UK
26/03/2015 13:46 GMT | Updated 26/03/2015 17:59 GMT

Melbourne Disability Summit 'Not Wheelchair Accessible'

Organisers of Australia's National Disability Summit in Melbourne have come under fire - because the event wasn't wheelchair accessible.

Only seven disabled attendees, who paid upwards of $1,500 AUD for a ticket, were allowed to attend and they were forced to share one small table at the back of the room.

Mobility-impaired speaker Deborah Haygarth was carried to the lectern as the raised stage had no ramp and was not wheelchair accessible.

"I watched as Deborah wheeled herself towards the stage and saw the four stairs up to the stage," activist Jax Jacki Brown said.

"I expected a ramp to appear from somewhere. When one didn’t appear I waited for apologies from the summit organisers into the microphone. None were forthcoming.

"Deborah was carried on stage by two people. She spoke eloquently about her experience of the NDIS in the Barwon trial site. Deborah was then carried off stage again at the end of the panel.

"This lack of access is a visual reminder that as people with disabilities we are not really thought of as important, that our needs are an after thought, which can be remedied by a ‘sorry we forgot’. This is not good enough."

In a blog post, she also said the food provided was on a table too high for wheelchair users to reach and awheelchair accessible toilet was used to store chairs in the week leading up to the conference.

jax jacki brown

The event was organised by Informa, a private contractor.

"I was pretty taken aback when I realised just how much these people don't really think about what they're doing," disability activist Jarrod Marrinon said.

"I refused to sit [at] the table. The problem was the table was up the back, in the corner."

A spokesperson for Informa Australia told the Huffington Post: "Informa Australia apologises for the number of accessibility issues faced by participants with disabilities at the National Disability Summit in Melbourne.

"Accessibility and inclusion are extremely important and should not have been matters to contend with at any of our events. We are looking into how and why such incidents could have occurred and we are committed to ensuring that this does not happen again."

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