Adelaide, Australia has Wonderful Hotels, Beaches, Restaurants and Shopping, but if Your in a Wheelchair, Your Often Left on the Sidewalk.

Dont get me wrong I grew up in Campbelltown, Adelaide,  worked in every club made popular on Hindley Street, owned and ran top restaurants and lived for the beaches. Back then I as 6ft 4 inches tall (not long) and had never considered the day I would have wheels permanently under my ass.

I have lived overseas since the mid-90’s and always extolled the virtues of wonderful Australia to any local that would listen.  Then in 2009 my American main squeeze and I came home for the first time in over a decade to beautiful skies, wonderful parks, great restaurants and even better friends. What we also came home to were  broken foot paths, non-exitent access ramps or if they were there they were used for table space or retail display.

Since Adelaide holds a special place in my heart and so do our friends there, we decided to come back to Adelaide.  This time it was September 2010. Thanks to a dear friend we stayed in Glenelg East. My partner was extra excited to be so close to the beach and looked forward to enjoying the flavors of Jetty Rd but alas it was our first disappointment.  Yes Glenelg is beautiful, has great restaurants, fun things to do, but for a wheelie like me access to most things was denied! Less than one in ten shops have a ramp and the rest are dangerously high (for wheelchairs at least).  A classic example was a coffee shop called Special Blendz.” who it seems thinks that their existing ramp is better used to house 3 extra tables.  The Strand, although we love their coffee, their cute waiters and really great food, we only ever got to enjoy the place from the outside seating because there is no disabled entry. When asking the staff how a disabled person is meant to get in the instruction were that we should go to the corner about 6 shops down, turn left, go down till we meet their alley, turn left, go along till we turn and see their “staff entrance” and delivery sign, ring bell, wait and enter past all manner of staff lockers, garbage bins and storage. How would your appetite survive that journey?

And now, last but not least, Glenelgs flagship pier side hotel The Stamford Grand whom while they have a lovely revolving door marble entrance to a stunning open aired bar and eatery, makes you roll two hundred metres round the back only to find the ramp blocked by…wait for it… large planters weighing hundreds of pounds. If you are lucky enough to get in via their covered disabled entrance, you then find yourself in a reception area with lifts to rooms, but if you wish to have a drink, something to eat, enjoy the piano bar and/or use the restrooms, your Access Has Been Denied! And somehow, when speaking to the staff, they seem ok with that.

Now we move across town to the wonderful Chifley on South Terrace. The hotel, when contacted by phone assured us that all amenities were fully wheelchair accessible. NOT!  If you wish to have a drink or several in  their hotel lobby bar, and then inquire the whereabouts of the disabled ladies room you are ushered to a staircase and joyfully assured that once you get up there they have a wonderful disabled toilet. I informed the lady that I was sitting in a wheelchair not a helicopter. She neither got the joke or the problem.  Given that I couldn’t use the public restroom, I resorted to returning to our room. My partner stayed in the lobby w/ our guests. Upon boarding the elevator, I attempted to press 4 suddently realizing that the height of the buttons were so high I fell out  of my chair. Upon reaching the room, without the benefit of my partner there to move furniture around, I realized that the room was so small in order to turn my chair around I had to crawl worm style onto the bed. lift it, turn it, and crawl back in and back into my chair. Mind you, we had the biggest room in house. Would we reccomend you stay there? Hell no! Use it to remake Faulty Towers ? Perfect! It occured to me it’s called The Chifley because last time thought was put into it he was prime minister.

Burnside Village (shopping mall) — the doyen of all things shi-shi and rich is under renewal and the only ramp in the entire building makes you push hundreds of metres up Portrush Rd into oncoming traffic then the same distance back down to anywhere worth visiting.

North Terrace, especially infront of The Royal Adelaide Hospital had footpaths so bad my chair dropped into a crack and snapped the wheel. The flagstone streets are pretty but in such bad repair that thankfully they are outside of a major hospital, just in case someone trips and cracks their head open.

So in closing Adelaide the churches are grand, the beaches white but alas the facilities broken.  I”ll be back for friends but as a wheelchair user ill bring my tool kit and join the RAA.

Mooloolaba — When a Town Gets it Right, They Really Get it Right!

This blog was started over extreme frustration due to the complete lack of concern or adherement to laws and rules regarding the disabled community. I intend, in that vane, to name and flame the offenders. But to simply dump on the bad guys  just makes me a whinging aussie.

Today I went to Queensland’s Sunshine Coast city of Mooloolaba and from the first footpath and access ramp to the Surf Life Saving Club, with not 1 but 2 disabled ramps into their building and a crew who helped me into a beach chair, pushed my not so little frame onto the sand  this town has got it right. Sure there are a few cracks and a couple of stores that have a step & no ramp overall the town has  gone out of its way for the disabled. Over a kilometre of wheelchair friendly linear park along the beach, several cement ramps actually down onto the sand, and cross walks every hundred metres that have no lip, no potholes and ramps at each end. These aren’t even ramps that take gymnastics to make your way up, they are at easy angles so THANK YOU  Mooloolaba!

This wheelie will be back again and again.  If we could only clone whomever is in charge of public works and send them australia wide. Perhaps then places I otherwise love like Jetty Rd, Glenelg and North Terrace, both in Adelaide or the likes of the Queen St Mall in Brisbane need not hang their heads in shame but thats for another post.

Today we applaud the good guys.

Broken Streets = Broken Chairs

To Whom This May Concern: If part of your job everyday is maintaining the very sidewalks you stand on, you might look at a crack or an old manwhole cover that doesn’t quite fit anymore and think “that little gap won’t hurt anyone.” Well we in the wheelchair community have news for you: that broken sidewalk that may only be a couple of inches wide is enough to destroy either the front of the back wheels on any wheelchair or even cause injury to its rider. In the past two months alone I have replaced the front casters on my chair twice because they have dropped into crack that to a normal walking person seem like nothing, but the cost to me in repairs to my chair since Oct 2010 has been in excess of $1000. Even worse, had it not been for my partners presence and the help of a dear friend, I would have stranded on a sidewalk unable to move in the middle of a busy city during peak hour.

Cure: Its simple, every day in every city around the world a crew is repairing a pot hole, replacing a stop sign, simply make it part of their job to observe their surrounding and make immediate reports to their superiors of any damage they see. BUT when taking note, please consider it front the point of view of someone riding the streets not walking them.

I Have Wheels Not Wings! Wheres The Damn Disabled Access?

Wheelchairs are not rarities and especially in times of war unfortunately more and more are necessary.  There are laws in every state, in most countries requiring that hotels, licensed premises, retail establishments, office buildings and shopping malls supposedly guaranting both equal access and proper toilet facilities. Right? We wish! Time and time again I as a wheelchair user am told “of course you can get in to our restaurant. Go around the block, down the alley enter next to the dumpster and come through the kitchen,” or as an airline recently demanded I use the stairs, my wheelchair would be waiting at the bottom? When I pointed out I was disabled they called federal police not medical staff and claimed I was rudely refusing to leave the plane!

No thats not a joke! It is unfortunately all too common that the disabled community worldwide is mistreated. As a regular world traveller with camera and laptop we are putting you on notice: if you screw up, smile you’ll be on camera & viral around the world within minutes.

If you are a wheelchair bound person and you have your own horror stories complete with pics lets shame the bastards into doing the right thing.

Welcome to our world.