The ultimate obstacle course

By Kathryn Lewis 

How would you go wandering the streets of the CBD blindfolded, or traversing the busy footpaths in a wheelchair? 

This is the daily struggle of many residents who experience vision and mobility impairments.

CQ University challenged the perception of an accessible city as part of Melbourne Knowledge week.

Professor of occupational therapy Caroline Unsworth, who helped run the event, said many Victorians faced the barriers and frustrations of an inaccessible city daily.

“We aimed to expose people to what it is like to get around the city with an impairment and we focused on two impairments – being mobility and vision,” she said.

Dr Unsworth said the event was very well attended and received by participants.

Attendees got the chance to experience orienteering Melbourne’s CBD with vision impairment glasses and a mobility scooter, finding the benefits and pitfalls of the city’s accessibility along the way.

“We’ve generated a list of ideas which have been divided into education, as in getting more information to the public, and technology – things like apps,” Dr Unsworth said.

One of these ideas was a portable ramp, which businesses could take out for residents who required it but could not invest in a permanent fixture.

Dr Unsworth said it was invaluable to have the voice of lived experience experts – people with a first-hand account of navigating the city with an impairment – included in the conversation.

“[These are] ideas you think people might have thought of or done but you’d be surprised how many buildings just aren’t accessible,” Dr Unsworth said.

The participants will now work together with Dr Unsworth and CQ University to pitch ideas to the City of Melbourne.

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