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Media Release
Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment

IMPROVING ACCESS TO AUSTRALIA'S HERITAGE FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES


19 January 1998
(04/98)

Access to heritage buildings for people with disabilities is the subject of a new report funded by the Commonwealth Government.

Federal Environment Minister, Robert Hill, said today that funding had been provided for the preparation of the report and for its publication and distribution to organisations such as local councils.

Access to Heritage Buildings for People with Disabilities was produced by Cox Architects and Planners, for the Australian Council for the Rehabilitation of the Disabled, with a grant of $8,000 from the Commonwealth's National Estate Grants Program.

`We want to ensure that as many members of the community as possible have the chance to experience Australia's heritage. This report is a much-needed first step toward achieving that goal', Senator Hill said.

`Australians are very proud of our rich history and love visiting our many heritage places. Unfortunately, for many people with disabilities, exploring our past in this way is difficult because of access problems. This report goes a long way to addressing this challenge', he said.

`Disability is not just about wheelchairs. Improved access also benefits other people with special needs, such as parents with prams and people temporarily disabled by injury', he said.

`Providing better access might involve installing tactile models for visually impaired people, clear and concise language in signage for intellectually disabled people, or large switches and controls for people with arthritis, for example', he said.

The report sets out guidelines and practical solutions for making heritage properties accessible while conserving their heritage character and value.

It is written for all people associated with access and heritage buildings, including authorities, community groups, architects, owners, managers and users.

A major recommendation of the report is that property owners and managers have an access strategy which sets out their policies on access and how these will be achieved. Where possible, this should be included in any existing or proposed conservation management plan.

A current project by the Australian Council of National Trusts will produce a reference manual for professionals and non-professionals, with practical recommendations for introducing access for disabled people into a diverse range of heritage places. This project is also being funded under the National Estate Grants Program.

The National Estate Grants Program is a Commonwealth Government program that provides financial assistance for projects which identify, document, conserve or educate people about our National Estate. The Program is administered by the Australian Heritage Commission, the Government's adviser on conserving the National Estate.

The Commission also compiles the Register of the National Estate - Australia's premier list of natural and cultural heritage places. The Register of the National Estate Database is now on the Internet and can be found at: http://www.ahc.gov.au

Copies of Access to Heritage Buildings for People with Disabilities are available from Eric Martin, Cox Architects and Planners (ph 026-239-6255, fax 026-6239-6260).

Media Enquiries:
Matt Brown Senator Hill's Office Ph 02 6277 7640
Henri Salmela Communication Section Ph 02 6217 2112

Commonwealth of Australia