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International Year of Disabled Persons
In response to the International Year of Disabled Persons (IYDP) in 1981, Cabinet considered two proposals during the year.
The first of these proposals put forward suggested amendments to the Building Regulations to make sure that access to and facilities within future buildings in the Northern Territory (NT) catered for the needs of disabled persons.
The submission observed that disabled people were seldom seen in public places in the NT. It also noted the advice of the Handicapped Persons Association that the handicapped were discouraged from venturing into public activities, due to the lack of access and facilities.
Existing building designs were seen as excluding disabled persons from everyday activities by restricting access to supermarkets and cinemas, places of employment and public toilet facilities.
The amendments to the Building Regulations would improve access to buildings such as hotels, motels, offices, shops, cafes, service stations, warehouses, factories, hospitals, clinics, schools and cinemas.
In respect of public buildings, the amendments proposed access to fixed seating, space for wheelchairs, and door furniture and water taps to meet a required specification. One in every 100 car parking spaces was to be of sufficient size to permit wheelchair user access.
The changes would apply only to new, not existing, buildings. The submission calculated that the extra cost of construction to accommodate the new requirements was considered to be generally not more than 0.5 per cent of contract building costs and not likely to act as a deterrent to developers.
The submission noted the desirability of implementing the proposed changes as early as possible to demonstrate support for IYDP.
Cabinet accepted the proposal and approved the drafting of amendments to the Building Manual on 29 April 1981.
Later in the year, Cabinet considered a submission for the establishment of a Disabled Persons Bureau within the Department of Community Development.
At that time an estimated 5,100 disabled persons lived in the NT.
Handicapped persons had raised concerns about finding appropriate services within government departments and favoured the availability of information and advice from a single source within government.
An IDYP unit had been established to undertake IDYP observance in the NT during 1981 and this had demonstrated the advantage of a focal point within government to help disabled people and their families, with specialist knowledge and an advocacy role. The submission argued that a permanent bureau could continue this work.
Cabinet agreed and in December 1981 approved the establishment of a Disabled Persons Bureau to:
- consider all policy matters concerning the needs of the handicapped and disabled
- provide information and counselling services
- make recommendations on government grant and subsidy programs for the disabled
- undertake research related to providing services for the handicapped
- support advisory committees on the handicapped, and
- facilitate training for workers with the handicapped.