Posts Tagged ‘disability rights’

I did say this series would be irregular! You can find the first post in this series here. I will update this post with links to the other posts as I create them. You can also keep an eye on my list of series to see when posts get added to this series.

As is no doubt apparent from the title, this post addresses mobility accessibility on Sydney buses.

Signs in mobility accessible spaces

I’d like to start off by considering this sign:

Sign at wheelchair area on bus

Sydney Bus sign at the area designated for wheelchairs

There are three parts to the sign. At the top, there is a yellow sticker with dark writing that says 'For more information on travelling with wheelchairs, seniors and prams ... go to http://www.sydneybuses.info'. There are also three graphics: a stylised stick figure in a wheelchair; a stylised person wearing a dress with a jutting hip, cane and bag; a stylised pram.

Underneath that sticker, there is white writing directly on the glass. This says 'This area should be vacated by passengers when required for a wheelchair'.

Beneath that is a blue and white sticker. In the centre is a stick figure in a wheelchair. To the left, the writing: 'FOR SAFETY: wheelchair brakes must be applied while bus is in motion.' To the right, the writing: 'FOR SAFETY: wheelchairs must face the rear'.

I suspect the problems I see with this sign says a lot about Sydney Buses’ attitude towards people with different mobilities.


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Two articles in The Guardian today which bear some thinking about.

1. A study has been conducted which seems to suggest that if a child is abused, that child will do better in the long term if sie is removed from hir family and not returned.

That may well be what the study found. And the result certainly has the force of logic behind it: if a child is abused in a particular environment, the child will be better off not being in that environment.

However, (more…)

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A woman is suing a bus company which refused to take her wheelchair (and so would not transport her).

Gemma Namey, a solicitor with [Public Interest Advocacy Centre, which is representing the woman], said the case could have major implications. ”This is a first, we believe, as there has been no previous test to enforce the standard,” she said.

One to watch, for those of you interested in accessible public transport.

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A Bill has been introduced into NSW Parliament which will alter the categories of people who are ineligible for jury duty. Relevant links are below.

In summary (ie why I am writing about this), having a disability will no longer be a blanket reason for ineligibility.

To explain the current position (from the government’s Agreement in Principle speech):

Under the existing legislation, three schedules to the Act provide bases for not serving on a jury: some people are disqualified, some ineligible, and some have a right to claim exemption. Disqualification essentially arises from past criminal conduct. Those who are ineligible cannot serve if they are summoned. This group includes the Governor, the Ombudsman, judicial officers and police officers, and those who cannot read or write English sufficiently, or are too sick, infirm or disabled, to discharge the duties of a juror.

And the new position (from the same source):

Two groups currently listed as ineligible will now have to show cause to be excused. They are a person who is unable to read or understand English, and a person who is unable, because of sickness, infirmity or disability, to discharge the duties of a juror. The Disability Council supported removing the ineligibility of those who are disabled, for example, on the basis that it remedies “an unjustified, outdated belief that people with a disability are unable to fulfil juror duties”. Clearly, a number of people who were excused from service under the current rule will still be excused for good cause, but the change reflects a principled move away from statutory excusal to showing good cause in each case.

To be honest, I’m not sure how much of a practical problem the current position causes. But, people being people, I suspect that if you show up to jury duty with a visible/evident/obvious disability,* someone would question you about that and maybe tell you that you are ineligible, or suggest that you could be ineligible if you got a note from your doctor. That suggestion would be based on the suggester’s assumptions about you rather than any actual evidence as to whether you are, in fact, unable to discharge a juror’s duties.


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Dear salespeople

If you are serving a person who talks and walks a bit differently from most people, when sie hands over hir credit card to pay, the correct response is your usual one, ie “signature or PIN”. This is a standard presentation of options and, I’ve noticed, is usually said rather than asked.

It is not correct to ask: “are you able to sign?” Especially when it is said in a patronising tone (with implicit “dear” at the end).

It’s even more obvious that you’re being a douche when you go back to the usual presentation of options with the next person, whom you apparently judge to have no difficulties with working a pen.

The standard presentation of options works just as well for people who do have difficulties working a pen (or, more to the point, people who you might think have difficulties working a pen, based on your minutes-long acquaintance with them, all of which was spent discussing a pair of shoes). Give them some credit to be able to choose the appropriate option for them.

Most utterly sincerely,
Jo Tamar

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[TRIGGER WARNING for forced detention following diagnosis of mental illness.]

Imagine a world in which you could be held by a government agency, against your will, for up to a month.

If you have a mental illness, that is now a real possibility.

Deborah Snow has reported on changes for the SMH – that’s actually how I heard about this – and has some interviews with various people. In summary: the doctors who are quoted are universally opposed to the changes. There’s only one person in the article who supports the changes:

The head of the tribunal, Greg James, a former judge, rejects the criticisms. He said patients retain a right under the Mental Health Act to call in the tribunal at any time to examine their case.

He argues the changes will avoid the many adjournments which occur now, where doctors tell magistrates they are not ready to seek a formal ruling.


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So says Dr Rex Simmons.

Well, that’s how I interpret the linked article, anyway.

I acknowledge that I haven’t read the study itself, and the newspaper article might be misrepresenting that study. However, I find some of the direct quotes from Dr Simmons somewhat, well, problematic.

Let’s take a look.


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This post is the first in an irregular series about accessibility and Sydney’s public transport. I will update this post with links to the other posts as I create them. The second post is here. You can also keep an eye on my list of series to see when posts get added to this series.

One thing that I particularly enjoy when I visit another place is figuring out how to use the public transport system. I like the fact that I can figure it out – that the tools provided are tools I am able to use. Some of the tools which are commonly available (sometimes online) are: timetables and route maps, route diagrams at stations/stops and in the relevant vehicle, stop announcements (visual and audio), signs at stations/stops.

Perhaps it’s ironic, but I think that Sydney is one of the worst places I’ve been when it comes to figuring that sort of thing out. This has a serious impact on the accessibility of our public transport.

It seems to me that the people who will have the most difficulty with accessibility in that regard are (in no particular order): (1) people with visual difficulties of various sorts; (2) people who have difficulty with certain processes (including people who find change difficult or confronting); and (3) people who have difficulty talking to strangers.

What follows is a general summary of the characteristics of public transport in Sydney which may cause those accessibility problems, and then a more specific discussion of the relationship between those characteristics and the people who have the general accessibility difficulties I’ve stated above. It’s quite a long post – that’s because there are a lot of accessibility problems!


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