Access and inclusion in Loddon Shire
by Jolie Middleton, Senior Disability Inclusion Officer, Loddon Shire Council
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in 2015 approximately 18.3 per cent (4.3 million) of the national population reported living with a disability – almost one in five Australians. Going by this data, this means approximately 1383 residents of Loddon Shire could have some form of disability.
Council has an important role in our community when it comes to increasing the accessibility and inclusion of our residents with a disability. Be it through advocacy, community support, organisational change or infrastructure, accessibility and inclusion aligns with Council’s vision to have a prosperous, vibrant and engaged community and a mission to enhance the sustainability and liveability of Loddon Shire.
Loddon Shire Council’s Disability Access and Inclusion Plan 2017-2021, currently in draft form, is Council’s fourth Disability Action Plan, with Loddon Shire adopting its first Community Access Plan in 2003. Previous plans have seen Council make significant steps towards embracing accessibility and social inclusion in its organisational values, as reflected in the vision and mission above, and set out in its Council Plan 2017-2021.
The updated plan has been developed following extensive consultation with community and staff, and reflects Council’s commitment in continuing to reduce barriers experienced by people with a disability. It builds upon the success of these previous plans, and further identifies how Council can contribute to better access and inclusion for its residents.
This includes people living with a disability, as well as improved access for all community members such as the elderly, parents with prams, young children and people who use English as a second language.
The Plan incorporates six focus areas:
Accessible services, programs and events
Accessible Council buildings and infrastructure
Equal employment opportunities
Accessible communication and engagement
Inclusive community participation, and
Respectful and safe communities
Council’s Disability Access and Inclusion Steering Group had a key role in identifying the engagement and consultation with the community. This included a series of targeted community engagement sessions, direct contact with the Disability Inclusion Officer, surveys, pop-up listening posts, suggestion boxes, focus groups and staff workshops.
More than 100 community and staff members provided their feedback. Feedback generally indicated that the community was satisfied with the services provided by Council and thought Council was making some good improvements to the accessibility of the Loddon Shire. Common issues identified during the feedback have been incorporated into the Plan in the six key areas listed above.
The draft Loddon Shire Council Disability Action and Inclusion Plan will be presented at the November Ordinary Meeting for consideration by Council to release the plan for public exhibition and comment.