16 November 2011 – The built environment has scored poorly in an inner Melbourne study of neighbourhood access for disabled people.

The Universal Mobility Index, initiated by Visionary Design Development, included the strip shopping area of Kensington and a surrounding area of commercial and public buildings, private dwellings and infrastructure such as footpaths, road crossings, street furniture, railway stations and bus stops

Groups of people with differing disabilities inspected a statistically significant random sample of buildings and infrastructure elements.

With 0 representing  “very bad”’ accessibility and 1 representing “‘very good,” the overall UMI score for the built environment as a whole was a disappointing 0.48, the report says.

“This low result confirms claims by disabled persons’ organisations that urban environments discriminately constrain the mobility of those with mobility impairments, limiting educational, employment, recreational opportunities and causing social exclusion, “ authors Mary Ann Jackson and Ralph Green say.

Commercial buildings scored 0.38 and private dwellings at 0.40 showed “bad” to “average” accessibility.

Public buildings (0.62) were “‘average” to “good’ and statistically markedly better compared to the other two building categories.

Infrastructure (0.56) overall showed only “average” accessibility. Infrastructure

sub-components accessibility performed variably with disabled parking spaces (0.48) worse than “average” while public spaces (0.58) and road crossings (0.58) were marginally better than average.

The rights of people with disabilities to access goods and services (commercial buildings 0.38) and to visit neighbours friends and relatives (private dwellings 0.40) was being denied, the report said.

A partial explanation was that the voices of people with disabilities are not currently well represented on disability advisory committees (0.52) and in policy making forums affecting the form (accessibility) of the built environment.

Representation of people with disabilities in helping to formulate built environment policy was average at 0.52. .

Authors are Mary Ann Jackson, architect, planner, access consultant and Ralph Green, vision and social scientist.