With an aged population in Lithgow there's a need for more disability access in areas such as Lithgow's Main Street.
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At the Ordinary Meeting of Council held on Monday, March 23, a Notice of Motion was included in the agenda, which requested a disability ramp in front of Lithgow Mobility Aids.
Council has maintained that it cannot directly action this request, to the annoyance of Lithgow Mobility Aids owner Cathy Collins.
Ms Collins said that she was more worried about the health and safety of her customers.
"Council has never come in and seen our customers that are dragging oxygen bottles and have to sit for half an hour before they can leave again," she said.
"They have to drag walkers from half way down the street and even though we have parking out the back of our shop it is a long walk for people with disabilities."
Ms Collins said that council's reasons for saying no sounded bizarre to her.
"It's too close to a bus stop, there is disability parking up the road, two car parks out the back, but they don't see what we see every single day," she said.
Ms Collins said it was important that a ramp of some kind be installed in front of the shop.
"There is one at Blaxland that would be perfect, it runs parallel to the footpath with a rail, and we need that here too," she said.
"If any body needs disability parking out the front of their business its us."
Ms Collins said she was frustrated with the outcome from council.
...they don't see what we see every single day.- Lithgow Mobility Aids owner Cathy Collins
"I'm not happy Jan, it is disappointing to see customers come in and have to sit for so long just because we don't have a ramp or something to help them at the front of the business," she said.
"They don't realise how far it actually is from the car park to the front of the business for someone with a disability."
In a report from Jonathon Edgecombe, Director of Infrastructure & Services, it states that when designing footpaths, Council must adhere to the guidelines and specifications contained within Australian Standard 1428.1 and Austroads Guide to Road Design in order to ensure consistent, safe and equitable access for all pedestrians.
"The difficulty in this instance is that the area immediately outside Lithgow Mobility Aids and Headspace has an old style of kerb which is double height," he said.
"Should Council create a ramp perpendicular to the kerb, the gradient would greatly exceed the required 1:10, a maximum standard for disability access and increase the risk of a wheelchair tipping over.
"Alternatively, should Council construct a ramp and associated handrails parallel to the kerb, there would be insufficient total footpath width to cater for standards of disability access."
This is because a ramp five metres in length would need to share the existing footpath width of three metres. A 1.8 metre total width is required for both the ramp and pathway individually to allow sufficient free space for disabled pedestrians utilising the ramp and those simply passing by.
There is insufficient space to accommodate this option.
Outside the installation of a ramp, there are other cost-effective options which may be considered to improve disability access while not causing large-scale disturbance to the immediate area.
Despite having multiple options available to council including the "most effective solution" of installing disabled spaces and access in alternative locations, council voted unanimously on Monday, June 20 to maintain compliant disability access to the rear of the building with no changes to the footpath and parking layout in front of 23 Main Street.
They also voted to consider holistic compliance with transport and pedestrian accessibility standards in future stages of the Main Street revitalisation project and that a further report on the installation of handrails be brought back to the Operations Committee.
In the report given to council it stated that Lithgow City Council has an action plan in place for the revitalisation and upgrade of the Main Street precinct, including improvements to the disability access.
"The area adjacent to 23 Main Street is included in the next stage of the action plan...both parking availability and disability access will be targeted by this program," the report stated.
The other options presented to council included the installation of disabled spaces and access in an alternative location.
The council report stated that "where Council seeks to provide disability access, individuals with varying levels of mobility must be considered."
"To its credit, Lithgow Council has provided a number of accessible parking spaces to the rear of Headspace and Lithgow Mobility Aids, and disability access is clearly promoted from the rear of the building," the report read.
"Similarly, there is also disabled access directly off Main Street approximately 50 metres from the front door of the resident's premises.
"This access is in an area where the kerb is standard height and therefore suits the installation of a pram ramp."
Another option given to council was the installation of alternative accessible transport infrastructure, but it was noted that any alternative infrastructure installed would not be inclusive of all mobility restrictions.
"A ramp is the only option to cater for all levels of mobility and installation of any alternative may encourage those with reduced mobility to use this access rather than the compliant disability parking to the rear of the building," the report stated.
"From an engineering and disability access perspective, it is strongly encouraged that those requiring disability access should be encouraged to use the compliant access to the rear of the building which is supported by marked disability parking spaces."
However the report did mention that accessibility to the front of 23 Main Street may be improved through the installation of handrails and intermediate rails, removal of paving in the immediate area of the rails, and replacement with concrete to improve slip resistance and ensure surfaces will be consistent and even. Tactile ground surface indicators at the top and the foot of the stairs to cater to those with impaired vision and installation of high visibility tread markings for any step between top and bottom.
This option would involve kerb removal, concreting of new stairs, fabrication and installation of handrails and installation of tactile ground indicators.
This would come at a cost to Council of approximately $8,000 - $10,000 and insufficient funds exist in the 2019/20 Operational Plan to complete this work in the current financial year.
This option according to the report could not be accompanied by a disabled parking space in front of Lithgow Mobility Aids as a compliant ramp is a necessity.
"Should steps and rails be installed, any motorist can park in front of Lithgow Mobility Aids, reducing the benefits of its installation."
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