The Inclusive Towns Project was a collaborative affair between Bendigo City and Lodden Shire Councils. It focused on local businesses to show how being inclusive makes economic sense. The aim was to show that improving the accessibility increased their customer base.
Nikki Williams’ presentation at UD2021 Conference had some interesting statistics. One third of complaints to the Victorian Human Rights Commission were about disability. One third of these were about employment, and another third about goods and services. Consequently, the aim of the project was to tackle equal access to goods and services and employment.
A project officer, admin support, and six casual staff with disability were appointed to run the project. It was the role of the casual staff to visit businesses and collect information about their accessibility. They followed up with an action plan and then a review.
One of the key barriers to overcome was previous poor experience with Council. They also had to overcome lack of understanding of disability in terms of employment and customers. Many businesses thought it would be expensive to make changes.
Feedback showed that solutions were easier to to implement than first thought. Businesses saw good outcomes from small changes and enjoyed positive feedback from customers.
The project also saw change both in the community and within Council. The need to build capacity with staff to understand disability better was key.