Duo educate businesses about inclusion

Posted on 22 May 2018
Duo educate businesses about inclusion

With lived experience and undisputable knowledge on disability Tam Poingdestre and Kylie Dowles are well placed when it comes to better educating businesses about how to be more inclusive and accessible.

They visit local businesses to discuss disability awareness, and help them create more inclusive environments for everyone, not just for people with disability.

The pair are Support officers for the Inclusive Towns Project with the City of Greater Bendigo.

"We focus on three key areas – inclusive communications, the physical environment and disability awareness," Tam said. "Our aim is to create an inclusive community where people with disability have the same opportunities as everyone else."

Kylie said on their initial visit, they talk to business owners and staff and gather information about how accessible their business and communication materials are.

"We offer tips to business owners and staff, like making sure they look at customers directly when they speak so if someone has a hearing impairment, or they are deaf, it is easy for them to lip-read."

Tam, a wheelchair user, knows only too well, how difficult it is to access businesses if they don't have inclusive resources.

"We also talk about including ramps; wider doorways; button press automatic doors; better business signage – internally, externally and online; using larger font sizes; printing menus with pictures, or in Braille, and communicating in plain English," Tam said.

"A good example is my local post office. I never used to use it. I couldn't get in easily.  Inclusive Towns contacted them and we went out and did an assessment. One of our recommendations was to move the big glass display cabinets near the front door, which meant I couldn't get in, so I spoke with the manager and told him my issue."

Tam said the manager was very receptive, moved the cabinets and now he can pay all his bills there without any access issues.

"For each business participating, we place an Inclusive Towns sticker in their front window so people know they have adopted the Inclusive Towns initiative. It shows customers the business has made a commitment to creating a more inclusive community for everyone," Kylie said.

"When you look at it, it's not only for people with disability," Tam said. "It's for everyone, whether you're a parent with a pram, you're elderly, you're a person with an injury, or a person where English is your second language, these types of resources benefit everyone."

"It also means customers may be more inclined to use inclusive businesses because they are more accepting, understanding and accommodating, and they don't experience issues using it," Kylie said.

City of Greater Bendigo Inclusive Towns Project Officer, Alison Jones said Tam and Kylie are part of a team of six Inclusive Towns Support officers.

"The team work with businesses in the City of Greater Bendigo, Mount Alexander Shire and Loddon Shire after securing an NDIS ILC grant to roll out its Inclusive Towns initiative in 2018.

She said every local business the team has approached in the roll out town of Inglewood had signed up to the initiative, meaning over 90 per cent of the high street was participating in the project.

"It's a great outcome," Alison said. "Other councils are seeing the value in what we are doing and are adopting this important initiative in their regions too."

For more information on the City of Greater Bendigo, Loddon Shire and Mount Alexander Shire Council's 'Inclusive Towns' initiative, contact the Disability Inclusion Team on (03) 5434 6000 or email inclusivetowns@bendigo.vic.gov.au

Information, Linkages and Capacity Building (ILC) grants are supporting community inclusion across the country, find out more about ILC.