The conference ended with a panel session discussing the economics of inclusion. Ro Coroneos from Lendlease explained the process they used for Barangaroo South, a major development on the foreshore of Sydney Harbour. Working with Australian Network on Disability they consulted with a wide range of community representatives to create comfortable, convenient and attractive spaces and places in the development. Ms Coroneos said that making the place fully accessible was often in the details, such as seats with armrests and lighting in strategic places to read signs. Lendlease has produced a handbook which is being used to help other sections of Lendlease improve their design processes. Ms Coroneos said it makes good business sense to attract and keep as many people as possible in the precinct – it’s not just about people with disability themselves, it is also about the friends and family who accompany them on outings.
Sally Coddington advises businesses on ways to attract and retain customers by being disability friendly. She regularly counters the argument that the number of people with disability is small, “People say that 20% of Australians identifying as having a disability is a small market. I don’t call that small”, she said. By the time you add in the rest of the family, or friends in a group, you are looking at more like 50% to 60% of the population. Strategies based on universal design stimulate business growth, enhance customer loyalty, generate goodwill and improve profit.
The Hon Kelly Vincent expressed her frustration about how others keep saying that inclusion and universal design costs too much. No-one talks about the costs of NOT designing for inclusion. There are knock-on effects to health and well-being, let alone the convenience for everyone of getting out and about. And it is not just about the built environment, inclusive customer service still has a long way to go. Kelly’s aim is to do herself out of a job – she looks forward to the day when having a disability “is not a full time job”.
Paul Nunnari began his presentation with the great UK advertisement promoting the Paralympic Games in Rio; Yes I Can: We are the Superheros. The full length video clip shows people playing musical instruments, participating in track and field events, swimming, dancing, singing, and generally doing many things most people would be unable to think about, let alone attempt. As the inclusive events manager for the NSW Dept of Premier and Cabinet, Mr Nunnari explained how NSW has improved access and inclusion for everyone in major events such as New Year’s Eve and Vivid Sydney. These events bring money to NSW, and it is essential to capture as many customers, visitors, and revellers as possible. If a wheelchair user or blind person cannot get around easily, the rest of the family will stay home too and watch it on TV.
In summary, panelists provided good arguments and evidence that ignoring 20% of the population is poor business practice and poor policy development. However, the biggest drawback is that no-one seems to be listening.
Feedback from many delegates said this session was one of the highlights of the conference.