Gunnedah Shire Council staff and councillors have experienced first-hand the challenges people with mobility issues face.
The council’s Access Working Group conducted an access awareness activity in the CBD using a range of mobility and vision aids, including goggles, blindfolds, canes, crutches and wheelchairs.
The activity was held to raise awareness of accessibility, in conjunction with Guide Dogs NSW/ACT and House With No Steps. It supports the council’s Disability Inclusion Action Plan 2017-2021 and long-term goals for enhancing access and cultivating inclusion throughout the shire.
Planning and environmental services director Andrew Johns was among the senior staff taking part in the initiative.
“It really was quite scary trying to navigate the CBD blindfolded. As someone acutely aware of the importance of equity in access, the experience has reinforced my resolve to keep access a high priority,” Mr Johns said.
“I would encourage anyone in our community with concerns about their ability to navigate our streets due to council infrastructure or footpath obstruction issues to bring these concerns to council’s attention.
“It is important for business owners to realise that there are rules in place around footpath obstructions and they are there to protect pedestrians. If anyone is unsure about these rules, I would encourage them to visit council and speak with one of the duty town planners, who will be able to assist.”
The council’s community and social planner Debra Hilton said the activity “hit home” with participants.
“We held a debrief at the end of the activity and it was encouraging to see staff and councillors reactions and to hear how the experience provided them with a valuable insight into the importance of accessible infrastructure design,” Ms Hilton said.
“It was a positive experience and has put accessibility at the forefront for staff who deal with planning or infrastructure designs on a daily basis.”