Door to equality too narrow for some

IT’S a sad reflection on Warrnambool when key speakers at a major conference on disabilities can’t get their wheelchair on the train or in to restaurants.

Keran Howe arrives at the conference — two hours late.  140814LP20

Keran Howe arrives at the conference — two hours late. 140814LP20

The double-whammy highlighted shortfalls in public transport and building codes across the state.

Executive director of Women with Disabilities Victoria Keran Howe arrived almost two hours late because V/Line carriages were unable to accommodate her motorised chair.

She eventually found a spot on one service from Melbourne, but had to wait in Geelong for an appropriate taxi van to take her by road to her destination at the inaugural south-west forum on violence against women with disabilities.

The evening before, comedian and disability advocate Stella Young had trouble finding a restaurant with appropriate access and toilets facilities.

“I hat to ring six or seven restaurants before I could find one that was accessible,” she told The Standard yesterday.

“Who enforces that? What we need is a strong piece of legislation like in the US.”

It reminded her of when she surveyed the main street of her hometown of Stawell as a 14-year-old and found very few premises had disability access.

Ms Howe said she had travelled on the train previously in her wheelchair, but there was no certainty.

“Travelling three hours and more in the back of a taxi is not ideal,”  she said.  V/Line apologised and said there was a limited number of carriages accessible to customers in  wheelchairs. 

“When a train runs without this carriage, we always ensure a maxi taxi is available for any customer who requires accessible transport,”  a spokesman said.

“Last year we had to withdraw 22 of our Z-class carriages for bogie testing and repair and we are in the process of progressively returning them to service.”

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