Introduction to Prospect Council Accessibility
Prospect Council accessibility is essential to my life. I moved into the Prospect Council area during the beginning of October 2019. It is a custom-built home that has a focus on accessibility and exercise. I have a disability and use a variety of wheelchairs. Another mobility device is a road bike, which is actually a wide tricycle. I drive a VW transporter van with a lifter that opens to the left-hand side. I’m able to use either my manual or powered wheelchair, and can drive independently anywhere I want to go. The freedom to be able to do this makes life more interesting and fun.
I require a double garage and the van is parked on the right side and I unload on the left. There is also a single garage to accommodate another vehicle. The Prospect council initially refused the double and single garage. They kindly accepted the design when they were informed of my disability and the accessibility requirements.
The garage space that allows me to get into the VW is also the home for my bike and other mobility items. The bike is wide, as I sit in between the two rear wheels. The steering, braking, and acceleration are all managed via the hand pedals, and there is a gear changer operated by hand as well. It can be difficult to operate. Two springs attached to the front wheel prevent the rider from turning too sharply. Sharp turns would result in the bike falling over. Therefore the turning circle is large for safety reasons. It is good to get outside to exercise in the fresh air.
The new driveway is steeper than my previous home and requires some momentum to get up. After speeding along the road, I take a gentle turn and pedal as quickly as possible.
As I can’t walk, jumping off the bike to push it up the driveway isn’t possible. If I don’t make it into the garage, I may come to a stop, and the only option is to reverse into the road. I don’t like the sound of that!
Four months after moving in
My bike arrived from storage, and I was ordering parts so I could start riding again. A letter from the council arrived. It was more like a threat as there were a demand, a time limit and a large fine if I didn’t do what they wanted. The letter advised me that the driveway was too wide and they wanted it reduced in size. This was a shock as I didn’t realise anything had been done that wasn’t in accordance with permissions given.
The council wanted the left driveway between my property and the road to be removed. They wanted the driveway to be 5.5 metres in width, and currently, it was around 8.3 metres. If they approved a double and single garage, I would have thought a driveway the width of a double and single garage would be permitted.
Prospect council provided me with an approval letter that I’ve never been seen before. They gave permission to the builder for a double driveway only. I looked at the approved plans and only then noticed the approval was for 5.5 metres. If I had known this a year ago, I would have brought it up with the builder and the council. A reduced driveway width introduces accessibility and safety issues for me regarding my bike, vehicle and even the rubbish bins. Unless you had my disability, my bike, my van and placed council bins out for collection in a wheelchair, you may not know of the accessibility and safety issues.
Attempting to explain the accessibility and safety issues
Typically, I contact organisations to increase accessibility, but in this case, the Prospect Council contacted me to decrease accessibility! In the four months, I’d been living there, multiple council workers visited (possibly five), and said nothing about the crossover. When a worker finally did, it would have been better to discuss it, rather than sending a threatening letter.
Rather than send a hostile letter back, I invited the council worker to my home, as well as sending emails including photographs. He still wanted the crossover reduced, and provided two reasons
- It would increase street parking
- provide more greenery
I measured the distance between the proposed change and my neighbour’s driveway, and the number of cars parking would not increase. As for the greenery, it is something that I would need to pay for, as the council expects the ratepayer to establish and maintain the council’s land. But, I have no motivation now to do that.
So no extra car spaces and no greenery. The advantages disappeared.
As I attempted to explain the issues in email, the council worker didn’t ask me questions to gain clarification. He asked the landscaper and I thought this was rather rude and ignorant. I didn’t want to deal with this council worker again.
Now onto the disadvantages, starting with the easiest one to understand.
Prospect Council Accessibility Issue 1 – council bins
The council bins need to be placed on the crossover and close to the road. Most residents place them on their lawn as per the image to the left, and this doesn’t interfere with driveway usage.
As the bins are heavy, I use my powered chair to place the three bins on the driveway. Lawn and heavy wheelchairs don’t work together, particularly in the wetter months.
The image above shows the 1) section of the crossover the council wants to be removed 2) the 3 council bins and the 3) remaining driveway. A vehicle parked in the garage would need to move almost diagonally along the driveway. A vehicle parked in the driveway (on the non-bin side) would block access.
As the photo is pre-collection, the bins are lined up neatly and the width is around 2.6 metres, leaving a crossover of 2.9 metres. After-collection the bins would be further apart, and for one delivery I measured the distance. (Note – the bins where initially placed on the far left and right sides of the current driveway) Following collection, they took up an extra space of one metre, leaving a crossover of 1.9 metres. My VW transporter is 1.9 metres wide and I’d have to push the bins apart with my vehicle, in order to enter the driveway. Why should I do this?
If a bin falls over (either as I push it with my van or during the collection process), I’d need to park my van nearby, and get out, move the bins, and get back in. Why should I do this?
As there is no nearby accessible car parking, I’d park on the wrong side of the road, as my lifter is lower than the kerb. My lifter would extend to the middle of the road, and traffic would be stopped, and it was dangerous. Why should I do this?
Prospect Council Accessibility Issue 2 – safety and access for my bike
The front wheel of my bike has two large springs, to prevent the bike being turned sharply. Sharp turns will cause the bike to fall over. Able-bodied riders would be able to put their leg out to prevent it from occurring. As the turning circle is large, it helps to have my van in the driveway, so I can return to the garage and place the bike next to the wheelchair. I’m not jumping off and walking to the wheelchair! It is not possible to pedal backwards, as this activates the brakes.
The orange cone represents the corner of the VW transporter parked in the driveway, The yellow tape represents where the council wants the concrete crossover to be replaced with lawn. There are two safety issues.
- Going downhill – the large turning circle wouldn’t allow me to turn left before I hit the lawn, and just beyond this is the kerb.
- Going uphill – having to turn going up the driveway, as well as slowing down, I wouldn’t get up the steep driveway and into the garage.
Most people have thin bikes and jump off them to push them past vehicles. Why shouldn’t I be able to ride my bike, do it safely and as easily as possible?
Issue 3 – inconsistency in Prospect Council area
I looked at driveways in my suburb and just around the corner, I found 2 examples, right next to each other. An old home with a double and single garage and crossover would be around 8.3 metres. The same as my driveway. At some stage, the council may have changed the development rules, and that’s not a good example to use.
The second example is a new home with two double driveways. It appears the 2nd driveway is for access to the backyard pool. I only need one double and one single because of disability, accessibility and safety reasons. I provided the photos to the council and asked for an explanation. No reply, And asked again. No reply. I will keep finding inconsistencies and posting them on this blog. Why can’t I get answers to my questions?
The third example has a crossover that would be around 13-14 metres wide. However, just to the left of the photo, the road compresses into one lane in order to slow traffic down. The council may have allowed for a car park to be located off the road, however that still leaves a driveway that is the same width as mine. I assume the extra width has nothing to do with the resident having a disability, and requiring more accessibility?
I downloaded the Prospect Council development guidelines and couldn’t find any information on crossover widths. I did find guidelines about the distance a garage needs to be from the road, and this seems to be ignored in this home. If it’s not covered in the huge document, why does the council keep saying 5.5 metres? While at the same time allowing 11 metres to an owner of a recently built home, and allowing another home with similar width driveway to mine?
Invitation to the Mayor and Infrastructure Manager
Possibly the two things PWD (people with a disability) hate the most are accessibility issues, and other people not talking to them about their disability and the accessibility issues faced. The council worker didn’t seem experienced with accessibility topics, and he was asking questions to the wrong person. I invited the Mayor and Infrastructure manager to my home, and they accepted the invitation. They had a look at my home and we chatted about accessibility in the Prospect Council area. They still wanted 5.5 metres.
Where to from now?
The landscaping has stopped at my home.
I’m not reducing accessibility and decreasing safety by removing concrete. Particularly when other homes in Prospect have similar or larger driveway widths. The only reason I have a double and single garage, and driveway is due to my disability and accessibility. It is not to access the swimming pool or whatever reason the people living in the home of the 3rd example have.
Talking to the council is a waste of time, and have commenced talking to other people and organisations. The starting point is a disability advocate. There are many avenues to use, including those that get noticed by the public. One step at a time.
A few of the Prospect Council accessibility issues
I took a few photos
Previously I lived in the Port Adelaide Enfield council area. Their access and inclusion plan can be read here
It would be better for the Prospect Council staff to take photographs of accessibility issues, and get them fixed. Instead, they look for fine raising opportunities, and in my case, wish to decrease my accessibility.