Demand For Greater Accessibility Needs In Sydney

Light shows and installations have taken over Sydney for Vivid, and with it, Vivid Ideas Events are sparking countless conversations and insights about how accessibility makes for a more liveable city.

I couldn't wait to hear about what experts in the field would say about Sydney's current liveability. This is a topic that is vital to a flourishing and inclusive city. It shocked me to learn that 4 million Australians live with a disability and when it comes to city design, disability is often the overlooked part of the equation.

Image: 'Vivid Ideas Exchange' by Philip Talis

The panel wasted no time in diving into the hot topics of accessibility and liveability. In regards to accessibility needs, one key focus discussed was on the shifting of our methods from simply adding alternatives for people who use wheelchairs, the elderly or a mum with a pram, and instead designing cities that innately allow for all accessibility needs.

The idea is to create a liveable city for everyone. Oftentimes, access is viewed in a dollar form, but this idea really stumped me. Why should we wait until there is an injury or legal action to make a community more inclusive? Both our cities and local economies are predominately designed for a dominate class. However, everyone will benefit from a socially and economically inclusive city.

The talk started to get really personal when an audience member, Max, pointed out that it's hard for him to find places to go out to that accommodate a wheelchair.

Max said that he is much more likely to return to a pub that has accessibility features because it makes him feel comfortable and included there.

If we address accessibility needs from the drawing board, we will simultaneously create an inviting and liveable city. This means bringing focus back to the community and the individuals that make up that community.

Social Procurement as a Driver of Liveability

As Pascal Perez, Director, Digital Living Labs, put it “a liveable city is a kind city, that encourages social contact.” Liveability is all about relationships. Our relationships with people and our relationships with places.

Julia Suh, founder of Small Shift and Urban Toolbox, mentioned her strong support for social procurement as a principle method for designing a liveable society for all.

In order to humanise our cities, we need to view the community as the agent of change. People have the innate ability to self-organise, and if they have access to resources then they have the ability to build a bottom-up and localised approach to addressing a problem that is important to them.

Julia gave the example of a bus stop in a UK town that was uninviting and promoted anti-social behaviours. The community took it upon themselves to come together and make the bus stop a place where they could feel comfortable.

To get to this event, I walked through Sydney’s CBD from my office over to the Museum of Contemporary Art without any extra thought other than getting from point A to point B. However, upon leaving the building, the Opera House and Harbour Bridge aglow, I walked out with a new perspective of what that journey from point A to point B means for someone with an accessibility need. To find out more about the talk click here.

Leigh Osterhus

Programme Coordinator, Cities Leadership Institute

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Level 23, 45 Clarence Street

Sydney, NSW 2000, Australia

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