DISADVANTAGED: Ballina disability worker Narelle Johnson, Lennox Head resident Nathan O’Connell and Lismore’s Sam Baldwin are concerned about disabled access to businesses on the Northern Rivers.
DISADVANTAGED: Ballina disability worker Narelle Johnson, Lennox Head resident Nathan O’Connell and Lismore’s Sam Baldwin are concerned about disabled access to businesses on the Northern Rivers. Luke Mortimer

Irate wheelies want equality in accessing businesses

DISABLED and elderly Northern Rivers residents with mobility issues are calling for easier access to shops as they struggle to enter businesses.

Ballina disability worker Narelle Johnson, 43, says many shops have raised entry ways, prompting calls for premises to be modified or safe removable ramps be made available.

She used River St in Ballina as a prime example, as some have raised entrances 10cm or higher.

"There's so many businesses in River St they just can't get into," she said.

"Until you walk in these people's shoes you have no idea of the problem they face."

Issue "complex" says council

Lennox Head resident Nathan O'Connell, 24, and Lismore's Sam Baldwin, 19, have been victims.

"It's very frustrating. Even North Coast Radiology in Lismore is not accessible," Ms Baldwin said.

"Some of the places I just can't get into myself, to get my lunch or something else, so my carer has to go and get it," Mr O'Connell said.

"Maybe the council could help - a bit of a joint effort to work it out."

Mrs Johnson said problems entering shops could be demeaning.

Mrs Johnson said a few shops in River St had made attempts to alter store entries.

Provisions for disabled access to facilities and services is required under the Disability (Access to Premises - Buildings) Standards 2010.

The standards "ensure dignified, equitable, cost-effective and reasonably achievable access to buildings and facilities and services within buildings, is provided for people with a disability".

Issue "complex" says council

STEVE Barnier, Ballina Shire Council group manager of strategic and community facilities, said the issue was complex.

The council does not visit businesses to push for disabled access due to resources, but when development applications for new businesses or renovations are lodged it raises the issue with owners.

Mr Barnier added better access could have flow-on effects of having to provide toilets and other facilities for people with disabilities.

Owners of premises agreeing with tenants' requests for better access was an issue, as was the potential of increase flood damage due to lowered entrance ways.

He hoped businesses would realise well-designed access makes good sense, due to the aging, and often mobility challenged, Northern Rivers' population.


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