The ongoing issue of business owners occupying CBD parking spots for periods far beyond those signposted has again come under scrutiny, this time as part of an accessibility exercise conducted by council's Disability, Inclusion & Access Advisory Committee.
Council's committee representative Bob Rogan reported back that the non-availability of parking spots for those with mobility issues, particularly clients of Brennan and Smith Optometrists, was forcing them to use the rear car parks and climb the hill back up to Rouse Street.
"The feedback was that by the time the elderly clients walks from the car, uphill to the street and arrive at the optometrist, they are often exhausted," Cr Rogan said.
He noted that these customers are not necessarily people with a disability sticker on their car but may use a walking stick and be elderly and not as mobile as the general population.
"They, at times, can really struggle with walking up the hill or for any distance."
Car parks aside, the committee has distributed stickers to businesses in Rouse Street to indicate their accessibility. An 'accessibility walk' last month talking to business owners and operators completed the project.
Other issues reported to the committee included the lack of wheelchair access onto the footpath from disabled parking spots. The one on High Street just west of its Rouse Street intersection requires a wheelchair user to navigate down to Whereat Lane and be wary of traffic entering the rear car parks in order to get access to the footpath.
While the ramp access from Rouse Street into Bruxner Park has been altered to allow more room for wheelchairs to turn, mobility scooters using the ramp may need to do a three-point turn to enter the ramp at the top. The committee reported its concern that a scooter could reverse down the steps at the top of the ramp, with fatal consequences.
With many shoppers finding themselves caught short at the locked toilets in Henry Parkes Plaza (housing Coles and other businesses), Cr Rogan clarified with council's senior planner Tamai Davidson that development application approval for the complex did not include the provision of public toilets, and that those provided are for staff use.
The toilets have in the past been open to the public, but constant vandalism, illegal activities and filth left behind led to the gates being locked. Cr Rogan said this is forcing many people onto the kindness of nearby business Margot's Antiques, which is having to deal with multiple interruptions each day along with the extra cleaning. Cr Rogan said that even then, this option may be too far away for those with disabilities.
Several business owners queried the process to get authority to install handrails at the entry to their businesses, such as that provided at Jeff Hollands Sports Store. Mrs Davidson advised that a development application is not necessary, although she urged anyone looking to install handrails to provide details to council to check they meet specifications as to height and materials.
Queries raised be the report will be investigated by council staff and reported back to the committee.