'My daughter is not a second-class citizen'

EVERY day Fernvale father Jessie James and his daughter Diana face struggles that most people don't.

It takes them hours of planning, checking and calling ahead every time they want to leave the house.

Diana lives with an extremely rare genetic disorder and, like many Ipswich residents, relies on a wheelchair to get around. Her father, who has been taking his 30-year-old daughter into Ipswich regularly for the past decade, has raised concerns about accessibility in the region and is calling for the city to do better.

"Even after having a child who has needed almost constant support for 30 years there are still times I don't think of everything. But at the same time I shouldn't have to," he said.

"Ipswich has improved in the last 10 years but we still have a long road ahead."

 

Jessie James with Diana.
Jessie James with Diana. Inga Williams

There are plenty of places Mr James and Diana can't go. Of the places they can access, many force them to use back and side doors to get in, something the Fernvale father said was demeaning for people with mobility issues.

"They're being treated like second-class citizens in a lot of ways. Diana is not a second-class citizen," he said.

Mayor Paul Pisasale said accessibility was the number one priority in council's 2015-2018 Strategic Disability Action Plan. However, he said, the heritage buildings that defined Ipswich made modification challenging.

"We've worked hard over the years to try and retrofit the city. It's hard work and expensive but we set aside a significant amount in the budget each year to do it," he said.

"The new buildings are easy, it's the old ones that are hard. I am excited about the redevelopment of the CBD because it will have better access."

 

Angela James is facing issues in Ipswich for her daughter Diana James who has a disability and requires wheelchair access to places.
Angela James is facing issues in Ipswich for her daughter Diana James who has a disability and requires wheelchair access to places. Inga Williams

Mr James said he understood there were limitations but believed local and State governments needed to do more.

"They're not getting the balance right. We have to consider heritage but we also have to jump into the 21st century," he said.

"A lift is great but two or three would be better. We need better policing of handicapped zones and better access to shops and train stations.

"We need our disabled community to feel included and that means going through the front door."

CEO of disability support organisation Multicap Joanne Jessop agreed, saying a lack of access was a problem all over Queensland.

She urged Ipswich City Council and the Queensland Government to strengthen planning laws to ensure all individuals had appropriate access to all available buildings and locations.

"Ipswich is improving but it's not happening fast enough," she said.

"Ipswich is challenging because of the high number of old buildings but there are solutions like portable ramps which won't affect building structure.

"It's time to start thinking about creative solutions."

Ms Jessop said she would like to see the city of Ipswich fully accessible within the next five years.

"It would be good to see our councils being proactive," she said.

"We challenge businesses, landlords and building companies to make a change for a better society and create accessible infrastructure for all."



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