The Commonwealth Games accessibility consultant has given the event high marks, but says unprepared fans are putting a strain on mobility assistance.
The Gold Coast Commonwealth Games features the largest ever integrated para-sport program.
Almost two-and-half years went into planning to ensure existing and newly-constructed venues were up to national accessibility standards.
Olympic wheelchair basketball gold medallist and Games accessibility consultant Nick Morris helped with the plan.
So far he has given the event an eight out of 10.
“As is always the case with the first session of the first day of the first event, you’re going to have issues,” he said.
“But I promise you [by] the second event [organisers] knew exactly what was going on.”
Rain hampered access on the first day of competition and highlighted problems with wheelchair numbers and construction.
Extra wheelchairs have been sourced for venues and organisers have ensured they are put together properly.
“We just needed to make sure that the nuts were tightened and the tyres were pumped up and things like that,” Mr Morris said.
“That’s teething problems, and I defy any event anywhere in the world not to have simple problems like that.”
Spectators warned to be prepared
Mr Morris said that in spite of good accessibility, unprepared fans are putting a strain on services put in place for people with existing mobility issues.
“They might have a broken leg, they might be elderly, they might suffer fatigue,” he said.
“There are going to be long distances you will walk during the course of a day — over a kilometre [and] it will be hot.”
He’s urged people to source their own mobility aids and not rely on the overworked venue services.
“Hire a scooter, hire a wheelchair, hire something that means that when you are leaving your house you’re actually fully prepared.
“Me, I use a wheelchair, I make sure my tyres are pumped up so that halfway along I don’t go looking for a pump.
“We can only assist if you’re willing to assist yourself.”
Getting around in a wheelchair
Byron Moody from Sydney came to the Games for the swimming, athletics and volleyball.
He said it was difficult to get to the volleyball, held in Coolangatta, in his wheelchair.
“Getting around is not too bad,” he said.
“But if they bought the volleyball a bit closer to Broadbeach or Surfers it would have been easier.”
Alan Merry from Sydney came to cheer on his niece Olivia Merry, who plays in the New Zealand hockey team.
He said the city was generally quite accessible but being in a wheelchair caused some delays getting to events.
“We struck a hiccup going to the hockey,” he said.
“The trams are very good … however when we got there we had to wait 50 minutes or more for an accessible bus to turn up, which was fairly disappointing.”
But he hasn’t let it ruin his visit.
“Overall it’s been a very pleasant experience,” Mr Merry said.
“That was the only black mark in the whole week.”
Dealing with ‘teething problems’
While there have been hiccups, Mr Morris said organisers are assessing and improving every day.
“I am aiming for 10 [out of 10] by the end of it, and I’m pretty confident we’re going to deliver on it,” he said.
“Because what will shine through is the Gold Coast spirt, the volunteers’ passion and excitement, and ultimately the sport.”