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Canberra Today 10°/13° | Friday, September 24, 2021 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Steep steps send disabled people on to the road

Disabled access to the sales office… but getting access to the tunnel under Parkes Way now involves a new set of concrete steps. Photos: Michael Moore

Who is worried if disabled people will be required to cross a very, very busy road without the support of even a pedestrian crossing?” asks political columnist MICHAEL MOORE

IT is simply unacceptable and exasperating when developers deliberately, or negligently, block access across footpaths.

Michael Moore.

Stage 2 of the light rail will illustrate what public inconvenience really means, but there are also small examples, such as the following, that illustrate government and developer negligence.

“The Griffin” is a multi-storey apartment development being constructed on the lake side of Constitution Avenue within the parliamentary triangle. The advertising suggests these upmarket apartments are “for lake-minded people”. Part of the promise is: “From Skyfire and Floriade, to the Enlighten Festival and Australia Day festivities, you’ll be the envy amongst friends and family with the best views and just a few minutes’ walk to the highlights of every season.”

Well, that is, unless you cannot walk or use a steep set of stairs. It might change when “The Griffin” is opened. However, for at least two or three years the access is appalling. 

Even more damning, galling and nauseating is that disabled access has been provided to the sales office of “The Griffin”, but not continued another 30 or so metres away to allow safe access to Lake Burley Griffin through the long-term underpass.

As if that was not bad enough! There is a large map that sends people who are disabled to the car park at the bottom of Anzac Parade. It is infuriating that people who cannot negotiate a steep set of steps at the underpass, are instead required to cross Parkes Way without the support of any kind of traffic lights or pedestrian assistance. 

It gets worse! There is no footpath if the map is followed. Instead the negotiation to Parkes Way and then across it means negotiating steep gutters, heavy traffic and potentially wet, undulating and muddy grassed areas. This is why over half a century ago the well-known underpass, just near the Canberra Institute of Technology, was installed to allow safe passage for pedestrians to pass under Parkes Way.

The fact that architects, developers, planners and building approvers would allow the blocking of access other than for those who can manage stairs, reveals an appalling attitude towards accessibility for all “Ken Behrens”.

A new set of concrete steps with a sweeping concrete pass, that allows pedestrians to access the tunnel, has been installed in place of the old entrance. In addition to largely preventing access to wheelchairs, prams, and bicycles, these steps are seriously steep on a one-to-one ratio and are unsafe for those who are not too steady on their feet. 

The real salt-in-the-wound is that there is plenty of room for a ramp – and when you’ve already acknowledged the need for disabled access by installing a ramp to the sales display suite, why not afford the same expense to allow disabled access to the lake in this space? After all, there was disabled access before the development started. 

No problem for those in charge! A sign is cheaper than building a ramp – even when a huge amount of concrete has been poured anyway. Who is worried if disabled people will be required to cross a very, very busy road without the support of even a pedestrian crossing? Who is worried if it will require pushing across grass and perhaps mud in inclement weather? 

Maybe walking with a granddaughter in the pram as part of my exercise regime throughout the COVID-19 lockdown has made me even grumpier than usual (because of the access restriction, not her). Maybe it has just opened my eyes! 

It is a shame the architects, the developers, the builders or the officials did not just see the issue and resolve it. It is also pathetic that in this carefully planned city our planners in government have not demanded better.

Michael Moore is a former member of the ACT Legislative Assembly and an independent minister for health. He has been a political columnist with “CityNews” since 2006.

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Michael Moore

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