For Doubleview resident Karen Harvey, who sustained a spinal cord injury at the age of 22, accessibility means freedom and confidence.
During Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Week 2020 (7 to 13 September), Karen has encouraged local businesses to explore how they can become more accessible and inclusive for everyone, including people who use wheelchairs and mobility aids.
Karen said even a simple catch-up with friends meant researching the venues they would be visiting in advance, to check there were no stairs to enter the building, and there would be a bathroom and seating areas that could accommodate a wheelchair user.
She said sometimes the most challenging part was uneven or steep footpaths, which made it difficult to reach the venue in the first place.
“These physical barriers just put a stop to the thought of going somewhere,” she said.
“It is disheartening to want to do something or go somewhere and these barriers dictate whether you go out or not – it’s plain sad really.”
Spinal Life Australia Chief Executive Officer Mark Townend said businesses would experience increased economic benefits by making their venues and services accessible to a wider audience.
“As businesses start the long process of recovering from COVID-19, this is an opportunity to increase your market share by improving your services and opening your doors to the many people with disabilities in your community,” he said.
“It’s not just about physically being able to access venues and services – it’s about providing the right information on your website and ensuring staff receive training on how to best support people with disability.”
Karen said she frequently returned to businesses that were accessible and encouraged others to visit these venues as well.
“I am always on the lookout for places that are accessible, so I can visit again with confidence,” she said.
Click here for more information about Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Week, including tips for businesses.