On a day trumpeted as a triumph for disability access on Brisbane’s public transport network, Lord Mayor Graham Quirk has had to face questions about accessibility on the city’s CityCats.
Cr Quirk decommissioned the last non-compliant bus at Brisbane City Council’s Eagle Farm bus depot on Tuesday morning, which made the council’s bus network 100 per cent disability compliant.
But the self-congratulations among the Liberal National Party administration came to an abrupt end that afternoon during the council meeting at City Hall.
Labor Morningside councillor Shayne Sutton blindsided the Lord Mayor with a question about a constituent with a disability who ran into trouble on a CityCat last week.
Bulimba man Russell Wooller, she said, had been confronted by CityCat staff on Friday over the recumbent tricycle he had taken on board at the South Bank terminal.
Mr Wooller, who can walk with the aid of crutches, said he used the tricycle to get around town.
“The short gangway onto the boat is too narrow by about 10 centimetres for my trike to wheel on, so my technique is to lay it on its side and drag it the metre or so along this short gangway onto the boat,” Mr Wooller said.
“A fellow passenger offered to carry the trike onto the ferry and I accepted.
“Subsequently we chatted until he got off at Riverside.
“At this point the deckhand, realising that he was not my ‘helper’ got agitated at the possibility that I might need her help in getting off at Apollo Road and called the captain.”
Mr Wooller said the captain told him it was a “workplace health and safety issue” for deckhands who might be required to help move the tricycle.
“I pointed out that I understood their problem, I needed no help getting on or off, that I had not asked the fellow passenger for help, and never would, but if it is offered it makes sense to accept simply to speed things up,” he said.
“The captain left me with the warning – it felt more like a threat – that in future I should not be surprised if I was refused entry with my trike onto any of the CityCat ferries.”
Cr Sutton seized on Mr Wooller’s plight during question time on Tuesday.
“You claimed today that you have the most disability friendly transport network anywhere, yet this is the experience people with disabilities are having on our CityCat network,” she told Cr Quirk.
The Lord Mayor said it was the first he had heard of it, but was “very, very keen” to take the details of the matter up with TransdevDSV, the company that operated Brisbane’s CityCats.
In a written statement issued later in the afternoon, while the council meeting was still in process, Cr Quirk said the South Bank ferry terminal was fully compliant the Disability Discrimination Act.
“Translink permits wheelchairs up to 750 millimetres wide to travel on public transport in Queensland,” he said.
“Council’s South Bank ferry terminal accommodates wheelchairs even wider, with a wheelbase of up to 840 millimetres.
“(Mr Wooller’s) wheelchair (sic) exceeded Translink’s guidelines and was wider than the ferry terminal’s gangplank.
“During his past travel, CityCat staff have allowed the passenger to travel, but have had to physically lift the wheelchair over the gangplank handrails to get it onto the CityCat.”
Cr Quirk said Mr Wooller was the only passenger across the network who had attempted to board with an overside mobility device and accused Cr Sutton if trying to “score political points” rather than pursue the issue through proper channels.
But Mr Wooller said the issue could easily be solved by having some consistency across Brisbane’s footpath and public transport networks.
“For my trike to get on easily (the gangplank) would need to be 100 centimetres internal width,” he said.
“However, to conform with the standard width of new BCC footpaths, it would be 120 centimetres.”
Source: Brisbane Times