Unlocking the Door to Stop Disability Discrimination
Monday, 1st October 2018 at 4:56 pm
A peak disability body is calling on the New South Wales government to unlock wheelchair accessible toilets around the state, saying it’s a major cause of grief for people with disability.
Physical Disability Australia (PDA) penned an open letter to the premier that said there were over 540 public toilets fitted with Master Locksmith Access Key (MLAK) locks across NSW.
“Roughly one in six public wheelchair accessible public toilets are inaccessible to those who do not have an MLAK or who can’t use them because they lack the physical ability to do so,” the letter said.
Currently, the only way a disabled person can access a locked toilet is by purchasing a MLAK, or borrowing one from a business or local council office.
This has become a major source of grief for those wanting access to a toilet.
PDA manager Simon Burchill told Pro Bono News many of their members weren’t able to access public toilets because they couldn’t use the key in the first place.
“If you have multiple sclerosis, arthritis or cerebral palsy, it’s extremely hard to get the small key into the lock and open it,” Burchill said.
“The regular male and female toilets aren’t locked, so we don’t think that disability ones should be either.”
The letter said locking disabled toilets was “unlawful” as it conflicted with state and federal anti-discrimination acts, because the locked toilets imposed difficulties on people with disability but not on able-bodied people.
Charmhaven Tennis Centre CEO Brett Bevan similarly raised concerns over the locking of toilets in August, and called on his local council to stop the practice.
“The process of forcing those who are disabled to have to pay any sum of money to be able to use a public accessible disabled toilet is outrageous, immoral and unconscionable,” Bevan said.
Bruchill said PDA had sent the letter to a number of local and state government members across various industries and hoped to get a response quickly.
He said making the necessary changes wouldn’t be hard as they weren’t asking for much.
“We’ve asked them to understand that it is discriminatory and to take whatever steps to get rid of it,” he said.
NSW disabilities minister Ray Williams did not respond to Pro Bono News’ request for comment.