Skip to content

Featured music is ‘And Lucy Dreams’ by Lotus


About the Author

Carly Findlay OAM is an award-winning writer, speaker and appearance activist. Her first book, a memoir called Say Hello, was released in January 2019. Carly edited the anthology Growing Up Disabled in Australia with Black Inc Books. It’s in stores now. She writes on disability and appearance diversity issues for news outlets including the CNN, Vogue, ABC, The Age and Sydney Morning Herald and SBS. In 2022, Carly provided a testimony at the Disability Royal Commission, speaking about abuse in public spaces. In 2020, Carly Findlay received a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for her work as a disability advocate and activist. In 2021, Carly received The Victoria Award for Excellence in Women’s Leadership. She was named one of Australia’s most influential women in the 2014 Australian Financial Review and Westpac 100 Women of Influence Awards. She has appeared on ABC TV’s You Can’t Ask That and Cyberhate with Tara Moss, The Project, The CookUp, Studio 10 and The Drum, and has been a regular on various ABC radio programs. She has spoken at the Melbourne Writers Festival, the University of Western England, Ubud Writers Festival, The Australian Centre for Moving Image and Melbourne University – to name a few. She organised the history-making Access to Fashion in 2018 – a Melbourne Fashion Week event featuring disabled models. She has a Masters of Communication and Bachelor of eCommerce. Carly identifies as a proud disabled woman – she lives with a rare, severe skin condition, ichthyosis.


I love a perfectly Melbourne day. I’ll walk through the city, making sure I see the Disability Pride laneway off Bourke Street, as it always makes me smile. I’ll have lunch at Federation Square with friends, and then we will wander through shops and the gallery together. I’ll see a show at night—a band, a cultural festival panel, a musical or comedy. And in the morning I’ll queue with my husband for brunch at a fancy suburban cafe.

Melbourne was once named ‘world’s most liveable city’ for seven years in a row, and is currently ranked third on The Economist’s annual liveability index. A strong cultural sector for arts workers and audiences, brilliant education opportunities and world class healthcare are reasons for the high ranking. And, oh my god, the food. I love that I can get laksa, injera bread, tagine, lasagne and sushi all in the 100-metre restaurant strip down the road from my house.

But a perfectly Melbourne day can be spoilt by inaccessibility. For many of my friends who, like me, are proud members of the Disability community, there are so many aspects that make Melbourne inaccessible, and thus less liveable.

I want to enjoy a perfectly Melbourne day by relaxing and not worrying whether I’m going to be able to get around without interruptions. I’m in my 40s and have chronic pain—an interruption might be a lift that is out of order, an accessible toilet used as a storage room, or blatant discrimination—like a taxi driver refusing to take me because they’re afraid of my face.

Many friends were kind enough to share some of the improvements to accessibility that would make Melbourne a more liveable city for them. The suggestions I’ve shared here are just a few of their ideas—disabled people are great problem solvers!

People who use wheelchairs and mobility aids, are blind or have difficulty walking want footpaths that are level and less slippery, tactile ground surfaces that aren’t broken, and accessible entrances at the front of buildings. Guide dogs and assistance animals should always be welcome—with no arguments, too. I personally hope that one day it’ll be mandatory for any new business moving into an empty building to comply with accessibility standards.

There needs to be information communicated in various ways—on screens, in audio format, Plain and Easy English, Auslan and Braille. Not only will this help disabled and Deaf people, but people whose first language isn’t English. Information on business, store and venue websites about what’s accessible and what’s not is useful too.

We want seating—much more seating than is currently provided. Seating in parks, in galleries and at concerts—and not hidden up the back either, we want to see and smell our favourite singers! We’d especially like seating for mundane tasks—like queuing at the bank or the supermarket deli. And we never want to have to ask for a seat, or be told a seat is a fire hazard! Some friends with energy impairments even suggested there be places to lie down in public—I saw people lie down on beanbags at a recent State Library of Victoria exhibition and it made me so excited. Places to rest are so important.

Well-lit spaces would be lovely, especially where we come together with our favourite people. I want to see each other’s faces while we eat and laugh: and to be able to read the bloody menu! It was over a boozy lunch with a friend that I realised that I need glasses, because in the very cool but dimly lit cafe I couldn’t read the tiny font on the menu. Hint: you cannot have an eye test after you’ve had a wine or three! I don’t want to be that annoying person taking 37 photos of my chocolate brownie pancake stack while standing on a chair to get the right angle, but good light also makes your food more Instagrammable! Well-lit outdoor areas are also needed—for waiting, for finding our keys, for feeling safe.

While I’m talking restaurants, some disabled friends who have sensory needs tell me they want visual menus, so they can be informed about portion size, texture and type of food they’re ordering. Friends also want some quiet spaces, so their voices don’t compete with loud music.

Accessible public transport is such a big request from disabled people—all trams and tram stops need to be accessible; for bus stops to be sheltered and staff trained and happy to put ramps out. Customer service is key.

My friends and I want healthcare organisations, arts institutions and big and small businesses to remember that Covid still exists, and that it and other communicable illnesses are a huge barrier to disabled people being able to enjoy life outside of the home. Mask wearing, air purifying and online and hybrid events allow immunocompromised people to feel included and cared for.

If we do experience inaccessibility and discrimination, I want complaints processes to be smooth. I want them to be consistent and simple; for us to be listened to and for the enormous burden of proof not to fall solely on disabled people. I’d also like there to be productive complaint outcomes—like penalties and improvements made in line with enforceable legislation and standards.

Disabled people have places to go, friends to see, jobs to do. And it’s about time people and organisations ensure we can get there.

Accessibility looks different for everyone, but in my discussions with my friends, it was unanimous that doing the bare minimum is not enough—that we need individuals and organisations to go above and beyond. Accessibility really is just excellent customer service. And as the Disability Visibility Project declares, ‘access is love’. We want to feel that our city, that we love so much, loves us back.



This initiative is supported by the Metro Tunnel Creative Program which harnesses the innovation, imagination, and expertise of the creative sector to help manage construction impacts.

Stay up to date with our upcoming events and special announcements by subscribing to The Wheeler Centre's mailing list.

Privacy Policy

The Wheeler Centre acknowledges the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation as the Traditional Owners of the land on which the Centre stands. We acknowledge and pay our respects to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their Elders, past and present, as the custodians of the world’s oldest continuous living culture.