National legislation requires Australian cities to be accessible and inclusive. Changing national demographics mean that not only are there significant numbers of people now recorded as “needing assistance” in their day-to-day living but the population is ageing rapidly, leading to more and more people unable to fully participate.
So what does it mean to have an accessible and inclusive city? One regional centre – Geelong in Victoria – has committed to becoming a national leader in accessibility and inclusivity. The Deakin HOME Research Hub has been tasked with detailing what measures are being taken and what interventions are feasible and desirable to better include those with different levels and forms of disability in employment, the built environment and community infrastructure.
This paper will focus initially on how best to theorise those with lived experiences of disability within the city before considering just how Geelong to date has met this challenge through its various plans. It will then outline the processes by which those who are most often marginalised in this city were given a voice in the research project – through advisory groups, systems thinking workshops and focus groups - to move beyond rhetorical commitment to meaningful engagement. We thereby present and assess here our effort to research access and inclusion in Geelong.