Newcastle City Council (NCC) is striving towards Newcastle becoming an accessible and inclusive society for all members of the community. Newcastle City Council’s Disability Inclusion Action Plan is a four year framework (2016-2019) outlining the key strategies and action areas to be delivered by Council in its commitment to disability access and inclusion in Newcastle.
The action plan was prepared in consultation with the community through workshops, meetings, and library drop-in information sessions. The Disability Inclusion Action Plan is prepared under a hierarchy of legislation: Commonwealth and State, as well as, Newcastle’s local community planning framework known as ‘Newcastle 2030’ the Community Strategic Plan.
To provide you with some context, the Newcastle 2030 Community Strategic Plan core values that relate to the Disability Inclusion Action Plan are:
- Community connectedness
- Social inclusion
- Active citizenship
Newcastle City Council acknowledges diversity and individuality within our community.
In Newcastle 8,727 people need help in their daily lives because of disability. That’s 5.9% of the population.
However, Newcastle City Council recognises that peoples experience living with disability is not easily categorised and sometimes not easily seen.
Within the action plan is a Statement of Commitment from Council to the community which reads as follows:
Statement of Commitment
‘We as the prominent citizens and representatives of Newcastle affirm our commitment to:
- Advocating equal rights for all and improving our city as an accessible and inclusive place,
- Striving for an inclusive society through collaborations with community, business and government groups,
- Improving awareness of and access to Council facilitates for improved community wellbeing’
After consulting with the community through workshops, meetings and library drop-in information sessions, NCC were able to determine the key messages and feedback from the community regarding the Disability Inclusion Action Plan. The key messages were
Awareness and Recognition
Community members consistently requested not to be isolated as a ‘person with a disability’, but rather be recognized for the contributions they make to their community, be treated with respect and be given the opportunity to fully participate in Newcastle community life.
Public Domain Improvements
Improving public domains bridges a gap that would allow community members with disability to fully participate in their community. It’s important that there are accessible facilities and parking spaces to build an inclusive community.
The public domain includes footpaths, kerb ramps and wayfinding to broad precincts such as beaches, ocean baths, parks, shopping strips and transport infrastructure.
Community members reported the need for Council to better communicate and deliver on the design, upgrade and maintenance of both small and larger scale public domain improvements.
Improving the public domain not only encourages an inclusive community but also promotes safety. Design faults and ageing infrastructure could result in a visually impaired person finding themselves in the middle of an intersection or a wheelchair user unable to get onto the footpath on the opposite side of the road.
Accessible Public Toilets
Public toilets are critical enabling infrastructure for all members of the community. Without accessible toilets, inclusive community participation and wellbeing is significantly constrained, if not almost impossible.
Community members with disability raised concern for the lack of accessible toilets in the Newcastle local government area. The design and maintenance of accessible public toilets were also discussed.
Accessible parking is a crucial element to assist community members with disability participate in the wider community and to go about their daily lives. Stakeholders suggested that the provision of information on accessible parking in the local government area can be improved. This included information that would support journey planning and it was recommended that information be shared in accessible formats across a variety of channels. It was suggested that this would be regularly updated and could also contain information on accessible public toilets.
Community and Council Events
Community members with disability identified accessibility to and around events and venues in Newcastle as a major challenge to participation and inclusion. They did commend the rich cultural scene present in Newcastle, however hope for the promotion and inclusion of accessibility for future events.
Access and Inclusion Advisory Committee
Newcastle City Council’s Disability Inclusion Advisory Committee was recently established and the first meeting of this new committee was held on 28 February 2018. The committee will assist Council with the implementation of the Disability Inclusion Action Plan 2016-2019 and also advise on current and relevant local matters related to disability inclusion in Newcastle.
For further information about the committee or matters related to Disability Inclusion please contact Stephen Warham either by email: [email protected] or call 4974 2855.
Communication and Engagement
Stakeholders suggested that if Council wants people with disability to be engaged citizens of the community information, then participation channels need to be improved.
The recommendations included:
- The importance of Council’s website and documents being accessible
- The need for Council to continue to offer diverse opportunities to engage members of the disability community, encourage participation and provision of feedback and for Council to lead the process with alternative formats
- Consult the disability community and/ or access specialists early in the design process as access should be a guiding principle, rather than an afterthought.
- Make information accessible, particularly about key infrastructure projects such as footpaths, toilets and kerb ramps and for programs such as events and partnerships
- The importance of a respectful organisational culture for all people who require increased accessibility to be able to participate in their community with dignity
Advocacy and Collaboration
Community stakeholders suggested potential partnerships for the council that could benefit the whole community.
As a community leader, Newcastle City Council could help to set the agenda for access and inclusion through their capacity to network, consult and collaborate across all aspects of the community and government sectors and deliver outcomes for the whole community.
Matters of Increasing Concern Within the Community
During the open conversation at the Council consultations with the community, stakeholders shared their increasing concerns through their lived experiences, regarding inclusion in the community, access to public transport, appropriate and affordable housing and access to meaningful employment opportunities. This information was recorded to inform and guide the Disability Action Plan in addition to other plans aiming to strengthen the community.
Community consultations allowed the Council to understand the main concerns within the community in regards to Newcastle becoming an inclusive community for all. The Council aims to build upon this initial consultation and diversify ongoing consultation and engagement with the community into the future.
The Disability Inclusion Action Plan has four main focus areas regarding strategies and actions:
- Attitudes and behaviours
- Liveable communities
- Systems and processes
The council outlines specific strategies followed by actions, outcomes and the delivery of these in the Disability Inclusion Action Plan.
Attitudes and behaviours
Council encourages positive and inclusive staff behaviours, and a whole of community attitude, to people with a disability. NCC champion behaviour that respects and embraces diversity and difference within the disability community.
Council contributes to and advocates for a liveable and welcoming Newcastle, where community places, neighbourhoods and facilities promote health, happiness and wellbeing and contribute to social connectedness. This includes important liveability factors such as housing design, transport access, community recreation and social inclusiveness.
Council maintains its commitment to equal employment and workplace opportunities and the ongoing commitment to reducing barriers for current and future employees to remain and thrive in the workplace.
Systems and processes
Council continues to improve its capacity to assist the Newcastle community to gain access to the information and council services they need to realise their full potential. NCC encourage the community to actively participate and partner with Council for improved decision making and service delivery.
To view the specific strategies, actions, outcomes and delivery for each of these topics, please view the full Disability Inclusion Action Plan 2016 – 2019 document. The plan is also available in an easy to read PDF format.
It’s noted that each year, Newcastle City Council will report on its progress against the Disability Inclusion Action Plan as part of its Annual Report. In the 2016-17 Annual Report, The only progress that had been reported on was the addition of a new amenities block (at Hunter River, Stockton offering disabled access and improved safety), staff awareness and training sessions delivered (in line with the adopted Disability Inclusion and Action Plan), and the delivery of Disability Access and Inclusion Awareness workshops relating to Equal Employment Opportunity.
While the details of the progress were not shared in the Annual Report, a summary of achievements are also prepared annually and provided to the NSW Disability Council.
Since 2013, Newcastle has been part of the trial of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS)in New South Wales. The NDIS aims to break down disability employment barriers that currently make it difficult for more people with disabilities to engage in meaningful and long-term employment.
If you require a copy of the Disability Inclusion Action Plan in an alternative format, you can contact Council as follows:
Phone: 4974 2855
Text: 0419 616 818
Email: [email protected]
We believe everyone deserves to be involved in an encouraging, safe and inclusive community. We create fulfilling opportunities for people and communities through our passion. You can view our services here.