Making Melbourne more inclusive for people with disability

Image of a button for wheelchair access
Consultation, legislation, public transport and footpaths were identified as key themes by the study. Image: Shutterstock

Level-access public transport, consistent signage and diverse spaces are some of ways the City of Melbourne could be more inclusive for people with disability, according to a new report.

Led by the University of Melbourne Disability Institute in partnership with the City of Melbourne, the study centres on the principle “nothing about us, without us” (read the report).

Almost 80 people participated across five workshops, including people with disability, disability advocates, staff and academics. Together they devised 240 unique ideas to make Melbourne more inclusive.

Consultation, legislation, public transport and footpaths were identified as key themes, with ideas rated on importance and feasibility.

University of Melbourne lead investigator Dr Jerome Rachele said the study reinforced that to be inclusive, city planning must involve people with disability.

“In order to understand how to make a city truly inclusive for people with disability you need to understand the diversity of disability and diversity of needs,” Dr Rachele said. “The first thing people often think of when talking about an accessible city is ramps. Ramps are important, but it’s much more than that."

"It’s having adaptable housing that’s affordable and public signage that’s consistent and easy to understand. It’s also educating employers about inclusion and diversity, and offering not just inclusive spaces, but a diversity of spaces – quiet spaces, safe spaces, rest spaces, and low-sensory spaces.”

Study participant Stacey Christie said while there have been improvements made to accessibility in Melbourne, she still faces many challenges navigating the city as a wheelchair user.

“One day I'd love to not have to think about accessibility,” Ms Christie said. “Every building, event and public transport option in Melbourne would be wheelchair accessible and I could simply go about my day like everyone else, not having to plan my day around accessibility.”

City of Melbourne People City portfolio Chair Councillor Beverley Pinder said the study findings will inform the Council’s future Disability Action Plan.

“Increased accessibility in our city, will lead to a more inclusive society. The City of Melbourne is committed to drawing on the insights of this study to help make our city more inclusive for everyone,” Councillor Pinder said.

Other key findings include the need to increase employment of people with disabilities at the City of Melbourne, make sure people with disability are not segregated from other patrons at events and consult with people with disability in the design of legislation, public transport and footpath improvement.

Dr Rachele hopes this study’s findings will result in meaningful change.

“Around 18.3 per cent of Australians live with disability. People with disability have an equal right to fully participate in society” Dr Rachele said. “This study reinforces the importance for ongoing participation of people with disability in research, policy design and city planning.”

This study was co-funded by the City of Melbourne, the University of Melbourne and the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation. More on Pursuit.