Organizers of the National Disability Summit in Melbourne, Australia have come under fire after a speaker had to be carried onto and off the stage because the stage was not wheelchair accessible.
Disability advocate Jarrod Marrinon said organizers took his registration fee and then told him there was no spot for him, but eventually allowed him to attend.
Disability activist Jax Jacki Brown said it was appalling to see the speaker wheel herself to the stage where there were steps but no ramp. The speaker “was carried on stage by two people,” Brown said in her online blog. “Why was there no ramp access at a disability summit?” Brown, a wheelchair user herself, said the experience showed there was a long way to go.
ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) reported that, according to a blog post by Ms Brown, the “accessible toilet was filled with chairs and used as a storage space in the week leading up to the conference,” and “the food provided was up on really tall tables … wheelchair users could not access it.”
Attendees of the sixth annual National Disability Summit said participants with disabilities, who paid approximately $2,000 to attend, were instructed to sit together at one table at the back of the room. In total, there were only 12 spots for disabled participants.
Other attendees voiced their opinions on social media. Disability discrimination commissioner Susan Ryan took to Twitter to confirm she and her team were investigating. In her Tweet she said, “We have written to the conference organisers regarding the accessibility issues.”
Thanks to the attendees who reported the issues, the advocates who spread the word, and the many writers who shared their take on the story; Bing for helping me find references to the story; and all the people who, directly or indirectly, made it possible for me to include the pictures and text I used in this post.