By David Squirrell
Branch President, Secretary & Treasurer
Below is a summary of the advocacy and activities the Adelaide Branch has been involved in throughout 2018.
Committee: Peter Emery, Marion Rogers, Lina Bonetti, Annette Holden
Submission to Guide Dog Handlers Australia, and SA Cat & Dog Board and Minister David Speirs after a number of Guide Dog attacks or unwanted behaviours from other’s dogs not on a leash or not under control. No response received from GDHA, SA Cat & Dog Board accepted the arguments, but State Government accepted (1), (2) and (3) of below:
1. Compulsory Microchipping
2. Compulsory de-sexing of all dogs unless registered for a strict breeding stock
3. Specified risk associated dogs not permitted to be owned or bred
4. All dogs have to pass ‘puppy’ & next level training to substantiate the dog can be controlled & the owner understands basic aspects of pet ownership including the role of assistance dogs
5. Extender leads are only to be used where other pedestrians or dogs are not in proximity
6. Guide dogs are to be given the same protection under law as Police animals
7. Where a hearing, vision, autism etc guide dog is injured and the owner can be identified then the owner is liable for veterinary costs, purchase of replacement dog and care associated needs
8. Significant fines to deter people allowing their dogs off leashes in places not clearly permitted by adequate signage
9. Compulsory reporting by councils & vets to a central database
Several meetings with ECSA to review and make recommendations.
Council Elections – ECSA made several recommendations as to accessibility and privacy but feedback indicates minimal recommendations were implemented.
This continues to be a significant challenge for vision impaired and blind persons having to negotiate, as well as cyclists leaning bikes along buildings. The Councils we contacted did little to rectify and some stated the shore lining BCA policy was not reflected in State Government regulation and legislation. The problem escalates in late spring, summer and particularly Christmas season.
Government offices and accessibility
There are still a number of offices that create challenges and barriers due to their use of issuing a ticket and expecting people to view a display screen, hear an instruction for the alpha numeric number then locate a counter and communicate from behind a security transparent panel. This was raised several times when the president served on the Premiers Access and Social inclusion Plan committee and was again brought it to the attention of Dept Community and Social Inclusion (now the Department of Human Services).
My E Health
The President was invited to be part of a community / Government advisory committee and presented a submission in April 2018. Another meeting in November 2018 of stakeholder representatives demonstrated most of the same issues remain and another submission was tabled. The president also serves on the Deaf Blind National Board and assisted in their submission. This had led to James Miller (Manager of Hard to Reach Groups) having one to one discussions with the President as to vulnerable groups and accessibility. Negotiation to promote Enduring Power of Attorney, Advance Care Directives and Organ Donation requests for all Australians via this Commonwealth initiative continues. The President has been asked to have several more one to one discussions due to the submissions and medical career background.
The inaccessibility of ‘Albert’ EFTPOS touch screens continues and apart from collaborating with the National Office initiative to present Cards to shop owners using such we await a positive outcome.
The President has been meeting with senior management over the past 5 years to resolve some of the challenged in regard to web design and accessibility related issues and has been given a specific manager to liaise with to try to address.
New Royal Adelaide Hospital
The President was invited to be a pre opening visitor to receive a guided tour. Issues were raised as to accessing from the Railway Station and Tram service, Road crossings, accessing the front door, the touch screen navigational machine what relies on touch function and issues a paper instruction, and the low number of disability parking spaces continue to be negotiated.
Several members complained as to the move to web based portals to access superannuation, investments and superannuation and were not easy to navigate and often not WCAG 2.0 AA rating compliant (Federal Government accepts as the standard). This led to bring to the financial companies attention the nature of vision impairment challenges and the mounting aged population who may be challenged by web based access and vision / hearing impairment.
Can Do – web design
Can Do cares for hearing impairment in SA and as a number of their clients are also vision impaired the President was asked to critique their new web design and accessibility.
Although this is not a BCA organisation the President was voted onto the national Board and this allows a discussion interface as to challenges faced by both groups. It is noted that as most BCA membership is over 65 there is a large overlap with those who also have hearing impairment. Rikki Chaplin, BCA Advocacy Officer, is also on this Board. DBA has recently moved into Ross House in Melbourne and is planning to create closer working relationships with BCA National as was raised at the Strategic Planning Conference held in Melbourne this year.
Department of Transport
Over the past 5 years there has been many submissions to the immediate past Minister (Stephen Mullighan) and current Minister (Stephen Knoll) as to outstanding challenges and areas on non DDA compliance. After a number of attempts to communicate with the newly appointed government minister were not responded to the President was able to confer with the acting CEO’s personal assistant and gained a reply which was shared with Tony Starkey from RSB who holds the role of RSB Government Liaison manager. A copy of the documents can be requested amd supplied.
This has been increasingly requested by BCA National Office and we have attempted to act in accordance to their request to lobby various Government officials.
In 2013 Mr Ross Sands (architect and access accredited assessor) and the President wrote a lengthy submission to the aviation industry and a copy was given to Adelaide Airport, salient Ministers and Virgin Airline. This year Mr Ross lobbied the Federal Minister and received correspondence from the Federal Minister that ALL airport facilities MUST be DDA compliant. This led to a meeting with the Adelaide Airport management who then engaged an independent access assessor and remains a work in progress. We also brought to the airport management attention that the assistant dog toileting area was obstructed by the scaffolding related to the new hotel complex adjacent to the airport building and gained a temporary one relocated to a more central location. There is still consideration as to such a facility the other side of security.
Due to a number of issues over the past three years where members have faced intermittent poor customer service, and almost missing flights due to poor acoustics and displays that are not accessible the President had been in dialogue with the customer service manager, Mr Matthew Dixon, who flew over to have dialogue and look for strategic ways these issues could be managed and overcome. He left that role and after the national president had a similar crisis the national office has now taken over this advocacy with Virgin senior management. One of the wins we created in 2015 was the ‘booking in process’ when accompanied by a guide dog and a one stop shop phone number process 1300 139 303 or 07 3295 3941. Qantas has not undertaken a similar process to date.
NDIS and MAC
Many members have voiced concerns as to the assessment and implementation, as well as the portal if one is self-managed. In June 2018 the President was invited to be a delegate at a NDIS advocacy group forum in Sydney on behalf of DeafBlind Australia. For reasons unknown BCA was not able to send a delegate so feedback from the meeting was supplied to national office. The President wrote a submission based on members feedback (listed as Number 64 on the relevant senate enquiry web site). The forum organisers requested feedback from my medical background as to specific areas where improvements could be generated.
Several forums have been held this year with attendance of between 15-20 persons. We have moved towards closer working relations with the Deaf-Blind community due to having many issues in common and we thank RSB for allowing us to use their facilities free of charge. The President was asked to chair a forum which explored real life situations and coping strategies from three panel members with a lived life of vision and hearing loss.
SA Disability Inclusion Bill
Feedback was given which may influence the wording and implementation of councils access and social inclusion plans.
The President has been discussing a unique concept which has now been given the go ahead. Commencing in the 5158 postcode region (Hallett Cove, Trott Park and Sheidow Park) the president, his care giver and guide dog Viking will walk every street over a 3-6 month time period to document environmental risks using a reporting proforma and with photographic evidence so as to build up a database and then use such for budget costing to implement resolution and create a disability user friendly environment. If this project is successful it is hoped to be rolled out to other areas and create a model for other councils to consider. In 2013 the President wrote a lengthy submission paper as to the environmental risks persons with a disability have to face and this was distributed to all State Ministers, Mayors and the Local Government association. Despite the very positive feedback little has changed.
Adelaide city Council
Since 2013 the President has attended many meetings and forums, met managers, and written submissions as to the challenges faced by people with a disability in negotiating the city region. The requests have all been accepted but little has eventuated. This led to a specific mini forum with Manager Sarah Cleggert where the access and social inclusion plan and the latest submission written by the President were discussed. To date no further action plan for resolving these issues has been received. The meeting as attended by the President, Annette Holden, Margie Francis, Alisha Hill, and Tony Starkey with apologies from Michael Taggert.
RSB and BCA Adelaide Branch
The 2018 appointed CEO of RSB, Robert Dempsey, senior executive Jodie Martin-Rankin, Peter Emery and the President have been meeting every three months to discuss what the Adelaide Branch has been undertaking and the sharing of information generally. This is a very positive collaboration. We had also approached GDSA as to being involved. The National Office also has been developing a memorandum of understanding with various service providers in SA (RSB & GDSA). At the December 2018 meeting we learnt of an exciting new development. Due to the cost of maintenance & the design of current premises they are looking at selling Knapman House and the Angas St properties so as to invest if a bigger and better location in Adelaide to better serve their clients.
The BCA Adelaide Branch has a series of tool Kits specific for assisting with information and advocacy and are in need of updating. We are progressing through these to update or add to where needed.
Marion Council Trolley initiative
Mayor Kris Hanna embarked on a campaign to resolve the environmental & functional issues relating to the use of shopping trollies and where they are left or discarded. The President attended & added that it is a very worthwhile initiative but there are so many other environmental risks that also need attention.
SA Ambulance Service
Due to the record of positive advocacy undertaken, medical and ambulance background the President was interviewed and appointed to the SA Ambulance Consumer advisory Committee and also their Clinical governance committee which permits enabling discussion when warrened as to vulnerable groups and those with specific disabilities.
Adult Same Day Elective and Outpatient Ophthalmological Model of Care
The President was invited to be part of the State Governments approach to seeking best practice and evidence-based models so as to deliver a better model for effective and efficient delivery of eye care to those within the public hospital system.
BCA President has been sharing and communicating with the CEO Jane Massured frequently on a number of issues which both organizations may share in common.
The President experienced a case which led to an official complaint, government department investigation and feedback as to a carry being denied on the basis of a guide dog. The matter has been dealt with internally and the driver disciplined accordingly.
Hospital disability assistance
The President experienced the inability to navigate leaving the ED section of a major hospital due to glass door panel walls and no obvious button located to open sliding doors, then being in a busy waiting area with no guides or prompts as to accessibility out of the area to navigate to a taxi ramp. Staff available did not offer any assistance until a verbal request was made via a raised polite voice and then the response was not courteous and the experience of being a person with a disability treated sub-optimally. The Health SA evaluated and processes are being looked into as to navigation systems and staff education as to how to maximally offer and actually assist people who need such assistance.
We have been able to assist a number of persons requesting information or actual assistance in advocacy. One that has failed to date is a legally blind prime carer who is managing her high-risk spouse with dementia and only being offered 2 hours a week package assistance. This is a work in progress.
The Federal government has asked AHA Consulting to undertake a study as to palliative care services for vulnerable populations. The President was contacted due to a past involvement in palliative care within the hospital and community setting and also due to connections with the vision and hearing-impaired communities. Two consultants flew over from Melbourne for a one hour discussion for which a submission was also presented. The same day (7th Dec 2018) the SA Health tabled its Palliative care Plan Model for discussion where some aspects of vulnerable populations were also documented.
Digital Citizen Services re online accessibility policy
The State Government contacted the President to discuss some of the issues facing vision and hearing impaired persons and the policy they are working towards. We’re currently working on the toolkit for agencies to support the policy, focusing on requirements for ‘procurement staff, UX designers, editors, project managers, graphic designers and front-end developers’. This will be accompanied by ‘how to’ guidelines and videos for reference. The team here will also provide ongoing support and education. They wish to gain insight into the medical & functional aspects that need to be taken into consideration and will also be looking at further community consultation.
The President was nominated for a second year for the Joy Nobel Volunteer State Award and was sponsored by a State Minister, and several senior government officials for services to the vision impaired community.
Over the past year Lina Bonetti has phoned as many members as she can locate from our database to inform them of what we are undertaking and listening to any areas they would like us to focus upon.
During the year the President has but out over 80 newsletters or information emails to members on the email database. These are distributed to members within SA, and insightsa members as well as other community and service providers who request to be included.
The Oct-Nov AGM was postponed by request of National office to enable the potential combining with a forum in March of 2019. I would like to sincerely thank our committee for their work and support. We note Joanne Chua has been appointed to the National Board after the recent November National AGM, and wish her well. We would like to extend to her the same invitation as we did to the outgoing SA National Board member, Chelsea Bartlett, that we are always happy to have her join our committee meetings to discuss aspects of mutual interest. We also thank Chelsea for her time on the National Board & wish her well for her next career journey.
We have had a few Letters to the Editor published.
The President still is invited to present his lived story and lessons as to environmental risks to the students as the Flinders University Optometry School each January.
Train experience and Guide dog users
A member with their guide dog was denied disability seat access by another passenger and located a seat adjacent to a wheelchair reserved space whereupon a cyclist placed their bicycle over the guide dog forcing the owner to move their guide dog for safety. 15 minutes of verbal abuse from the cyclist followed and their bicycle fell over twice. Reporting the incident & staff reviewing the CCTV led to the following email from DPTI.
“On the occasion you have identified, the issue relates to the behaviour of a passenger, and a direct approach from DPTI in response to the passenger is unfortunately not available.
I would like to advise that the priority seating made available on public transport vehicles relies on the courteous nature of the travelling public who don’t fit the criteria stipulated on signage and the Adelaide Metro website. Requesting people to move from these seats when they don’t appear to have an apparent disability is not mandated. It is important to highlight that not all people with a disability have an easily identifiable disability and therefore discretion should be used.”