Long way to go for disabled

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Bunyip seniors with mobility problems have been forced to hobble a distance up Main Street to reach Bunyip Hall due to the lack of disabled car parking in its immediate vicinity.

The closest parking area with spaces dedicated to those with a disability parking permit are located at The Top Pub about 60 to 90 metres down the road.

But after a recent inspection, Cardinia Shire Council officers maintain that the slope in front of the hall is “too steep” for the construction of a disability ramp connecting the car park to the footpath.

Bunyip Singers choir member Carol Adams, who uses the hall every week, said she had seen frail women walk up the hill from the pub to attend the choir rehearsal on days when the hall’s car park had been full.

“Those parking spots are too far from Bunyip Hall and it’s hardly a walk that could be taken by a disabled person. It’s not practical,” Ms Adams said.

“The car spaces fill up quite quickly and a lot of my friends have requested disability parking. Our choir leader is almost 90 and has a disabled parking permit but it doesn’t help her access the hall.

“Bunyip is an expanding town and its main community hall, which is used more and more for various events, has no disability parking. Not a good look.

“They say it’s too steep but I think it’s do-able if it’s done on an angle to make the gradient more gradual. The slope is also gentler near the car parks at the far left-hand side of the hall, which leads directly to the disability entrance to the left of the hall.

“I think they should make each car park on either side of the keep clear zone disabled spots. I really feel that it’s necessary.”

Bunyip Hall committee president Chris Kelly said she was concerned that the lack of disability parking might deter older residents from engaging with community activities.

“We have many older people who are ambulant but old and frail, who use our hall. Many have walking sticks and walking frames,” Ms Kelly said.

“We do have a lot of oldies who have been regular users of the hall over the years. There’s a fear that they’ll get to the point where they’ll stop coming because it’s just too hard to access the hall.

“I don’t want them to stop coming. It’s so important for them to keep socialising.

“It’s the council’s responsibility and they’ve said they can’t do anything. I’m feeling fairly disgusted about it because I see the oldies struggle with it all the time.”

Despite finding the location to be unsuitable for disability parking, the council made an exception for the Federal Election in July, during which a mobile disability parking permit sign was erected outside the front entrance to the Bunyip Hall polling station.

“Unfortunately we found that an accessible parking bay cannot be adequately serviced in the location suggested by the resident,” council senior traffic engineer Nicholas Charrett said.

“This is because the footpath in front of the hall is significantly higher than the roadway.

“The Australian Electoral Commission temporarily installed a ‘disabled parking’ sign in front of the hall on Federal Election voting day, however the sign did not take Disability Discrimination Act compliance into consideration and was a guide only.”

Cr David Young told the Gazette that council had discussed the possibility of obtaining state or federal funding to fund a project that would provide compliant disability parking outside Bunyip Hall.

He said the introduction of rate capping had greatly reduced council’s ability to fund projects of this kind.

Originally published at Pakenham Gazette.

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About Alana Mitchelson

Alana Mitchelson is a journalist based in Melbourne, Australia. Follow her on Twitter at @AlanaMitchelson.

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