What a powerful impact on liveability an accessible Sydney could have
In preparation to prime the pump for an accessible Sydney and for our Vivid Ideas panel discussing accessibility and its influence in liveability, we’ve been addressing what it takes to make a more liveable city. Last time, we got cosy with the ideas of creativity, culture and affordability. We took a wonderful journey through the streets and concepts underpinning Sydney through the lens of liveability as defined by places such as Vancouver.
This is an important part of the whole liveability equation. But there is another half of the story.
Cities realistically need opportunity. That opportunity is influenced by access to basic services and service provision. It also means having the ability to effectively live, work and be supported by the infrastructure available.
Liveability is more than green spaces. Liveability is about accessibility, inclusion and autonomy. And a more disability friendly and wheelchair accessible Sydney would make that happen.
Find out how a focus on liveability can create greater opportunities when applied to a city’s future and make for a more accessible Sydney in the process
Opportunity through a resilient and varied local economy
A city is a well-oiled machine. It’s about providing goods and services, moving thousands of people to school, work, leisure and appointments each day. Part of the efficiency in a city is a reliance on a resilient, bountiful and diverse local economy.
As the largest city in Australia, Sydney provides thousands of jobs through tourism, white collar industry, service provision and the ever-hungry need for infrastructure and development. Each coffee, taxi, haircut or gym appointment requires a multitude of layers behind it to make it happen. That coffee is delivered by a barista that needs the beans, the lights, the water, the staff and the produce to stay open daily. That’s beyond the furniture, building, fit-out and more.
The more people you have, the more jobs you require. Yet it is the ability to weather economic storms that can make or break a city. The echoes of the Global Financial Crisis may not have been felt as sharply as overseas, but with a high debt, low affordability see-saw underneath her skirts, how stable can Sydney be in the economic liveability stakes? And what are some small turns of the screw that could be adopted to improve her station, now and into the future?
What if we looked at the rise in aged population, the disability rates, increased cancer cases, growth in stress and related mental health issues and overall wellness of Sydney dwellers in terms of solving the pointy end of the problem? What if we looked to make Sydney more accessible through making it kinder, gentler and easier to access overall?
Accessibility in Sydney city
Sydney is the oldest city in Australia. She’s littered with divine (yet impractical) cobbled streets. Tiny, cramped streets with utterly thigh burning gradients are a mainstay. You only must look at the path of the City to Surf and the infamous heartbreak hill or dive into the city centre to find there are difficulties moving people.
These difficulties with moving healthy, able bodied individuals are felt keenly by people with disabilities of all kinds. The stress of navigating a city for someone with a mental health condition can be exhausting. The elderly feeling especially vulnerable in busy, uneven streets. Mothers with prams pushing around the streets of Clovelly need weight-lifter strong arms. Add a cane, a visual impairment, a service dog or a wheelchair and things can become quite complex.
Is it enough to build what you can in other, newer areas where the space to design is available or can we do more to ensure that accessibility is more than one toilet and future pavement plan.
The answer to Sydney’s accessibility issues is not simply to move elsewhere and that more can be done on both a government and a citizen level to improve the situation. We can work together to create a community that supports each other. And we can start thinking about an accessible Sydney that welcomes instead of excludes people by design.
Getting the service provision right
Sydney is now embarking on the task of providing low-cost housing for nurses, teachers and support staff near the hospitals, stations and schools they service. This is indeed a step in the right direction. But there’s more to this equation then moving the worker closer to the outlet.
Some missed opportunities for development still linger on the dusty drawing boards of council and parliamentary chambers. Imagine the job creation and impact on accessibility getting transport right can bring. Now imagine how game changing proceeding with high speed rail from Sydney to Melbourne via Canberra and Albury-Wodonga could be. Consider the potentials lost in failing to provide Australians with a uniform, high speed, reliable and accurate national broadband network.
The greatest challenges many people face is having to commute to work. We also face issues with finding the appropriate schools, access to treatments and medicine and the delivery of goods and services.
Sydney suffers from traffic congestion. So much so the Productivity Commission released a paper that stated only 15% of Sydney was accessible within a 45-minute period. Imagine how much pressure taken from traffic if people had reliable high-speed rail and internet.
Moving the ports to Wollongong and pushing industry out of Alexandria into Botany and Wetherill Park is a band aid. It’s a band aid that comes attached to trucks and heavy transport vehicles in an already congested infrastructure.
But behind these major projects that may never see the light of day, increasing accessibility on an urban and town planning level could reduce the stress on Sydney in important ways.
It could also create an accessible Sydney through allowing people greater choice in their living environment. Yet do we have all the dotted i’s and crossed t’s appropriately marked off to make it happen? We can’t even get people with disabilities from point A to point B in some cases.
Why is that?
Liveable cities need to be the benchmark
Whether your worldview is defined by a love of culture, a desire to see equity within the city space, intelligent engagement of community, respect for the environment, proper use of public space, accessibility or doing things with smarter systems and impactful turns of the screw, we need liveable cities.
We need them to lower our stress and improve our health. The health of our cities influences our ability to succeed in life, love and employment. We want to raise resilient, happy and healthy children that not only understand inclusiveness but respect and live its mantra. And we want to enjoy our cities for their vibrancy, difference, culture and exquisite beauty.
So why not make accessibility the liveability the benchmark?
Come on a journey to explore ways to create welcoming and healthier cities through putting disability at the centre of the liveability equation.
Head to our special panel ‘how accessibility makes for a more liveable city’ on May 28th as part of the Vivid Sydney Vivid Ideas 2018 program. You’ll be glad you did.
About Vivid Sydney
Vivid Sydney is the world’s largest festival of light, music and ideas. Celebrating its 10th Anniversary in 2018, Vivid Sydney is continually setting the benchmark for world class events, creativity and innovation. It will transform the Harbour City into a colourful creative canvas for 23 days, from 25 May to 16 June 2018.
The Festival features large scale light installations and projections; contemporary and cutting-edge music performances and collaborations; public talks, industry seminars, conferences and workshops, all celebrating Sydney as the creative industries hub of the Asia-Pacific.
Vivid Sydney is owned, managed and produced by Destination NSW, the NSW Government’s tourism and major events agency, and in 2017 attracted a record 2.33 million attendees.
For more information visit vividsydney.com