Disability advocates have hailed the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge elevators as a landmark day for accessibility in Australia, saying it means the Sydney icon can now be enjoyed by people with disability and the elderly.
“After more than a decade of advocating for everyone to be able to access the Harbour Bridge, I’m delighted this day has come,” said Serena Ovens, CEO of Physical Disability Council of NSW (PDCN).
NSW Minister for Roads and Maritime Services Melinda Pavey officially opened the new lifts at the northern and southern ends of the walkway of the Bridge on Tuesday. The new lifts can take 27 people, or two wheelchairs and two carers.
The state government announced in 2016 that it would begin planning for accessibility lifts at each end of the bridge, but last year said the project had been shelved because of a lack of funds. The U-turn prompted PDCN to “mobilise the troops” and launch its Everybody’s Bridge Campaign.
“Our members, multiple stakeholders, and the general public, all united their voices behind PDCN’s Everybody’s Bridge campaign last year when it looked like the project might stall, showing just how critical and far reaching the need for step free access to the bridge truly is,” said Ms Ovens said on Wednesday.
Ms Ovens said PDCN has been campaigning for the lifts for ten years and had been pressuring the government to have them in place in time for the Invictus Games.
“For us it’s been a long time coming but it’s a really great acheivement,” she told Community Care Review.
PDCN president Chris Sparks said after being wheelchair user for more than 50 years and today marked the first time he and his wife would be able to stroll across the coathanger.
The improved accessibility would also be a boon for tourism, attracting more tourists with a disability to the city, said Airbnb accessibility product and program manager Srin Madipalli, who is currently visiting Sydney.
“This is a watershed moment for inclusion and accessible tourism and will no doubt be a drawcard for travellers the world over,” he said.