Businesses and service providers glance towards a more inclusive future

Business and service providers gathered at Wesley Church last Wednesday to take part in the 'Access at a Glance' launch in Cowra. Photo: Ben Rodin
Business and service providers gathered at Wesley Church last Wednesday to take part in the 'Access at a Glance' launch in Cowra. Photo: Ben Rodin

Local businesses and service providers from around Cowra have come together with Ability Links and Everywhere Venues to implement strategies to help improve accessibility for locals living with a disability as part of the 'Access at a Glance' project.

Launched last Wednesday at Wesley Church, the program works in partnership with local business chambers to "map" and "list" the accessibility features of local businesses online. 

It also provides businesses with signage and stickers that explain the accessibility features that businesses have on their premises, while also educating business owners on how they can both improve and promote their accessibility. 

Managing Director of Everywhere Venues, Zoe Hida was in attendance at the event and made it clear the program was emphasising a positive approach to engaging with businesses. 

"We'll be working with the Cowra Business Chamber to reach the rest of the businesses in town and we'll be coming back to Cowra and working with our volunteers, training them on how to visit businesses in town and make sure that everyone's included that wants to be included," Ms Hida said.

She added that the role of 'Accessibility Champions' - the volunteers who help to implement the program in each town - are crucial. 

"These are typically young people on School Leave Employment Supports (SLES), which is an NDIS program that bridges the gap between school and the workplace for people with a disability, and also people on disability day programs and employment services," she explained. 

The volunteers then apply the signage and stickers to local businesses, while also helping to get the venues' accessibility information online on the Everywhere Venues website.

"Typically, people with disabilities are our key volunteers… this is a structured work experience opportunity for them and through that they gather all the information on the accessibility features of venues," she said.

While the initial project lasts for three months, with people who are trained in the local area applying stickers and gathering information, once venues are listed online, the general public able to review and rate businesses on their efforts.

Businesses can also add themselves to the online directory whenever they wish.

"Anyone can join at anytime on Everywhere Venues and list their venues with our accessibility information," the managing director said.

The program, which runs in seven towns across the Central West, is now aiming to grow. 

"Our plan is for this to be available state-wide, and hopefully become a new national project," Ms Hida said.