by Hayley Wright, Sunshine Coast Council

Sunshine Coast Council has completed a revolutionary pilot project focused on making life easier for people of all abilities and boosting mobility and inclusivity in the region. From mums and dads with toddlers in tow, to the elderly and people using mobility aids, this project aims to help the coast’s most popular areas become more accessible.

The innovative pilot project uses modern mapping technology to help change the way residents and visitors travel and access popular areas of the Sunshine Coast.

Sunshine Coast Council Mayor Mark Jamieson said wheelchairs were turned into mapping tools with specially trained local ‘pilots’ and advanced technology, to track routes from Maroochydore to Mooloolaba.

“I’m pleased to see Sunshine Coast Council partner with Briometrix and Spinal Life Australia to undertake the project – both leading providers of technology solutions for people with disabilities,” Mayor Jamieson said.

“Community members with limited mobility, whether permanent or temporary, often find it challenging to move around the Coast due to a lack of maps and wayfinding information about accessible routes.

“I would like to extend my thanks to the specialist pilots, Bevan Kearsley, Dane Cross, Lachy Chapman and Kay MacLean who made this initiative possible.

“The mapping project starts with the pilots who have lived experience, combined with innovative technology to collect information about our footpath conditions, access to public transport and parking, amenities, boardwalks, beach access and more.”

Mayor Jamieson said that the maps are then generated, vetted and compared against the Council’s existing maps to ensure consistency, before being uploaded to Council’s website.

“To be map-ready for the public by creating these easy to-use way-finding maps, takes a collaborative approach across different teams within Council and externally,” Mayor Jamieson said.

“The maps will launch on Council’s website in June, allowing everyone to find their best path, according to their needs and ability.

“Identifying clear routes minimises mobility difficulties and allows the user to make informed choices before leaving the house to visit the Sunshine Coast.

“Projects like this are important for the region to promote activity, provide mobility options and encourage visitation to our coastal areas.”

Sunshine Coast Council Mayor Mark Jamieson

Creating inclusive coastal areas

The stretch of pathways spanning between Maroochydore and Mooloolaba were identified as being of a very high standard.

Sunshine Coast Council Community Portfolio Councillor David Law said the pilots’ feedback was generally positive with only a small number of locations where effort ratings were high.

“When we refer to an ‘effort rating’ it’s based on the slope of the path, the surface condition, and the cross slope of the footpath which helps identify the easiest and least effort way to get around the coastal strip,” Cr Law said.

“The pilots identified the most suitable accessible parking locations and toilet facilities available at any given destination and have photographed the accessible entries to restaurants, hotels and entertainment venues to allow those with limited mobility to plan their visit.

“The maps have also identified where there may be limited access given steepness on site or the slope of a pathway.

“Equity and inclusion are key principles we value at Council and in our community, which is why this pilot project is essential in identifying accessible routes suitable for everyone.”

One area undergoing significant revitalisation with an emphasis on accessibility is the Mooloolaba foreshore.

“The Federal Disability Discrimination Act provides protection for everyone in Australia against discrimination based on disability,” Cr Law said.

“The law places a legal obligation on the designers, owners and operators of all public, work and human spaces to ensure access is not conditional on a person’s ability.

“In the lead-up to the Brisbane 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Mooloolaba Foreshore Revitalisation provides an opportunity to deliver best practice, fully accessible public amenities that better serve our wider community and prepare the region for the world stage.”

Mooloolaba revitalised with accessibility in mind

Disability groups have welcomed Council’s focus on prioritising accessibility and inclusivity and have commended recent projects which allow everyone to enjoy some of the region’s most beautiful locations.

Sunshine Coast Access Advisory Network (SCAAN) member and employee of Spinal Life Australia, Lachy Chapman, said the region was home to some of the most incredible natural environments in the country.

“However, many locations remain challenging for some community members including those with a disability, the elderly, carers, people with prams, the vision impaired and those using mobility devices,” Mr Chapman said.

“But the recently opened Mooloolaba boardwalk is a fantastic start.”

Kay Maclean and Trevor Rice from SCAAN at Loo with a View.

The 200m accessible boardwalk, connecting the Alexandra Headland to the Esplanade, was opened in November 2021 and is part of the Mooloolaba Foreshore Revitalisation project.

The project was included in a recent Spinal Life television segment promoting Australia and the Sunshine Coast as an accessible destination.

“I really appreciate the consideration given to wheelchair access and space for wheelchair users at Mooloolaba’s new boardwalk,” Mr Chapman said.

“Something as simple as being able to sit side-by-side with friends and family along the way with new accessible seating and viewing areas is encouraging to see.

“I’m really keen to see how the project’s future stages will build on this great work.”

Meeting the needs of the community

Council is committed to ensuring facilities are meeting the community’s needs right across the Sunshine Coast. From inclusive infrastructure and wide coastal pathways, to beach matting that can take residents right to the water’s edge at a number of beaches across the coast.

Swap the beach for the hinterland at Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve, which covers 55ha of tranquil rainforest with diverse flora and wildlife, and is suitable for walkers, prams and wheelchairs.

Discover new and dramatic scenery with Council’s online Adventure Sunshine Coast tool that makes it easy to find inspiration and information on walks suitable for each difficulty level, distance, ability and location.

Some of the Sunshine Coast’s must see walks for people of all abilities include Montville’s Russell Family Park, Cambroon’s Fig Tree Walk (near Kenilworth) and the Maroochy Wetlands Boardwalk.

Sunshine Coast Council will join other local governments and transport authorities across Australia including Brisbane, Townsville, Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads, Wollongong, Sydney, Melbourne and Public Transport Victoria in deploying Briometrix Mobility Maps.

For more information about Accessible Tourism on the Sunshine Coast and Access, inclusion and disability visit Sunshine Coast Council’s website.

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