ride has a ‘fun and safety guide’ on a board at its entrance. This states warnings about health conditions to be aware of, whether guests in wheelchairs need to transfer and whether there is room for an assistance dog on the ride. It’s the best information I’ve seen of its type and saves any difficult questions prior to riding. It’s a model all theme parks should adopt.


For visitors to Sydney with kids, Luna Park should be on the must-see list. For locals, if you haven’t been recently, take another look at this incredible resource. For wheelies, it’s very well thought out and highly accessible. For parents of all sorts, it’s far from a hardship posting.

Mar 11

Stewart MacLennan – oh, what a life!

I very rarely feel envy, but today I heard a story on radio that made me green. Stewart MacLennan and his wife Lesley, are traveling on a purpose-built, wheelchair-accessible 36 tonne barge, cruising the rivers of Europe. Stewart and Lesley have an excellent web page and regular blog, so I’ll let them tell their story themselves.


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