Renewable transportation movement will be rendered futile by failing to prioritise accessibility

by Helena Morgan
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The rewards and benefits of electric vehicles (EV) are well and truly understood – more electric vehicles were sold in Australia in the first half of last year than all of 2022 – however, persevering with damaging ableist and exclusionary frameworks risks people with disabilities falling far behind 

Entrepreneur, Push Mobility co-founder and co-able managing director Shane Hryhorec – ever unflagging in his efforts to eradicate barriers to accessible and inclusive participation – urges councils and local and state governments to establish disability advisory committees and guarantee that parking and services for EVs will cater towards people with disabilities. 

Hryhorec first came across the unfairly cumbersome process of securing an EV as a person with a disability when he entertained the idea of renting a Tesla for a weekend trip to the Hunter Valley. He concluded that a large number of EV charging stations and parking were far from accessible. 

“I was shocked by how inaccessible they are,” says Hryhorec

The situation grew in complexity and urgency when a member of the community reached out to him on social media and expressed disappointment that a disabled car parking space had been removed to install EV chargers. 

Neglected as a priority 

Hryhorec researched the history of EV chargers in Adelaide and found out they were implemented eight years ago, yet were not anchored by accessibility guidelines. Communication with the local council produced only frustrating results. 

“I emailed the Port Adelaide and Enfield council a few months prior to this and asked them which of their car spaces were accessible,” says Hryhorec

“They never got back to me.”

He followed up again, yet still did not receive a response, and eventually met with council members and discovered The Royal Automobile Association of South Australia (RAA) has an accessibility guide for EV chargers. 

“The RAA is looking at potentially adopting the guidelines for all future spaces and also making modifications to existing EV charging stations to make them accessible,” says Hryhorec. There was no time frame provided for the accessible charging station rollout – pressing challenges and obstacles were cited as responsible for the delay. 

Hryhorec labels the lack of urgency and proactiveness as concerning and an insufficient and frankly insulting response, as it exemplifies the failure of council and government bodies to approach policy making with an “inclusive lens”.

‘My point to them is, heaven forbid someone with a disability would actually drive an electric car between now and then.”

Hydorec has unfortunately decided not to purchase an EV at the time. “The infrastructure is simply not accessible enough yet,” he says.

A failure to future-proof

Hryhorec envisages a reality wherein EV charging stations are constructed with accessibility at the forefront to offer people of all abilities an opportunity to reap the benefits of ecologically responsible and sustainable living. 

Creating charging bays with even and wide surfaces, that are located in close access to public transportation links and major thoroughfares, is paramount. 

Additionally, charging stations can cater to varied abilities by placing lightweight plugs at a lower height and installing bright, glare-free, and energy-efficient lighting, alongside clear signage with Braille and tactile signs and sheltered waiting areas.

Hryhorec emphasises that this case exemplifies the importance of future-proofing when developing sustainable solutions. Over the next few years, the percentage of people in Australia with disabilities will rise due to an increasingly ageing population. Society needs to be proactive and perceptive when catering towards a greater disabled population. 

“Twenty percent of the population currently has a disability,” says Hryhorec. “But statistics say that 50 percent of people over 65 have a disability, and that number is going to grow significantly in the years to come.”

Hryhorec paints a sobering picture of people with disabilities being shunted to the side when skyrocketing petrol prices prompt people to opt for electric vehicles. 

“Imagine a person with a disability who is already affected from a financial perspective being left behind and having to pay more for basic necessities such as a car because we didn’t invest in equal opportunity for this renewable infrastructure,” says Hryhorec. 

An inclusive lens 

Hryhorec says allowing disability advisory committees to guide infrastructure development at a government and council level will ensure people with disabilities have a voice. 

“People in our community have been advocating for an advisory committee for such a long time, and the council keeps ignoring our needs,” says Hryhorec.  

The committee can apply an “inclusive lens” to infrastructure proposals, policies or projects to slash the chance of ableist and offensive misjudgements occurring.  

Additionally, the establishment of a disability advisory committee takes a stance against tokenistic efforts that seek to merely fulfil the ‘disability card’.

“I believe it should be mandatory that every local government has disability advisory committees and any other type of non-official committee, in my opinion, is tokenism,” says Hryhorec. 

He says that if council had addressed the concerns and grievances of the disability community via consultations with a disability advisory committee, this major hurdle relating to EV chargers in South Australia may have been avoided. 

Photography supplied by co-able. 

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