By Melissa Sheil
A MAIDA Vale couple are frustrated by the lack of disability access in their neighbourhood, saying their home is like a “jail” due to there being no way for some to venture further than the letterbox.
John Welch and his wife Teri, both in their mid-60s, live in an over 55s/disability complex on Maida Vale Road, which has no footpath, marked crossing or kerb ramp to allow those in wheelchairs or walking frames to leave or enter their property.
Mr Welch has Pulmonary Sarcoidosis, a severe immune disease similar to emphysema that requires him to use an electric wheelchair for almost all movement.
“We’ve lived here since April and really thought we had struck gold until I realised there’s no way for me to leave the house without someone with me,” he said.
“The footpath is across the road but even then I couldn’t get to it because the kerb is steeply lipped and uneven.
“The first designated safe crossing for me is more than 200m away and to get there I’d need to cross really rocky gravel terrain and two roads with cars whizzing across, so I haven’t risked it.
“I physically can’t get this wheelchair down the kerb and it’s so frustrating to not have any independence.”
Mrs Welch, who works as carer for her husband, said it is baffling no one thought to add accessibility features outside a complex designed for those who may have difficulty with movement.
“This isn’t just an issue for us, our neighbour uses a walker and others have said they struggle getting in and out,” she said.
“The current residents are going to get older and require accessibility measures too and new people will move in for years to come – this isn’t a project that will only help one person.
“There’s a shopping centre being built not 70m from our front door and John won’t even be able to go pop in for a bottle of milk on his own.
“He is a strong, independent type of guy but since he’s been trapped in a wheelchair and now in his own driveway, I can see the toll it’s taking on his mental health.”
The Welch’s put in a request to the City of Kalamunda asking for accessibility measures to be put in in August, to which the City replied it would consider it as a project in its 2022/23 budget, estimating the cost of a footpath at $10,000.
“The City receives numerous requests from residents to have new footpaths laid in front of their property and as funding is limited and needs cannot be met immediately, each request is assessed and prioritised,” Mayor Margaret Thomas said.
“The site out the front of Maida Vale Road has been assessed as medium priority, though the City currently also has a number of pre-existing requests that have been deemed a priority and works are underway on these sites.
“As per the request, the footpath will now be listed for consideration by Council in a future year budget taking into account competing priorities for limited rates funding for works.”
Mr Welch hopes the accessibility measures are implemented sooner rather than later.
“Before I had this problem, I had no idea how difficult it was to be a disabled person in this world,” he said.
“I just want to be able to go grab something from the shops or go for a “walk” by myself sometimes.
“No one should have to be restricted to their driveway.”