Kelly in the Media

Kelly Vincent – Vision Australia Interview on Universal Design

On Saturday 20th February, Dignity for Disability MLC Kelly Vincent was interviewed on radio station Vision Australia to discuss Dignity for Disability’s amendments to the Planning, Development and Infrastructure Bill to incorporate the principles of Universal Design. Here is the audio and transcript from the interview.

Peter Greco: For the first time this year, let’s welcome Kelly Vincent, Member in the Legislative Council for Dignity for Disability to the program. Kelly, happy New Year.

Kelly Vincent: Thank you and your listeners Peter. How are you?

Peter Greco: We’re very well and you’ve had a bit of a win in a sense, during the week?

Kelly Vincent: I certainly have, as you may be aware the parliament has been developing the Planning, Development and Infrastructure Bill which is a massive reform on planning legislation and process here in South Australia. It’s really a once in a generation reform. We’ve been successful in getting some amendments up for that Bill through the parliament for Universal Design. So looking at how we can build more accessible buildings and public spaces for South Australia now and far into the future.

Peter Greco: Now, if I said to you, should there have been a need to move amendments? Is that a fair question?

Kelly Vincent: Look I think absolutely there is frustration out there in the community and it’s certainly a frustration that we in Dignity for Disability feel. It’s 2016 now and we’re still talking about the need to make public spaces that tax payers pay for, accessible for everyone. And given that we have a rapidly ageing population particularly here in South Australia, it’s true it is nationwide but particularly here in South Australia, it is time to start thinking about this as an investment and something that’s good for society, good for our tax payers and good for the economy – rather than something that we’re dealing with on a so-called special needs case by case basis.

Peter Greco: So what about the amendments, were they readily supported in the upper house?

Kelly Vincent: They were unanimously supported by the parliament, which is fantastic to see. Of course they were a bit of a compromise amendment. Our original amendment had words to the effect of, that the planning and development code must implement Universal Design principles. Unfortunately certain lobby groups got in the ear of the Planning Minister and had a bit of a talk about the perceived cost. Which is very disappointing for many reasons, not least of which is that it’s a completely false argument. The research all strongly shows that Universal Design is the majority of the time cost neutral. When it’s done as part of the planning process rather than as a retrofit or an afterthought. It does in fact show that if it does have a cost impact it will add between 0.5 of one percent, so half of one percent, or two percent. So two percent of the whole planning cost or the whole building cost in terms of the Adelaide Oval or the Festival Centre or even a house is really not that much. And when there is a cost it will actually be really cost neutral in the future because of the more people that can get into the place and spend their money there. As with the example of an oval or a festival centre or theatre for example, if more people can spend their money there you will be getting more than your investment back. So it is unfortunate that planning groups have gotten into the Planning Minister’s ear about the perceived cost and he’s bought that false argument but it’s still good to see that some amendments around giving consideration to Universal Design have gone up so we’re very proud of that.

Peter Greco: Universal Designs aren’t just a benefit for people with disabilities anyway are they? It’s not just people with disability who will benefit from it.

Kelly Vincent: Absolutely and that’s the point that Dignity for Disability always makes, that we should stop dealing with access in terms of special needs, you know that dealing with a select group of the population and actually talk about that this is good for all of us. That is exactly what Universal Design is all about. There are seven principles of Universal Design, but the basic ones are about equitable use for all people so that all people can get into a building or a space in the same way. It’s also about having tolerance for error so if you happen to have low balance or you’re unsteady on your feet there are mechanisms there to ensure that nothing too drastic will happen to you if you have a fall. It’s about making sure that there are different methods of use available, so for example having both a right handed and a left handed hand rail available, having no steps available, which again, is good for not only wheelchair users like myself but people who might be using walking sticks or walking frames, particularly as they’re ageing. But even people pushing their children in prams will benefit from this. So again, I think this is why we at a policy level and government level need to be looking at this as an investment in the future and unfortunately its part of human nature that we often don’t start to think about these things and how it impacts us until we have those needs. So until we start losing our vision or hearing, or having different mobility because of our ageing process for example. But we definitely need to look at this as an investment because we all age, we all get in car accidents, we all have accidents or injuries, so we need to look at this as the best thing for the future. This will allow people to keep going to businesses or perhaps even new businesses as we age and as our needs to change. So the investment is for both the society as well as the business perspective as well.

Peter Greco: I don’t know too many businesses that would say “well I’m going so well, I can exclude 20% of the population”. I don’t know that there would be too many like that. Kelly, what about in terms of the amendments from a South Australian perspective, is it a bit of an Australian first?

Kelly Vincent: It is an Australian first, our research shows that we are the first Australian state to have Universal Design mentioned as a specific requirement for consideration under the planning and designing code. A lot of states do have things like consideration for environmental impacts and things like that, but we are the first to get consideration for Universal Design in terms of equitable access for all South Australians. So a bit of a win there that I think we can all be proud of Peter.

Peter Greco: Well done on that. Just before you go, a question without notice – Malcolm Turnbull announced his new ministry. We’ve got an Assistant Minister for Disability which I guess is an improvement from no Minister beforehand. Have you got any thoughts about that?

Kelly Vincent: Look I haven’t yet worked with the new Assistant Minister and of course you would be aware that Dignity for Disability will work alongside whomever we have to, to get the best outcomes for all South Australians, particularly of course those of us who have disabilities. I’m looking forward to having a constructive relationship with the new Assistant Minister wherever I need and of course calling him out.

Peter Greco: Laughing

Kelly Vincent: I think I’ve got a good record of doing that so far and we’ll keep doing that when we need to.

Peter Greco: And of course a couple or so weeks ago the state Minister for Disabilities changed. Leesa Vlahos – we actually chatted to her shortly after her appointment and she spoke very fondly of you and has a lot of respect for the work that you’re doing.

Kelly Vincent: Yes well I’m pleased to hear that. I thank the Minister for her kind words. I’ve had one meeting with her so far and we’ve talked about some very general issues, I know she’s particularly keen to catch up to speed about the NDIS reform of course and particularly around the mental health reforms that Dignity for Disability has been pushing as well. I know she is a particularly interested in mental health. So as that relationship develops and furthers overtime, I’ll be sure to keep in touch with the Minister and ensure I keep you up to date with what’s happening there.

Peter Greco: Kelly I know you’re really busy, thanks so much for giving some time on a Saturday afternoon.

Kelly Vincent: Thank you Peter. I’m actually at an engagement party turned wedding, so it’s been an interesting afternoon. But always a pleasure to step out and spend some time with you.