Welcome to our March Newsletter,
MGAC has been operating (in one form or another) for the last 26 years. From the very beginning, we were tasked with tackling a number of challenging projects. One of our very first projects was assisting in the development of previously non-existent guidelines for the permanent and temporary overlay for the 2000 Olympics and Paralympics. There are a number of contextual reasons for this gap. At the time, it was not mandatory for corporate, residential, sporting, community, education and transport sectors to comply to AS 1428.1 1993 and the “reasonable adjustment” provisions of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) were only four years old. We still had a long way to go.
Fast forward to 2022. We now have a National Construction Code (NCC) with mandatory accessibility requirements, albeit with some gaps. Further to this, the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is funding people with disabilities to be fully integrated into the community, in particular housing. Changing Places facilities are becoming more common place for people with high support needs. Inter-industry collaboration is also on the rise, with the building development and finance sectors teaming up to create more Specialised Disability Accommodation (SDA).
Overall, things are looking brighter. Australia is in great shape to maximise on all the human resources we have at our disposal. But we still have a long way to go. Personally, I would love to see the Disability Pension fall into disuse. Instead, I would rather see people with disabilities (if they can) working, pursuing an education, or volunteering their time and expertise in the community.
In the last 6 months we have also seen two Paralympic Games (Summer and Winter) delivered by Channel 7. Both broadcasts were done with skill and professionalism, and showcased numerous skilled athletes who just happen to have a classifiable disability. In years gone by, that would be the cherry on top, but there was more good news to come. I was thrilled to see my mate Dylan Alcott – through hardwork, determination and elite technique – cap off a stellar career in tennis by playing his final game at a packed centrecourt at Rod Laver Arena. To top it off, he also went on to earn one of the biggest gongs of 2022 – Australian of the Year.
I would like to raise a couple of potentially contentious points to close. In a recent interview, Dylan proclaimed:
"I love my disability, it is the best thing that ever happened to me."
While I applaud the positive attitude Dylan has in this regard, we're not on the same page. I am proud of the person I have become because I used the opportunity that having a disability has presented me. In fact, I don’t have a disability anymore; I have accessibility needs.
I need a wheelchair that is light and fits my body like a glove. I need a car with hand controls. I need a bathroom that’s a bit bigger to turn around in. I need pathways without steps. I need an entry to a pub that has a ramp. I need an aisle wheelchair to get safely on and off a plane. I need sport stadiums that have accessible seating spaces and companion seats for me and my kids. I need a desk in my office that either allows me to sit in an office chair or use my wheelchair easily. Lastly, it would be nice if every building I visit had an accessibility specific emergency evacuation plan. I am betting 95% of all buildings don’t. I'm not the only person asking why they don't.
The team at MGAC are Universal Design and Accessibility consultants. Our job is to help clients establish principles, technical requirements, options and solutions to ensure as we implement the NCC, NDIS or the DDA requirements that we look above base building standards. As we all age or decide to have a family, I sense the accessibility needs of a guy in a wheelchair might also assist you. After all, Universal Design is about making life easier and more enjoyable for all of us, regardless of age or ability. Call us next time you encounter even the slightest bit of inconvenience in a space you own or operate – we can pretty much guarantee we'll be able to help.
Nick Morris (Director) and David Goding (Director)