By Colin MacGillivray

Wandong resident Yvette Curlis is campaigning for improved accessibility at Australian Electoral Commission, AEC, polling booths after a friend was unable to independently access Wandong Primary School during last month’s federal election.

Ms Curlis, who has used a wheelchair at times, said she had discussed accessibility at Wandong Primary School with Mitchell Shire Council for more than five years.

The school serves as an AEC polling booth during federal elections, and Ms Curlis said it was not up to standard for people requiring independent wheelchair access.

“I’ve been looking at accessibility with Wandong Primary School, which is our local primary, for about five or six years and talking to local council, because the disabled car park and entrance to the school do not meet standards,” she said.

“For a while they were talking with me and trying to work out a plan, and then they seem to have said it’s all too hard so they’re not going to do anything.

“I met with a mate who said he couldn’t vote on election day because he couldn’t get into the school.

“That’s what got me looking at what else is around, and it got worse and worse when I started looking at all the schools that were listed as needing assistance.”

Ms Curlis compiled a list of polling places in her region and found that only three of 13 offered independent wheelchair access. A further eight were accessible by wheelchair only with assistance, and two had no wheelchair access.

Five of the 13 polling booths lacked accessible parking, none provided Auslan services for deaf people and only one, Wallan Primary School, had a quiet room.

Ms Curlis said the nearest polling places independently accessible by her friend were in Yan Yean and Beveridge.

“People should be able to access [polling places] by themselves. They shouldn’t need to have someone with them to go vote,” she said.

“That’s for kids, parents and families – there’s lots of people who require access to the school. If you can’t go see your kid’s concert at school, that’s not really fair. Wandong Primary School needs to look at disabled car parking.”

An AEC spokesperson said the scale and complexity of each election as a temporary operation and the varying circumstances of voters across Australia meant not every polling place would provide full accessibility.

“We would ideally be able to secure all 8000 voting venues we require for the federal election with full accessibility,” he said.

“However … it’s just not possible in all locations. We outline what accessibility and parking services each voting centre has on our website, which includes a full page of accessibility information for each voting centre.

“We’d urge people who have mobility restrictions to review the accessibility information and attend the polling place that will work best for them.

“Alternatively, postal voting is a great option for those with accessibility needs as their ballot papers will be delivered directly to them.”

Mitchell Shire Council chief executive Brett Luxford thanked Ms Curlis for raising the issue of accessibility at Wandong Primary School and other voting booths.

“Council will be contacting the Australian Electoral Commission to ask them to evaluate the accessibility of their chosen polling locations,” he said.

“We will also contact the Department of Education and ask them to investigate accessibility at Wandong Primary School.”

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