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$28m Victoria Square already needs disability upgrades

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The redeveloped side of Victoria Square needs $160,000 worth of new upgrades because it poses significant obstacles for people with disabilities.

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The Adelaide City Council has endorsed disability access upgrades to the northern end of the square because, council staff say, “visitors who have a visual or mobility impairment are significantly restricted from moving through and within Victoria Square”.

The council’s administration warned the council could be liable for a claim under the Disability Discrimination Act “due to inequitable access” if a visitor to Victoria Square believed their safety, or their use of the space, had been compromised.

The $28 million council-funded stage one redevelopment of the northern side of Victoria Square was finished in 2014.

A council committee last night recommended a $160,000 plan to improve disability access through the city’s central square.

The upgrades would add central handrails and coloured edging to all stairs on the square, replace ground surface indicators, install kerb ramps and review pedestrian movement across the northern plaza intersection.

A council spokesperson told InDaily that “disability access was considered as part of the original design of Victoria Square, and was considered satisfactory for the design brief and [the] council’s desired outcomes for the use of the square at that time”.

“Subsequent use of Victoria Square has identified a number of improvements that could be made to provide an enhanced user experience for those members of the community that are visually impaired or have difficulty with mobility,” the spokesperson said.

Dignity for Disability MLC Kelly Vincent said she wanted to see “all local, state and federal government projects follow principles of universal design and ensure disability access compliance in all new builds, and upgrades or modifications – at the planning stage”.

“Universal Design guarantees the needs of children, families, and the ageing population can also access public spaces, services and facilities – it also prevents the need for costly fixes at a later date.”

Vincent said she had been working constructively with Lord Mayor Martin Haese and the council “on a number of access issues in recent years and we look forward to this budget measure, and many more, being supported in the coming months and years”.

“The improvements mooted by [the] council for the northern side of Victoria Square will enhance access and the experience for vision impaired users of the square,” she said.

Tom McCready, the council’s associate director for public realm, told InDaily that the square’s disability access features were “satisfactory”, but could be improved.

He said a council audit had found that “there are areas that could be enhanced and we are now working towards implementing these improvements to ensure Victoria Square/Tarntanyangga is an even more accessible place for everyone”.

“Adelaide City Council takes access and inclusion seriously and aims for the city to be a place that is easily navigated and accessible to all,” he said.

The council first identified problems with access to the square for people with disabilities in early 2015, later commissioning an audit and a report into improvements that could be retrofitted to the current design, which were endorsed by the Infrastructure and Public Space committee last night.

A final sign-off for the upgrades will be considered at a full council meeting next week.

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