A community-driven initiative in Geelong led by people with disability, aims to enhance both accessibility and inclusion in the city.

The Accessible and Inclusive Geelong Feasibility Study report was recently launched by Deakin vice-chancellor Professor Iain Martin and Member for Geelong Christine Couzens. Representing one of the largest collaborative community engagement research projects ever undertaken for Geelong’s disability sector, the report highlights six priority areas that embed good design in improvements to benefit both residents and visitors to the city. The study was led by Professor Richard Tucker from Deakin’s HOME Research Hub.

Martin observed that small improvements in universal access and inclusion often made a big difference to the lives of people living with a disability.

“The findings show that while improvements are needed across a range of areas, not all priority areas require major change.

“For instance, during the research phase it became clear that our Waterfront campus did not have the necessary bathroom facilities, such as a Changing Places – which includes a hoist and change table, so people with a significant disability and their carers have somewhere to change."

“This was identified by the community as an action item and the research team began the process of correcting this before the results of the research were released,” he says.

Couzens, who chaired the Accessible and Inclusive City Taskforce that helped commission the research, says the recommendations had the potential to be a game-changer for issues of access and inclusion in Geelong.

“Our aim is to ensure Geelong is a city that welcomes people of all abilities and provides everyone with the opportunity to thrive,” she said.

Tucker, who led the study, said the Taskforce comprised of people from across Geelong’s community including disability advocates and people with a lived experience of disability. While 119 action areas were identified, the team used a highly collaborative thinking approach, involving more than 75 community members to finalise six priority actions. These include:

  1. Improve planning legislation to define and ensure access and inclusion within the planning framework;
  2. Raise awareness and improve attitudes towards access and inclusion across different policy initiatives and platforms;
  3. Building an Inclusive Geelong Visitor Centre run and managed by people with disability with support staff;
  4. Increase the supply of accessible and affordable public and community housing;
  5. Increase business confidence in developing employment initiatives around inclusion;
  6. Raise expectations and aspirations of employment and economic participation system by co-designing work arrangements between people with disability and employers.

“Importantly, the report doesn’t suggest this is all the responsibility of government, but shows that change happens at a community level, led by people with disability and supported by government and business,” Tucker added.