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Maldon is an inclusive town

Jessie and Jamie in front of white picket fence.

Nineteen businesses in Maldon have signed up to the Inclusive Towns Project to find out how their business can more accessible for people living with a disability.

Thursday 20 June 2018

Next time you’re in Maldon keep an eye out for a sandy-coloured sticker in the window of businesses who have signed up to the Inclusive Towns project.

Inclusive Towns is a collaborative project that Mount Alexander Shire Council is undertaking alongside the City of Greater Bendigo and Loddon Shire Council. It is funded through the Information, Linkages and Capacity Building National Readiness Grants program.

The program aims to improve inclusion in rural communities and is raising awareness of the purchasing power that people with disabilities have within the community.

“Inclusive businesses are smart businesses, and are businesses that make more money,” said Alison Jones, Inclusive Towns Project Officer.

“We are working with accommodation providers, retailers, tourist destinations and cafés to improve accessibility of businesses and promote inclusion, so that people with a disability feel welcomed and valued within their community,” said Ms Jones.

The project employs six Support Officers - local people with a disability - who visit each business and develop an action plan of simple and inexpensive changes the business can make to be more inclusive.

So far nineteen Maldon businesses have signed up to the Inclusive Towns project.

“We have received an overwhelmingly positive response from local businesses and it’s great to see the community embracing the project, recognising the Support Officers out on the street and making these simple changes,” said Ms Jones.

Support Officer Peter West said that “as a local resident I have been frustrated at the lack of access to some shops, however I have been really impressed with how many businesses want to work with us to improve access for the whole community.”

“Maldon is a beautiful town that people flock to, and that even more people will flock to when they understand that it is inclusive,” said Support Officer David Stratton.

“Some of the things we are suggesting can be as simple as putting a sign in the window with the phone number on it, or purchasing an inexpensive portable ramp for shops with steps,” said Dr Stratton.

Maldon Getaways was the first business in Maldon to sign up to the project.
“It was a really simple process, and great to get the perspective of the team, who have a lot of knowledge to share,” said Jamie Heffernan of Maldon Getaways.

“The team gave me some ideas around making our accommodation options more accessible, with links and suppliers for inclusive supports we could purchase that could be used in several of our holiday homes,” said Mr Heffernan.

“We already have a ramp to counter an internal step, but having a wheelchair in the house meant we could properly test the accessibility of the bathroom and gave me a better understanding of what someone who was staying with us who uses a wheelchair might need, or might find challenging.”

“Everyone should be able to have a holiday in Maldon, it’s a great town! As accessible accommodation in town is very limited, it makes good business sense for Maldon Getaways to have lots of options, and to provide a range of inclusive supports that can meet a wide variety of needs,” he said.

For more information on the project, or to find out how you can get involved, contact Alison Jones on 5434 6000 or at inclusivetowns@Bendigo.vic.gov.au.

Image: Support Officer Jessie Stone and Jamie Heffernan from Maldon Getaways.

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