Bega disabled toilet access a stretch

THE new Littleton Gardens public toilets have never been short of controversy.

However, making the disabled cubicle entry button too high to reach could be a stretch too far.

Well-known local and former long-term head of the Bega Valley Shire Council’s Access Advisory Committee Ian Dalwood raised concerns this week over the standards used when installing the pre-fabricated toilet facility in the Bega civic centre car park.

While of course not all people with a disability use a wheelchair, for those who do like Mr Dalwood, having the entry and exit buttons at the same height as those on the non-disabled male and female cubicles was “outrageous”.

Of particular difficulty for Mr Dalwood is his vertical reach has been severely affected by arthritis.

“Because of polio I walked on crutches and calipers for 40-odd years,” he said.

“I used my shoulders as hips for all that time.

“Just reaching for something on the dinner table at home is difficult enough.

“Having a button that high is a real problem.”

According to the Australian Standard, “Controls that only need to be pushed…shall be not less than 900mm, nor more than 1200mm above the plane of the finished floor”.

The button on the outside of the Bega facility is 1420mm above floor level.

Internally the button to close and lock the door is 1360mm above floor level and the button to open the door once you’ve finished 1260mm.

Mr Dalwood said once inside the issues over ease of use continue.

“The major problem I have is the lighting – the mirror is at the right height, but it is difficult to see anything without much light.

“Getting out is a problem as well…if you don’t want to wait the mandatory 10 minutes,” he added - the toilet door is timed to open after 10 minutes whether the person inside is finished or not.

Mr Dalwood said the kerb cut for wheelchair access into the car park area was also unacceptable – “I wouldn’t use it”.

Mr Dalwood said it was up to the council to outline what steps would be taken to rectify the problems.

“I’d also like to know what formal mechanisms exist within the council outlining that staff and councillors must consult with the community about matters affecting those with disabilities.

“I think it’s unfortunate we’re still stuck in a toilet 30 years after the International Year of People With Disability.”

YOU may not like the look or location of the stainless steel public toilet facility in Bega, but if you have legitimate concerns the council is listening.

Bega Valley Shire Council group manager of infrastructure, waste and water Wayne Sartori said his team has checked the disabled cubicle entry button and agrees it should be lowered.

“You’re right, the button is too high and we’ll be taking it up with the supplier,” he told the BDN.

Mr Sartori said objections and complaints can sometimes be subjective personal opinions, but that he was happy to take “direct suggestions” on board.

One of those suggestions – also from Ian Dalwood it turns out – was that cars parked to the west of Littleton Gardens (outside Dan Murphy’s) had their bonnets protruding onto the footpath.

“Now you will notice the wheel stops we had installed,” Mr Sartori said.

The same could be said for the suggestion the toilet block’s compliance with Australian Standards is in question.

“If the button’s too high, we can fix it,” Mr Sartori said.

“We will go back to the supplier – they are expected to comply with Australian Standards.”

Mr Sartori also commented on recent concerns aired in the BDN over the automatically opening doors (Letters to the editor, 7/2).

The doors of the unit are timed to open within 10 minutes, whether the person inside is finished or not.

Mr Sartori said there had been suggestions of a separate button to push to indicate you need more than 10 minutes – “but you’d have to get up to press it anyway”.

However, he did say the council is looking to install a screen in front of the toilet block “for an extra element of privacy”.

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