Beach could attract disability tourism, says activist
Disability rights activist Mr Gary Blaschke believes Umina Beach could become a disability tourism destination because of its low impact, good gradient, tight packed sand and availability of parking.
Mr Blaschke is national president of the Disabled Surfers Association, which regularly holds events for disabled surfers at Ocean Beach.
He said he had undertaken audits at Umina Beach and Woy Woy "to look at what we have got and what we need".
Mr Blaschke said he found, for example, that attention had not been paid to the size of its disabled access signs.
"People who are driving by who need to find a disabled toilet need signs that are big and clear enough so they can actually see it from the road.
"Such things are not understood because the people making the decisions don't live with disability."
However, Mr Blaschke has resigned from the Central Coast Council's Disability Inclusion Reference Group, formed to help draft the council's Disability Inclusion Action Plan.
He said the reference group had not been given the opportunity to see or comment on the draft ahead of its release for public comment.
Mr Blaschke said that under 2014 legislation all local governments were required to have a disability inclusion plan in place by July 1.
"Panic stations have hit the Central Coast Council," Mr Blaschke said.
"Gosford Council had been working on the plan for 14 months prior to amalgamation but Wyong were not even thinking about it," he said.
He said at the first meeting of the Central Coast Disability Inclusion Reference Group he had asked for a budget so audits could be carried out throughout the new local government area.
"I was told instantly that it was all part of the normal process of council and that it would be under the operational budget.
"The panel just had to put forward the issues and convince the upcoming council that the issues had to be addressed."
Before the draft plan was presented to Council administrator Mr Ian Reynolds at the March Council meeting, Mr Blaschke said he was told the draft plan would be sent out to members of the Inclusion panel.
"It has gone to council and the community for their input prior to this committee getting a copy or having a say in it."
Mr Blaschke said he was also concerned that too little of the $9 million provided by the NSW Government for community projects as part of the council amalgamation had gone towards disability inclusion projects.
"I am all for building ramps at community halls but a budget of $500,000 to upgrade community facilities? Well who came up with $500,000?
"I am concerned that whatever money is going to be allocated to it will be used to retrain council staff but there has to be an outcome for the disabled."
He said that, whether locals or visitors, they should be able to have a decent holiday and be able to get down onto the beach.
"There is a lot that could be done for not a great deal of money to end up with a disability inclusion plan that would result in measurable and practical differences to those with a disability," Mr Blaschke said.
Council administrator Mr Reynolds said the draft plan would go on public exhibition shortly.
He said it outlined strategies and actions that Council would implement over a four year period, enabling people with a disability to better access services, facilities and support.
He said the draft Disability Inclusion Action Plan would see work undertaken across the community to improve accessibility.
"The plan will see Council make changes to internal process and practices; improving access to information, creating employment opportunities and supporting community activities for people living with a disability," said Mr Reynolds.
"The development of this plan has been carried out in consultation with staff, residents, local organisations and our external reference group providing informed and diverse insight into the actions and outcomes within the plan.
"This is a fantastic initiative that will go a long way to ensuring the Central Coast is an inclusive and accessible community and I'd like to congratulate everyone who has contributed to this project so far."
In addition to the exhibition of the Disability Inclusion Action Plan, he said the Council had recently allocated more than $1.3 million of Stronger Communities funding to disability access improvements in Council facilities and natural spaces across the Central Coast.
The council's group leader of "Connected Communities", Ms Julie Vaughan, said that outcomes within the plan would be incorporated into Council's Integrated Planning and Reporting Framework.
"It's important for us to be accountable for the actions in this plan, so residents can see what we're doing to create liveable communities for everyone," Ms Vaughan said.
Copies of the Plan will be available to view at Council's Customer Service Centres and Libraries, and online at yourvoiceourcoast.com
Interview, 6 and 30 Mar 2017
Gary Blaschke, Disabled Surfers Association
Media release, 22 Mar 2017
Ian Reynolds, Central Coast Council
Reporter: Jackie Pearson