The ‘Most Liveable City’ missing the mark for those with physical disabilities

Public transport is a civil liberty for all to take advantage of, but a recent audit of Melbourne’s tram services established that 85 per cent of such services are not accessible to those with physical disabilities.

Not only are they inaccessible, they are failing to meet legislative requirements set out in the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport (2002), which say that all tram stops must be disability-accessible by December 2022.

Ally Scott is the Transport Campaign Coordinator for the Disability Resources Centre (DRC) and says it will take a lot more lobbying to see the government take action.


Participant at the DRC ‘GET ON TRACK’ Direct Action on Thursday March 4 (Image supplied by Ally Scott)

There have been efforts such as the installation of ‘super stops’ on Dandenong road, though Ms Scott said where there is infrastructure work, the vehicles are missing as “there’s never any accessible trams along there”.

At the rally hosted by DRC on Thursday March 4, Ms Scott said that there were a lot of people there with a diverse range of disabilities, including those with energy conditions and visual impairments who have expressed their concern over the lack of audible announcements.

Participant at the DRC ‘GET ON TRACK’ Direct Action on Thursday March 4 (Image supplied by Ally Scott)

“It really restricts their mobility and their ability to take advantage of all the opportunities that should come with living in any kind of community,” she said.

Zanthi, 30 has faced a series of life-threatening and ultimately life-changing events which have left her permanently disabled as of a year ago.

“I randomly lose consciousness a lot, I have brain damage and peripheral neuropathy in my hands and feet, I have to use a walker wherever I go. Even with the walker, I’ve broken three bones in the past 12 months just from passing out”.

Driving, training and walking are not an option due to her disabilities. Living in Metropolitan Melbourne, “you assume that the world will be accessible if you’re in between three major tram lines, then you realise you can’t get on a single one” she said.

To get around, Zanthi resorts to Uber, which is costly and also uncomfortable at times. “I’ve actually had Ubers turn up, see me with a walker and cancel the trip in front of me and drive away,” she said.

Despite 17 percent of Victorians living with a disability, Zanthi strongly feels that “the world is not built for people like me”.

“I can’t get up a flight of stairs normally, let alone in the middle of the road where there are cars and I don’t know if the tram is going to be packed or not, can you imagine if you got on a tram and your walker doesn’t fit? What would you do? Walk out backwards? Be left on the road? There’s too much risk involved.”

Zanthi

At a Federal level, the government is currently undergoing a reform process and are seeking feedback from the public with regard to public transport standards for people with disability. You can have your say here.

For more information or to donate to the DRC you can visit their website at https://drc.org.au/

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Lara Shearer

Lara graduated from Monash University with a Bachelor of Arts (Hon.), with majors in journalism and human rights and then went on to complete an Honours year in Journalism. Lara was a contributing writer to Esperanto Magazine during her Honours and has done freelance writing. She has a passion for storytelling and moving people, with an avid interest in documentary filmmaking and podcasting.

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