ECU PhD candidate Adam Johnson is helping the City of Bunbury achieve an ambitious vision for access and inclusion.
Bunbury is already known as Western Australia’s second capital city, but it would also like to be known as MARCIA to its friends.
To become MARCIA, or the Most Accessible Regional City In Australia, is part of the City of Bunbury’s vision and is a goal shared by ECU PhD candidate Adam Johnson.
Johnson is working with people with disabilities in Bunbury to find solutions to their problems around access and inclusion, with the City jointly funding his research with ECU through a three-year industry engagement scholarship.
It’s an ambitious and important project, which could help change the lives of Greater Bunbury’s 65,000 residents.
While many cities see accessibility as a necessary challenge as the population ages, Bunbury has been highly proactive and seeks to incorporate access in a raft of areas.
These include encouraging access to public spaces through beach wheelchairs and wheelchair accessible buses, growing the number of ACROD bays, and providing accessible toilets and playgrounds.
“My research focuses on how we can foster a culture in which people give priority to access and inclusion when they make decisions about how businesses, infrastructure and services will be designed for the community,” Johnson says.
“This is because we know that when we make things better for people with disabilities, we make them better for everyone.”
“I’ve been involved in disability issues for most of my professional career in the state government and with not for profits, and I had worked for the City of Bunbury in community development,” Johnson says.
“In 2015, a scholarship opportunity arose to research the City of Bunbury’s aspirations around access and inclusion. I’m working to facilitate dialogue between people with disabilities, the City of Bunbury, and the wider community.”
His study will see 12 people with disabilities participate as co-researchers, working collaboratively to help the City better understand the physical and attitudinal barriers to access and inclusion.
They will consider opportunities for universal design principles that can be applied to future buildings, facilities, services and information systems.
Johnson says the community has been very supportive of the idea of MARCIA to date, but success will require collaboration between those with disabilities, local government, local businesses, and the whole community.
“People don’t want to become disconnected from their communities just because they have aged or acquired a disability,” he says.
“However if we design communities that are not accessible or inclusive, and if we don’t give people a voice, that’s what will continue to happen
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