Mark Tomkins has long been associated with Briometrix as a pilot, mapper and one of our toughest critics. He’s also known in Victoria for his practical, pragmatic approach to integrating accessibility into the council diet.
Briometrix is thrilled to have Mark join us to bring Victorian insight and wisdom to our Vivid Ideas event “how a focus on accessibility makes for more liveable cities” on May 28th.
We caught up with him for a chat on why he cares about liveability in relation to accessibility and the interconnected nature of the two ideals
Giving to all through liveability
Mark sees liveability as the fabric of society. In the spaces we create, the homes we love, the backyards we enjoy, the towns we call home, the cities bursting with opportunities. It’s a process of measuring the fitness of the spaces we inhabit beyond the necessities of food, shelter and cover. The colour within the space is what creates each individual and unique definition of liveability and brings to the fore what we as human beings want from the experience of experiencing people and places.
“Based on our individual set of needs and wants is how we build and judge our version of ‘liveability’. If your city or town is successful, it satisfies that vision for each individual and brings them together under an umbrella of community. Liveability matters because it enables a group of people to gel together to become a cohesive and functional community,” he enthused.
Yet while Mark sees the personal influence of each individual weaving to give to the cities and towns and take from the fabric in equal measure, he also sees the holes in the fabric where many are still falling through.
Moving liveability away from ‘health’ as a default position
Like many people in the town planning field with strong ties to council structures and large-scale infrastructure, Mark can see the issues of a one-size-fits-all approach to design and architecture.
As a man with a wheelchair, he’s experienced how short-changed many of society remain under this approach. Mark is not one to wait for the world to get themselves together.
He’s proactive about working with Briometrix to find solutions to improve wheelchair user mobility. He has made his stock and trade to be a leader in the field of access and inclusion.
Mark is a passionate advocate for disability rights and mentors’ young men and women in his community.
The aim? To ensure accessibility is more a way of life than a footnote on the town planner or sporting calendar.
Mark is one of those people where you can say he has given his all to a cause for humanity. And when Mark is sounding the alarm bells and asking people to listen, you can rest assured he is coming from a place of intelligent, carefully considered and necessary action.
“All cities and towns need to start critically analysing accessibility in real terms. Now is the time to reach out and build for those in the community who have disabilities, long term chronic illnesses or are simply ageing. Let’s be candid here. Our society is geared today towards a mirage of ‘health’ as a baseline. It is an unachievable and non-reflective baseline. There is no such thing as a ‘normal’ ‘healthy’ person. We are all vulnerable to injury and illness. 20% of Australians have some form of disability that’s probably being ignored by a ‘healthy’ city focus. And as mentioned previously, we have a growing aged population in this country. We risk far more by continuing to bury our heads in the sand than we do if we come together with a real plan,” Mark explained.
It’s not an either/or equation
Just as Mark believes we need to take the blinkers off when considering our planning and human robustness, we also need to accept the intertwined nature of liveability and accessibility to plan better cities and towns.
“Access and liveability go hand in glove- and we can do better to make our towns and cities more accessible and liveable. Especially when we see your ageing population and the changes that are occurring in our cities environmentally, culturally and with economic pressure moving people to consider sea and tree change models in Australia. Especially when consider how we want to use and move around our cities and towns, whether that’s as someone with a disability, a family- or both.”
During Vivid Ideas, expect to see Mark soaking in the sights of the famed Opera House or looking for a great foodie pub with craft beers, fun atmosphere and accessibility on the menu. He’ll be looking toward the city scapes from a high vantage point. Almost as high a vantage point as his vision for accessible towns and cities.
A philosophy for life
“I like driving cars as here, there is no disability. It’s driving a car on a winding scenic road, the famed feeling of freedom you can only get with the world whizzing past. It’s like driving a red or black convertible, wind in your hair with an empty ribbon of black tarmac, stretching out in front of you, beckoning you to who knows where. Its also a good metaphor to describe life. That feeling of adventure yet being in contact with the road. Feeling it, moving with it and creating a journey to remember filled with exhilaration and freedom,” Mark explained wistfully.
More than a philosophy for car lovers and adventurers, this is the curious challenge-orientated mind of a man on a quest for Australian cities and towns to offer such feelings of freedom to all. No matter what their version of journey-man, adventure or citizen may be.
You can hear from Mark and other accessibility experts like him on liveability and access and inclusion on May 28th as part of Vivid Ideas.