Australian disability conference not wheelchair accessible

Jarrod Marrinon tweeted the photo of wheelchair user Deborah Haygarth being carried off stage at the National Disability Summit because there were no ramps provided.
By Ben Hooper Contact the Author   |   March 26, 2015 at 8:59 AM

MELBOURNE, March 26 (UPI) -- Activists are criticizing the National Disability Summit in Australia after a speaker had to be carried on stage because the venue wasn't wheelchair accessible.

Jarrod Marrinon, who attended the conference organized by Informa Australia in Melbourne last week, tweeted a picture showing Deborah Haygarth, a speaker at the event, being carried off the stage because the venue was not wheelchair accessible.

"This is a disabled speaker carried off stage. No ramps. #shame," he tweeted.

Marrinon took another photo showing the disabled restroom at the conference was out of use because it was being used to store extra chairs.

Jax Jacki Brown, a disabled rights activist who also attended the conference, said only seven disabled people and their five carers were invited to participate in the conference, which had a total 133 attendees.

"I feel like I was actively excluded when they realized I was a person with a disability wanting to attend, and I also feel rather annoyed that they said that they were going to give the remaining tickets to people with disabilities so that more than 12 people with disabilities could attend," Brown told 9News. "But that never eventuated."

"They positioned us at special little tables away from where everyone else was sitting ... way off to the right and the left further up the back of the room," Brown said. "It really created this feeling that people with disabilities weren't part of the bigger conference and the bigger discussion."

Brown said in a blog post that there were other accessibility issues at the event.

"The food provided was up on really tall tables... wheelchair users could not access it," she said.

Susan Ryan, disability discrimination commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission, said on Twitter the organizers of the event have been contacted "regarding the accessibility issues."

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