What began as a conversation in Broken Hill two years ago has ended with more than 100 wheelchair-friendly ramps installed in locations across Far Western NSW – and much of the credit goes to Ability Linker Natasha Bearman (at left in picture), who works with LiveBetter.

The story begins in early 2017, after Natasha become involved in the Disability Inclusion Action Committee with Broken Hill Council. After a conversation with a local woman in a wheelchair, Natasha realised that even her office wasn’t accessible, and so she asked LiveBetter for a ramp.

A rubber ramp was duly provided by LiveBetter head office and Natasha’s office became accessible. This action then triggered her to wonder how many other businesses and offices in Broken Hill were in a similar predicament. What would the cost would be to ensure every business in Broken Hill had a ramp and was accessible? Who would come on board to help?

Natasha started to raise funds and apply for grants and brokerage.

“Once I reached $25,000 it became apparent that I needed assistance and more business management, so I approached Regional Development Australia (RDA) in Broken Hill in early 2018 and they promptly took the project on,” she says.

Together they devised a plan to find more funding and develop a plan of action to make Broken Hill a very accessible town. Other organisations began to come on board, such as Aboriginal Ability Links who wanted to focus on more remote towns in the region.

Every business who wanted a ramp was entitled to a free ramp for their business if they agreed to a very simple session of inclusion training, either on site or at the RDA office. A sticker was also designed and given to businesses to display in their window to advertise the fact that they are an accessible business.

The project was launched in February 2018 and well over 100 ramps have since been installed, not just in Broken Hill but right across Far Western NSW including the remote communities of Silverton, White Cliffs, Menindee, Wilcannia and Tibooburra.

A Project Report was recently published by RDA Far West NSW which highlights the many benefits for the participating businesses and communities. Some of the responses include:

“The addition of the ramp to the business has made a huge difference to the entry doorway, customers appreciate that we have easier access, thank you to the Project organisers who made this happen” – NRMA, Argent Street, Broken Hill.

“We have a few clients with walkers and the addition of the small ramp at the entry doorway has provided access even though the step was small it still caused some issues for clients” – Synergy William Street

“We will be able to use the ramps in a few locations in Tibooburra, thank you for thinking about us we appreciate the support” – Mavis Jackson, business owner in Tibooburra and community member.

Everyone agrees the project has been a huge success that will bring positive dividends for many years to come. Natasha says there are still a few ramps left in storage for future requests.

Most recently there has been interest from the Blue Mountains Council.

“They heard about the project and were interested in implementing something similar in their area,” Natasha says. “So I sent her all the information with the hope that this project can be shared as widely as possible.”

This post was written by North West Alliance.