Geraldton Mayor’s wheelchair adventure gives perspective on access

Reuben CarderGeraldton Guardian
Support worker Emily Quelch and Geraldton Mayor Shane Van Styn.
Camera IconSupport worker Emily Quelch and Geraldton Mayor Shane Van Styn. Credit: Reuben Carder/Geraldton Guardian, Reuben Carder

City of Greater Geraldton Mayor Shane Van Styn says he has a new understanding of the experiences of people with mobility issues after he spent time being pushed around town in a wheelchair.

Local National Disability Insurance Scheme support worker Emily Quelch issued a challenge to the mayor last month to spend time experiencing things from the other side, taking him around town, through traffic and into cafes.

“It was a whole new perspective for me on the challenges facing something as simple as traversing down paths,” Mr Van Styn said.

“Having to be pushed around in a wheelchair, having full faith in having someone push you out into traffic and through steep dips, is not for the faint-hearted.”

He said that was especially true in places with old or no footpaths as the City worked to improve the footpath system, while things like getting through cafe doorways and getting to beach wheelchair equipment were also challenging.

In October, the City of Greater Geraldton was named joint winner of the most accessible community in WA award, sponsored by Regional Capitals Alliance WA.

Ms Quelch, who pushes a client into town from a house on Gertrude Street, which she said was the only wheelchair-accessible respite facility in the area, said she wanted to set the City a challenge to keep improving.

“I said ‘congratulations, I think it’s (the award) great. I’d like to know if you’re up for a challenge to see where things can improve so we can keep on adding (accessibility) and win more things in the future’,” she said.

The City says it will now be easier for people with mobility impairments and caregivers to access the public swimming pool after it installed new accessible equipment.

Disability service provider Rocky Bay, Rotary Club of Geraldton Greenough, and Variety Midwest collaborated with staff to identify and help fund more than $25,000 in equipment for the Aquarena.

“These welcome additions along with a new disability access ramp currently being built in the outdoor pool will help meet the needs of people with mobility impairments who want to use the pools,” Mr Van Styn said.

Rocky Bay sourced equipment that was jointly funded with the Rotary Club, which provided $10,000, while Variety Midwest provided $7310 and the City provided $8000.

The equipment includes two hoists, slings, a pool wheelchair, and a commode.

Rocky Bay Geraldton former site co-ordinator Cheryl Lockwood said the equipment would result in a safer pool experience with much-improved manual handling to support people with poor postural balance and people who used wheelchairs.

For more information, contact the Aquarena on 9956 6909.

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