Warrnambool's accessibility for those with disabilities is still limited as the community raises concerns about the condition of the city's public spaces and amenities.
Unstable footpaths, street trip hazards, improper public toilets, cramped disabled parking spaces, and restricted beach access were among the issues people using mobility aids and disability advocates have called Warrnambool City Council to address.
I fell onto the road once.- Kim Young
South West Advocacy Association (SWAA) advocate Kim Young, who uses a wheelchair and mobility scooter, said the footpaths in the Warrnambool city centre were "dangerous".
"I've fallen off my mobility scooter a couple of times by hitting bumps in footpaths," she said.
"I fell onto the road once."
Ms Young indicated uneven footpaths and cracks in the pavement along streets including Koroit, Kepler and Merri were of concern.
"If it's causing [people] to fall off mobility scooters, it's quite serious," she said.
Ms Young also said curb crossings on streets including Hider and Timor were difficult to navigate due to their height.
"Anything that's got more than an inch lift to get up, you need help with a wheelchair and someone to assist you," she said.
"Being disabled, it's all about independence. That's what you really want, independence to get to places, and not have to have someone there to assist you."
Just having handrails isn't enough to support independence.- Kevin Mills
MPower chief executive officer Kevin Mills echoed Ms Young's discontent with the CBD's accessibility infrastructure.
"Some curbs are still too deep for people to cross safely," Mr Mills said.
"We have incidents on record in regard to clients falling over in wheelchairs."
For Mr Mills, Timor Street was an area of concern for its steep curbs and cracked pavements and stressed that it also caused difficulties for people using walkers and walking sticks.
He also said many of the city's disabled parking spots were undersized and made it hard for people that used wheelchair lifters to get in and out of their cars.
"They're still not wide enough," Mr Mills said.
"We find that we have to utilise two normal parking spaces rather than use a disability space."
According to Mr Mills, Warrnambool's old public disabled toilets, including those on Club Lane, were not up to the appropriate standard.
"There are still a lot of toilets that are still too low," he said.
"Just having handrails isn't enough to support independence, the extra height for getting on and off wheelchairs is really important."
Mr Mills said accessibility to Warrnambool's beaches was also poor for people with disabilities and called for beach matting trialled last year to become a permanent fixture.
"We're on the coast, the beach access is really important," he said.
"If there was some facility around beach matting for an everyday option, that'd be really good.
"Enabling people who can't transfer to those beach wheelchairs to access the beach in their own way would be awesome."
People will get hurt, and people will die.- Peter Hulin
Former councillor Peter Hulin, who has long-advocated for improving the city's footpath conditions and disability access, has also spotlighted street trip hazards including cracks caused by tree roots, particularly in the Ozone car park, and poorly placed street signs and raised gutters on Lava Street as areas for improvement.
"These are clearly a danger to our community," Mr Hulin said.
"The first thing you need to be looking at is getting rid of these gutters and trip hazards, and the second thing would be to get rid of the trees.
"The damage that they're doing to our footpaths and infrastructure must be costing us a fortune."
Mr Hulin said tactile indicators on Lava Street had been installed inadequately for people with vision impairment.
"If you want to have tactile indicators there, put them up against the wall as well," he said.
Mr Hulin criticised Warrnambool City Council for their inaction, claiming that he was "consistently outvoted" when he raised disability access problems during his tenure.
He also said the issues have been "completely ignored" the numerous times he had raised them with the council after his resignation.
"This council has a free run and free will to make the changes," Mr Hulin said.
He called for a much stronger voice to advocate for disability access across the city because "people will get hurt and people will die".
A Warrnambool City Council spokesperson said it had sought to improve disability accessibility when new infrastructure was introduced or existing infrastructure renewals were made.
"Upgrading infrastructure does take time however and not all projects can be done simultaneously," they said.
"We urge residents who are aware of maintenance issues requiring urgent attention to get in touch with council.
"We can then promptly assess an issue and, if need be, reprioritise our maintenance schedule."
The spokesperson said the issues raised by Mr Hulin would be considered by relevant council staff.
"If the issues raised warrant more immediate attention they will rise up the list of priority maintenance work," they said.
"Of note is that Ozone Car Park is the most popular council car park due in part to the shade provided by the mature trees."
The Victorian Government launched a state disability plan for 2022 to 2026, where Victorians with disabilities will be involved in creating a new Disability Inclusion Act for better community access, and making changes to the Disability Act 2006 to provide more protections for those in disability accommodation.
Victorian Disability, Ageing and Carers Minister Anthony Carbines said the reforms would make the state a "more inclusive and accessible place".
"We will continue working with the community to ensure Victorians with disability can reach their full potential," Mr Carbines said.
Ms Young said she was frustrated by the lack of progress with the city's access infrastructure which she assigned to low awareness and consideration for people with disabilities.
"It's the little things that cause frustration when you rely on a wheelchair or mobility scooter - the person who parks in the only disabled park because they were just 'popping in' for five minutes or a door that is too heavy to be opened without help," she said.
"I want to go to places by myself. I don't want to be stuck at home or make my husband take me to places.
"It's 2022. Let's hope that things are improving a little bit for people with wheelchairs."
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