Introduction to Prospect Council Accessibility
Prospect Council accessibility is essential to my life. I moved into the Prospect Council area during October 2019. It is a custom-built home that has a focus on
- safety – I acquired an SCI – Spinal Cord Injury in 2009 because an organisation didn’t value my safety. I avoid dangerous situations at home and in the community.
- accessibility – My manual and powered wheelchairs, and shower chair need to move around, and I need to easily access the majority of my home. I drive a VW transporter and I’m able to take either my manual or powered chairs and can drive independently anywhere, and anytime I want to go. My van requires a double garage as the lifter that opens on the left-hand side, and the home has a single garage to accommodate another vehicle. There are many other accessibility features that I will blog about in the near future.
- exercise – I love swimming and it provides a good cardiovascular workout for my body. My wheelchair accessible gym allows my upper body to be strengthened. My road bike provides another avenue for exercise, and it is a wide tricycle. It is stored in my garage.
- entertainment – I’ve found that many people don’t invite PWD in wheelchairs to their homes. Either there is no access, or they are unsure about what access is required, or they don’t want wheelchairs on their floor coverings! I’ve ensured my home can entertain myself, and other people.
The Prospect council initially refused the double and single garage. They kindly accepted the design when they were informed of my disability and the accessibility requirements.
I passed my approved house plans to a landscape designer, and the plan included driveways that extended from the double and single garage to the road. Around 8.5 metres wide. The landscaper arranged for the concrete to be poured, and I moved into my home around October 2019.
The double garage is used by my VW and used to store my tricycle and other mobility items. The bike is wide, as I sit in between the two rear wheels. The steering, braking, and acceleration are all managed via the hand pedals, and there is a gear changer operated by hand as well. It can be difficult to operate. Two springs attached to the front wheel prevent the rider from turning too sharply. Sharp turns would result in the bike falling over and the turning circle is large for safety reasons.
The new driveway is steeper than my previous home and requires some momentum to get up. After speeding along the road, I take a gentle turn and pedal as quickly as possible.
As I can’t walk, jumping off the bike to push it up the driveway isn’t possible.
Four months after moving in
My bike arrived from storage, and I was ordering parts so I could start riding again. A letter from the council arrived. It was more like a threat as there were a demand, a time limit and a $5,000 fine if I failed to take action. The letter advised me that the crossover was too wide and they demanded it to be reduced in size. This was a shock as I didn’t realise anything had been done that wasn’t in accordance with permissions given.
The council wanted the driveway to be 5.5 metres in width. If they approved a double and single garage, I would have thought a driveway the width of a double and single garage would be permitted. And the reason would be the same – it is related to my disability, and I require additional accessibility, and this takes up more space.
The council already approved my home, which included more space, so why are they surprised about requiring more space to access the home?
Prospect council provided me with an approval letter that I’ve never been seen before. They gave permission to the builder for a double driveway only. I looked at the approved plans and only then noticed the approval was for 5.5 metres.
If I had known this a year ago, I would have brought it up with the builder and the council. A reduced driveway width introduces accessibility and safety issues for me regarding
- my bike
- my vehicle
- the rubbish bins
- accessible taxis
Unless you had my disability and used all 4 items while sitting in a wheelchair, you may be excused for not knowing about the accessibility and safety issues.
Attempting to explain the accessibility and safety issues
Typically, I contact organisations to increase accessibility, but in this case, the Prospect Council contacted me to decrease accessibility! In the four months, I’d been living there, multiple council workers visited (possibly five), and said nothing about the crossover. It would have been better to discuss it, rather than sending a threatening letter.
I invited the council worker to my home, as well as sending emails including photographs. He still wanted the crossover reduced, and provided two reasons
- It would increase street parking
- provide more greenery
I measured the distance between the proposed change and my neighbour’s driveway, and street parking wouldn’t increase. As for the greenery, it is something that I would need to pay for, as the council expects the ratepayer to establish and maintain the council’s land. I have no motivation to do that now.
The two advantages as stated by the council don’t exist.
As I attempted to explain the issues in email, the council worker didn’t ask me questions to gain clarification. He asked the landscaper and I didn’t want to deal with this council worker again.
The best person to ask about accessibility is the person requiring access. ME!
I will now explain the issues.
Prospect Council Accessibility Issue 1 – council bins
As the photo shows, many other residents place the bins on their lawn, as this doesn’t interfere with driveway usage.
As the bins are heavy, I use my powered chair to place the three bins on the driveway. Lawn and heavy wheelchairs don’t work together, particularly in the wetter months.
The image above shows the 1) section of the crossover the council wants to be removed 2) the 3 council bins and the 3) remaining driveway.
As the photo is pre-collection, the bins are lined up neatly and the width is around 2.6 metres, leaving a crossover of 2.9 metres.
After-collection the bins will be further apart, and for one delivery the bins took up and extra metre. This leaves a gap of 1.9 metres for my van to enter the crossover. As my VW transporter is 1.9 metres wide, I’d have to park my van, get out, move the bins, and get back in. This process would take around 20-25 minutes. Why should I do this?
As there is no nearby accessible parking, I’d park on the wrong side of the road (my lifter is lower than the kerb). My lifter would extend to the middle of the road, and traffic may be stopped. If I am in mid-air, another vehicle could run into me. Why should I risk this?
I may also be fined for parking on the wrong side of the road, and if another vehicle hit my van, my insurance may not pay up. Why should I be placed in this situation?
Prospect Council Accessibility Issue 2 – safety and access for my bike
The front wheel of my bike has two large springs, to prevent the bike being turned sharply. Sharp turns will cause the bike to fall over. Able-bodied riders would be able to put their leg out to prevent it from occurring. As the turning circle is large, it helps to have my van in the driveway, so I can return to the garage and place the bike next to the wheelchair.
I’m not jumping off and walking to the wheelchair! It is not possible to pedal backwards, as this activates the brakes.
The orange cone represents the back corner of the VW transporter parked in the driveway, The yellow tape represents where the council wants the concrete crossover to be replaced with lawn. There are two safety issues.
- Going downhill – the large turning circle would make it difficult to turn left before I hit the lawn, and just beyond this is the kerb.
- Going uphill – having to turn going up the driveway, as well as slowing down, it would be more difficult to get up the steep driveway and into the garage.
Most people have thin bikes and jump off them to push them past vehicles. Why shouldn’t I be able to safely ride my bike? And do it with minimum difficulty?
Issue 3 – inconsistency in Prospect Council area
I looked at driveways in my suburb and just around the corner, I found 2 examples, right next to each other. An old home with a double and single garage and crossover would be around 8.3 metres. The same as my driveway. At some stage, the council may have changed the development rules, and it is ok for older driveways to be wide.
The second example is a new home with two double driveways. It appears the 2nd driveway is for access to the backyard pool. I only need one double and one single because of my disability. I provided the photos to the council and asked for an explanation. No reply, And asked again. No reply. And then a ‘don’t know’. Why can’t I get answers to my questions?
The third example has a crossover that would be around 13-14 metres wide. However, just to the left of the photo, the road compresses into one lane in order to slow traffic down. The council may have allowed for a car park to be located off the road, however, that still leaves a crossover that is the same width as mine.
I downloaded the Prospect Council development guidelines and couldn’t find any information on crossover widths.
Invitation to the Mayor and Infrastructure Manager
Possibly the two things PWD (people with a disability) hate the most are accessibility issues, and other people not talking to them about their accessibility issues. The council worker didn’t seem experienced with accessibility topics, and he was asking questions to the wrong person.
I invited the Mayor and Infrastructure manager to my home, and they accepted the invitation. They had a look at my home and we chatted about accessibility in the Prospect Council area. They still wanted 5.5 metres and it seems they had made up their minds before they arrived.
Council wants a medical report about my disability
The council wants me to supply a medical report to EastWaste, so I can be assessed to receive special help with waste removal!
Apart from not requiring assistance, I wasn’t asked if I need help. It is best to ask the person with a disability about what assistance they require, rather than inventing something.
They want to do a risk assessment to ensure the helpers are safe. That seems strange, as the council is ignoring my risks.
Initially, I refused to get a medical report about my disability. Then I agreed, and asked the council for more information, as my GP needs to know the purpose of the letter.
- I am keen to get to a resolution and finish the landscaping
- I will continue to put out my bins and bring them back in, at a time that is convenient for me
- As a responsible cat owner, who keeps our cat in our backyard, it’s not possible for anyone to enter the back yard to help me with the bins, as we don’t want our cat to go near the road
- My public liability lawyer advised
- It is difficult to sue the council following an accident
- If you bring up an issue, and the council does nothing, it is easier to sue the council
- If the council demands changes that reduce accessibility and safety, it would be much easier for a successful lawsuit, if someone is then injured
After asking numerous times for direction on the medical report, from both Prospect Council and East Waste (they collect council waste), I’ve heard nothing. My doctor would like to know what to put in the report.
I arranged for a disability advocate to try to get answers. The council didn’t provide any further information.
Access Cab accessibility issues with my property
As time passes, more experiences occur that highlight the need for good external access to my home.
An accessible cab arrived to pick me up and I headed outside. The driver attempted to back into my driveway a few times. One landfill bin had fallen over, and the other two were spread further apart. I didn’t attempt to move them as it was raining. There was a car parked opposite my driveway which added difficulty for the access cab driver.
According to Toyota’s website, accessible taxis are 1.95 metres wide.
When I arrived home again, I measured the distance between the bins, and it was just under 5 metres. Allowing twenty-five cm room each side of the van, and subtracting the 2.75-metre reduction the council demands, that leaves 1.75 metres.
Which is too tight for a large accessible cab to get into my driveway.
I’d have to get loaded on the road and that decreases safety, and that’s not good in wet weather.
EastWaste won’t communicate with me
Prospect council informed me that EastWaste will help me with my waste removal, and I need to get a report from my doctor. My GP won’t provide a report unless they understood the purpose and what content is required.
I emailed Eastwaste on 12th July and no reply.
Additional emails on 28/7, 30/7 and 6/8 all were ignored. And the disability advocate emailed them on 19/8 and didn’t get a reply. Another council worker emailed me to mention that EastWaste can’t help me. I wish the council could make up their mind, and EastWaste could communicate with me.
EastWaste called and apologises and I accepted their apology. The council gave me a deadline to reduce the crossover and asked to be contacted if I have any issues with accessibility after the reduction.
Crossover is reduced
Although the ombudsman office commenced their investigation, the council advised it was ‘business as usual’. The lawn was placed on the council verge after the concrete was removed.
Access problem on Thursday 22nd October 2020
22/10/2020 – With the 3 council bins on the left side, I attempt to back out of my driveway. It wasn’t possible without doing it as a 7 point turn. I didn’t attempt this, as…
- why should I?
- another vehicle was approaching
22/10/2020 – When turning left into my driveway, with my bins on the left-hand side, I almost ran over the lawn.
- If the bins are emptied and placed any further apart by EastWaste, I won’t be able to do a left turn into the driveway without damaging the lawn.
22/10/2020 – I accidentally placed my front left wheel onto the lawn, and I got stuck. My neighbours rescued me and the video is just proof that lawns and wheelchairs don’t always mix well.
Access problem on Thursday 29th October 2020
29/10/2020 – I back out of my driveway with the 3 council bins on the right side. I got out, but it was difficult
- I narrowly missed the car parked in the left driveway, as well as the 3 bins
- If a car is parked in the right driveway, I cannot get out
- The 3 bins were yet to be emptied, and after collection, they will be spread further apart, and likely to block my access. I’d have to spend another 20 minutes, getting out, moving bins, getting in.
29/10/2020 – With the 3 council bins on the right side, I attempt to return home in my van via a left-hand turn.
- After a few attempts, it is obvious that I cannot get into my driveway and garage.
29/10/2020 – With the 3 council bins on the right side, I attempt to return home in my van via a right-hand turn. I got in, but
- I narrowly missed the car parked in the left driveway
- If a car is parked in the right driveway, I cannot get in
- The 3 bins were yet to be emptied, and after collection, they will be spread further apart, and likely to block my access. I will be unable to return to my garage, without spending 20 minutes parking the van, getting out, moving the bins, getting back in and getting into the garage. As my lifter opens to the left and is lower than the kerb, I need accessible parking, and I can either a) park illegally in my street and exit my van to the middle of the road (and decrease safety) or b) spend an additional 10 minutes by parking at the shopping centre.
Access problem on Tuesday 3rd November 2020
1/11/2020 – My Dad visited to watch the Melbourne Cup and he likes to park on the driveway closest to the front door for 2 reasons a) It allows me to back out of the garage b) Less walking for him, as he is 95 years old. As his wife (and my mother) passed away this year, he is thinking of moving in with me. I noticed my Dad had problems backing out of the driveway, as he drove over the lawn and kerb.
If my Dad has difficulty negotiating the new crossover without the bins, he will have more issues when the bins are placed on the crossover on a Thursday, until they are collected later on Friday.
What do I want?
- No accessibility problems and No safety issues relating to my driveway and crossover.
- The council to pay for 1) reinstatement of the driveway 2) the costs of the removal of the concrete.
- Council to change the way they approach accessibility for people with disabilities.
As the council asked to be contacted if I have access problems, I will continue to share the problems with them. As well as the ombudsman.
Previously I lived in the Port Adelaide Enfield council area. Their access and inclusion plan can be read here