Changing Places Will Make The Melbourne Zoo More Accessible To All

A Great Announcement but a Missed Opportunity

21 September 2015

LionA day out at the Melbourne Zoo is now more accessible and convenient for all Victorians and visitors to the State with the opening of a $110,000 Changing Places facility, but the State Government missed the opportunity to enhance the Accessible Tourism experience.

Minister for Housing, Disability & Ageing, Martin Foley today opened the newest Changing Places facility, completed in time for the third term school holidays.

Changing Places facilities are larger-than-standard accessible toilets and have extra features and more space to meet the needs of people with a disability and their carers.

Each facility has a height-adjustable, adult-sized changing bench, a tracking hoist system, space for two people and a safer and cleaner environment.

This is the second Changing Places facility in Melbourne. The first was opened at the MCG in time for this year’s footy season.

Three more Changing Places facilities will be built at Victoria Park in Ballarat, the central business district in Shepparton and the St Kilda Lifesaving Club for a total cost of $330,000.

In addition, $80,000 in funding has been made available to Maroondah City Council to build and manage a mobile Changing Places facility for hire at public events and festivals across Victoria.

A Changing Places facility will also be part of the Rod Laver Arena, as a part of the Government’s $338 million investment in Stage 2 of the Melbourne Park Redevelopment.

ButterflyThe Changing Places facility is a great step forward, however, we believe more needs to be done to make Accessible Tourism a mainstream consideration. Accessible Tourism is not a problem that can be solved by adding facilities, it must be incorporated into the culture of the venue. Looking at the Zoo's web site, accessibility is still an afterthought. The accessibility page reads like an audit report not a plan your day tool. "Melbourne Zoo has an easy-to-follow pathway system, with access for people using wheelchairs and pushers." The Zoo map has no mention of the route or of the attractions that are wheelchair or pram friendly. The "encounters" section has no information about which, if any, of the activities are available to people with a disability. Part of the fun of an outing is planning the trip in advance, especially if it is with children. The building of that pre-excitment is part of the total experience. People with a disability enjoying the Zoo's facilities should be included in the marketing imagery. Melbourne Zoo makes that experience different if you are a child with a disability. That should not be the case.

Minister Foley made the following statement today: 

"Since their introduction in England in 2006, there are now more than 700 Changing Places facilities across the United Kingdom, which shows you how invaluable people have found them.”

This is only half the story. People have found the facilities invaluable because VisitEngland have led the way in developing Accessible Tourism as a mainstream tourism market and invested heavily in education of its tourism industry and in marketing accessible tourism. 

Changing places are a great facility and there should be many more in the state at all major tourist attractions, but more needs to be done to recognise that Accessible Tourism is a quarter of the total tourism market. It is mainstream business and travellers with a disability have to be treated as valuable potential clients. Accessibility is not an audit report page but should be incorporated into the descriptions of all the exhibits and activities as a matter of course.

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