Saturday, May 24, 2014

Lets get one thing straight here - having a disability isn't the end of the world you know

So I was watching the TV reality series - One Born Every Minute USA - in which one of the mothers was expecting a Downs Syndrome child and the nurses whilst trying to be sensitive about the issue, one of the other nurses said something that made me realise that this is what society needs to do and think about anyone with a disability regardless of a Physical or Intellectual Disability.

What was it the this Nurse said that made me feel somewhat proud and realise this is what society needs to think? It was that he had yet to meet someone, parents, family or friends who are yet to say they regret being pregnant because of a disability.

And thats true in my family. My Mother, father nor brothers regret me being born with a disability and certainly there are days I may do but thats because of the way society generally portrays people with disabilities. The way most of society thinks of people with any kind of disability is that we are a drain on society and shouldn't exists and my thoughts and saying to those folks is that they are the drain on society.

You only have to look at the Paralympic games (both summer and winter versions) to see that regardless of a disability anyone can do anything. Yes as someone with a disability you will have to do things differently in your everyday life but you are you - disability or not and no matter what if you put your mind to it, you can rise to achieve that goal.

And that certainly is my goal and we as people with disabilities SHOULD, yes should talk about what its like to live with our disability. We should talk about our achievements, our failures, our thoughts and suggestions but also how to make sure we have set the stones for the future and ensure we discuss our issues, our stories, everything with everyone so they understand.

Understanding will be the key to setting the tone and the path to the future to people realising what its like to have a disability but also help plan how to ensure the tools to help people with disabilities live in a truly accepting and inclusive society.

Nothing this day and age is that we certainly don't live in a perfect world and it certainly isn't a utopia honestly. So lets stop thinking everything needs to be perfect because it doesn't honestly exists. Simple!

So let get out there, talk, discuss, argue, suggest and tell our stories as people with disabilities but also to people without disabilities listen and understand what it is like and what we do in our everyday life to keep us going.

Lets start these discussions and stories now!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Carlingford Line - what to do with a line that goes and connects to nowhere....yet

The Carlingford line seems to be one of the many forgotten rail lines which have become a very old, outdated and somewhat disjointed and unconnected part of the Sydney Trains metropolitan network, yet the NSW Government nor Transport for NSW or the Transport Minister, Gladys Berejiklian know what to do with it.

The poor Carlingford line in the only suburban rail line which in my own opinion, that is not connected via a fully accessible interchange at Clyde. Now before you start having a go at me, stating that Sydney Trains and Transport for NSW have classified the station as accessible, its really not.

Clyde is serviced by a stair walker which over the years has been more broken and out of service that more so actually in services. At one point that I am aware, there was a Union ban on using this critical piece of technology for wheelchair users, yet it is still there, but only available during certain hours (namely in the peak periods) for which after that time, Wheelchair users are required to either travel to Granville or Parramatta to travel towards Carlingford.

To me whilst the bus option is the much more safer than actually trying to attempt to use the stair walker at Clyde, it certainly goes a long way to prove the Carlingford line and Clyde for that matter is  certainly biding its time to closure.

So what should we do to fix the option?

This idea I have fought long and hard on, and have spoken to many both involved with sensitive talks with stakeholders (such as Parramatta City Council and the NSW State Government along with Transport for NSW) for the possibility of the Carlingford line to be converted to a light rail system, that will ultimately connect to Westmead hospital precincts (Such as the Adults, Kids & Private hospitals) to Macquarie University and maybe even onwards towards Lane Cove, to provide this suburbs with a more connected piece of critical public transport infrastructure than what they currently have.

Why not have single metro style trains on the Carlingford Line?

Lets be honest here, this idea which has been circulating thanks to a few MP's who seem hell bent against light rail, think the only option is to turn the line into a metro 3 car system, however the dilemma is that how would this link into the current Sydney Trains Metro network?

Can a metro style train service use the same piece of infrastructure as the current double deck network is offering? Hell no!!

A single deck 3 car metro style network would offer no greater benefits and ultimately lead to further segregation of the line and its commuters, leading to further frustrations for not only commuters but transport planers alike.

Why not convert the line into a rapid bus line?

This option again would only create further gridlock and would take a lot longer to actually plan and build. The cost of converting it to this type of system would also cost more as more would have to be done for the conversion. Buses are already clogging up areas within Westmead, Parramatta, Carlingford and Macquarie University precinct.

Why convert to light rail then?

This answer is actually quite simple, as it would take far less time to convert,  the current trams that the NSW Government is considering retiring from next year onwards would be used to gap fill until new rolling stock can be brought, Frequency of service could jump unto every 10-15 mins in the peak and in the off peak every half hour instead of the current hourly services provided by heavy rail (aka Sydney Trains).

It would also offer an opportunity to make Clyde wheelchair accessible whilst also plan for the network to expand to Westmead and Macquarie University precinct or Lane Cove and even continue further expansion of this network towards Bankstown in areas currently underserved by bus services which have been cut or frequency dropped from previous levels.

It would also offer a more accessible service for people with disabilities using wheelchair or walking frames, stick or crutches, the elderly or families with prams.

The majority of the light rail stops can be built either where the current existing Carlingford Line stations are or next to them with most actually at street level requiring no lifts or major ramp constructions.

To me this makes a more sensible plan and help builds growth for patronage and expansion as well as improve public transport connections not only for the community as a whole but a more accessible transport option for people with disabilities without having any major hassles or drama's which they currently face to this day.

But I would like to get your feedback or suggestions on converting the Carlingford Line to Light Rail? Do you think it is a sensible and though out process and idea to carry through with or would you consider another option or stay with the current incumbent form of transport. Please let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Australia - In need of a new Telco

Ok I know that I might have actually talked about this sometime in the last year or so, but I wanted to talk about it again purely because we have seen the big three telco's wipe out a number of its competitors, albeit third party companies that are Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO), basically operators that utilise the big three telco companies networks to provide services to us mere customers.

One of the biggest MVNO's to have closed in the last 12 months was Kogan Mobile, who was basically unable to reach an agreement with Telstra after the big telco's wholesaler, ISPOne, went into administration after legal court case was started by Telstra relating to underpayment of accounts and bills.

We have also seen smaller MVNO's merge with other providers to leverage for better deals against the big telco's, which have resulted in some good deals being passed on to the end consumer, only to be later changed, terminated or in most cases, price hikes because of agreement terms for services changing between the big telco's and their MVNO counterparts.

But this is only the tip of the iceberg so to speak. There has also been a very slow yet rapid case of the big telco's cutting data allowance which is growing exponentially year on year. For example Boost pre-paid used to offer 3GB data on their $40 UNLTD pre-paid plan, but as of last month, that was cut to 2GB data. Telstra plans have slowly been cutting their data from their existing plans, whilst price increases continue to also come into the foray.

So the question to me remains, why do we as Australian's allow this happen?

The now former head of Optus in Australia, Kevin Russell, late last year at a conference said that the Telecommunications industry is in Australia has become a joke which sadly has meant that customer satisfaction is now at an all time low whilst the telecom companies continually gouge customers.

Before he left Optus last month, he had implemented a turn around for the nations 2nd biggest telco company through its My Plan consumer mobile plans, which are aimed at helping customers take the worry out of bill shock and personally I can see some value in this and hope that the other 2 major telco's will consider moving to this type of thinking, but I hold my doubts.

And its these doubts that fuels the idea for me at least, as to why we need more competition from another telco who is willing to build their own infrastructure to take on Optus, Vodafail and Telstra.

So which company would I like to see come to Australia, well there are a number, but the best would be between either Telefonica or T Mobile.

Why would I choose these companies?

Simply put I feel that they have the muscle needed to bring real competition into a marketplace where mobile growth is continually growing, but lack of real competition and innovation has stymied this growth as customers just feel they are trapped. I should know I am one of them.

But I would like to also see and hopefully think that two other Australian companies could build their own infrastructure and bring this needed competition to the marketplace. The two companies I am referring to are TPG and iiNet. For me, they offer some sort of real value, platform and if not the manpower but customer numbers to show that they could be a force to reckon with.

However I doubt this will ultimately happen as we see that the big 3 rather continue their strangle hold on the marketplace and consumers, continual gouge customers and really not bring any value to a market who is crying out for change.

But I can hope that change will come...........eventually.