Donald H. Rumsfeld, US Secretary of Defence once said… “If you are not criticised, you may not be doing much.”
As a double amputee in a wheelchair, access is paramount and something I am passionate about.. Many a time I have been criticised for speaking out on this basic right.. but here’s the thing.. most people tend to sit back and say nothing..I can’t do that.
For the past 6 months, I have spent a fair amount of time travelling. Access is a big thing to one such as myself… Hotels, airlines, trains, buses, footpaths, shops let alone bathrooms and public conveniences! Where do I start?
Let’s just look at getting from the Gold Coast to Coolangatta airport for starters. The airport bus works fine…when the bus is capable of lowering the ramp!
Sadly this does not happen all of the time.. They simply do not work! My argument here, is simple…they should not be on the road! They are defective, same applies with “wheelchair taxis” if defective, they need to be withdrawn from service and repaired…simple as that!
Now, I’m probably going to upset a few of you… Gold Coast Airport, as you know, has no air-bridge. Some will argue this is a good thing. Try it from a wheelchair and you soon realise it is not! It is that simple! For this reason, I choose to travel up to Brisbane and fly from there. The trains are fantastic and very accessible and personally, I have never encountered a problem.
Now to the airlines… I could not believe that the particular airline I choose to fly did not have an aisle chair on board the aircraft. UNBELIEVABLE!!
I immediately addressed the issue with this carrier and I am happy to say, whilst there is still no chair on board, they are working toward a solution. You see, no one had ever bothered to point it out to them, so they were unaware of the problem.
The thing here is, they took OWNERSHIP and are working to resolve this issue. I continue to fly with them and have nothing but praise for the way in which they have addressed the issue. No need to jump up and down and create a scene at the airport. I just don’t have that chip on my shoulder.
Most accommodations these days, must provide an accessible room. The definition of accessible varies considerably and this is where the problem arises..What you and I call accessible, I am sure is poles apart. It’s simple…Access into the bathroom, shower and wide enough to cater for most wheelchairs.
With the Commonwealth Games upon us, we need to be thinking about total access now. I put my hand up to advise and assist the GCCC in this process. It simply must be right! In the United States, nothing is left to chance…NOTHING!
Ok, I grant you that the laws there allow for an individual to sue the pants off whoever gets it wrong. They pretty much have it right. Sadly the privilege is abused when it comes to cruising as laws there do not allow them to question your right to an accessible cabin on a ship.
What annoyed me there, was the number of people that abused the right. Climbed into a wheelchair, just to get to the front of the queue, then walked to the buffet or took the lift, simply because they were obese, or just plain lazy. Harsh yes, but fact!
Did I get angry, speak out…absolutely! Was I criticised for doing so, yes! Would I stop and sit back and let this happen NO!
Again, here’s the thing, I don’t care too much about myself, I can and have been speaking out for nearly 40 years as a Broadcaster and Journalist.
I have helped implement change and am proud of that achievement. The people I care about are our “Diggers, the elderly & frail, those that can’t speak out, simply because they are struggling to cope with their daily existence.
This brings me to the point I wish to hammer home…Right now, there is a lot of construction taking place on the Gold Coast with the building of the “LITE RAIL” access for anyone is difficult, let alone those who are frail, elderly, young families with strollers and of course those of us confined to a wheelchair.
I have addressed the issue and whilst the authorities are concerned, sadly they just play “lip service” to the problem and throw a bit of hot mix over the paths with no consideration to those that have to struggle on a daily basis, just to get to their corner store…It needs to be changed…Attitudes need to change as does the planners thinking.
No doubt I will be criticised once again for speaking out, but as I said at the start of this article, quoting from Donald H Rumsfeld…“If you are not criticised, you may not be doing much.”
I hope I am doing something!