Kristian Keogh, Ben Dierikx and Kane in Murwillumbah.
Kristian Keogh, Ben Dierikx and Kane in Murwillumbah. John Gass

Disability access study for Tweed

TWEED Shire Council wants people with disabilities and their carers to help it improve access and inclusion across the shire.

The council launched a three month study in November encouraging feedback to help it produce policy around buildings, transport, streetscapes and outdoor spaces.

Murwillumbah residents Ben Dierikx and Kristian Keogh know exactly how challenging it is to live with a disability on the Tweed.

The Daily News met Mr Dierikx and Kristian at the arcade on Murwillumbah St, a site that had to be specifically chosen to be accessible for both of them.

Mr Dierikx is vision impaired and Kristian, 16, relies on a wheelchair for mobility.

Mr Dierikx said his biggest challenge was people who refused to cater for assistance animals.

"There are taxis who won't accept Kane, it all depends on the driver," he said.

"I'd like to see broader education of assistance animals in schools and people need to socialise their dogs so they don't want to attack assistance animals."

Kristian said simple activities like going to the cinema or visiting the optometrist were a struggle.

"Many shops have curbs or steps," Kristian said.

"The cinema has a flight of steps and I have to plan everything I do to know what the footpaths will be like, if there are stairs.

"People parking on footpaths are a huge problem because then I have to go out on the road."

And while there are challenges to living in Murwillumbah, both Mr Dierikx and Kristian are happy to see the council being proactive and seeking advice from those who know the problems first hand.

"It's absolutely brilliant, it's a must," Mr Dierikx said.

"It's very timely, the research underpinning it is great.

"You need that hands-on experience."

Kristian has just completed his school certificate at Murwillumbah High School.

"Murwillumbah High School has been brilliant and the kids are great, I just avoid anyone who gives me a hard time," Kristian said.

"We've told council about things before and they always respond straight away, it's not like your complaint gets filed and never look at again, it's great."

Council aged and disability development officer said the study was the perfect way for people with a disability, particularly those with mobility issues, to have a voice.

"Councillors are not going to be informed unless people with access issues let them know what they need," Ms Collins said.

"People can have their say online until February, and not just those with a disability, but their friends, family, parents and carers."

Visit http://yoursaytweed.com.au/disabilityaccess to have your say.



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