How can we offer equity of access for people with disabilities?

Yarra’s streets can be better for people with disabilities if our footpaths are wide, level, unobstructed and continuous; our residential streets have lower volumes and speeds of traffic; and our public transport stops are level access. 

Former public transport minister Tom Roper says the rate of progress is too slow. Image credit: ABC News, Bridget Rollason.

People with disabilities include people with:

  • limited mobility, e.g. use a cane or wheelchair,
  • neuro-cognitive disorders,
  • neuro-developmental and/or intellectual disabilities,
  • blindness or low vision, and
  • deafness or hard of hearing.

Unacceptable infrastructure in Yarra

Yarra suffers from unacceptably poor infrastructure for footpaths and level access public transport stops, which prevents equity of access for people with disabilities. Many footpaths are too narrow, obstructed, sloping, bumpy, or discontinuous. Most public transport stops aren’t level access.

Protest on Sydney Road

This issue is not constrained to the City of Yarra. Here is a protest on Sydney Road in the City of Moreland.

Inaccessible → unacceptable

Protesters on Sydney Road
Campaign for level access tram stops. Image credit: Facebook.

Disability Discrimination Act

The Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act 1992 requires State Governments to upgrade infrastructure to offer equity of access, including level access public transport stops. Sadly, progress has been unacceptably slow.

State Government policy

The Victorian State Government has released multiple policies and action plans, but has failed to deliver the required outcome.

The plan has an admirable vision and statement of priorities, including universal design and improved access for public transport.

Key priorities in State Disability Plan 2017-2020. Image credit: Victoria State Government, highlight from Streets Alive Yarra.

Streets Alive Yarra supports the principle of universal design that is highlighted in the plan, and calls on the State Government to actually implement the principle, including:

  • fund the Department of Transport to upgrade all public transport stops to level access by 2030, and
  • fund Local Government to upgrade all footpaths so they have a minimum unobstructed width of 1.5m, are smooth, level, and continue at grade when crossing minor side streets.

Yarra policy

The City of Yarra has adopted an Access and Inclusion Policy 2018-2024.

Yarra Access and Inclusion Strategy. Image credit: City of Yarra.

The document includes two important strategies, but unfortunately the Action Plan part of the document fails to translate these strategies into actions that will actually deliver effective outcomes.

Selected strategies. Image credit: City of Yarra.

What Yarra should do

The City of Yarra can immediately clarify key elements of policy, and then fund improvements via LAPMs, including:

  • Footpaths should have a minimum unobstructed width of 1.5-1.8m, increasing to 2.4-4.5m on shopping streets
  • Footpaths should be smooth and level, with a paving and texture that is different to the asphalt used on roads
  • Footpaths on collector streets and shopping streets should continue at grade, i.e. be continuous, when crossing side streets
  • Cross-overs, e.g. for driveways, should not impact on, detract from or alter the slope of footpaths or the observable priority of footpaths
  • Triple number of parking bays that are reserved for people with disabilities, across the municipality

Design guides

Learn more from this collection of design guides, including from ISEMOA for Cities for All:

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