Can-Do-Ability: Answers and Solutions from my personal experiences of living with a disability

A Day Out At The Australian Museum

1 Jul 2011Yesterday was a great day for me and some of the Job Coaches and Trainees from Transition To Work here at NOVA Employment. We got to spend it at the Australian Museum in Sydney.

We caught the train in, which is something I rarely do as it’s not always a simple task, and I have my own car. The train trip took just over an hour from St Marys Station to Central Station, then required a train change at Central then it was only a few stops to Museum Station.

Once we got to Central Station, I had to inform the station master that I needed the ramp to get from the platform to the train, and then again at Museum Station to get off, he advised me that Museum Station had no ramps or wheelchair access. Being the independent girl that I am, I said ‘no problem, I’ll just walk up the stairs’. Little did I know just how many stairs would be ahead of me...

We get off the train at Museum Station only to be faced with two lots of double flights of stairs! But since I’ve been keeping up my exercise recently for strength and to stay in shape for my upcoming wedding, I persevered and with one hand on the railing and one holding onto a colleague’s hand, I climbed up every step. Probably over 200 of them, but I’ll just count it as an extra workout.

So off we ventured, about 25 of us in total, to the Australian Museum. We went the ‘stupid way’, where I had to walk up and down some more steps, but found out later that if we had have walked around the park we cut through, there would’ve been wheelchair access... Oh well, live and learn!

Arriving at the front of the very old Australian Museum building, I was faced with about 10 stairs to get in, but was quickly advised that there was wheelchair access available, so I went around the side of the building and used the ramps provided. Once inside, there were ramps, elevators and disabled toilets available.

The Australian Museum is holding a ‘Birds of Paradise’ exhibition at the moment, so we walked through there first. It was amazing to see the once living birds encased in plastic frames with dates attached to them. Some dated back to the early 1900’s. On a big screen, there was a video clip showing a birds mating dance, and some of the moves they have are incredible. The way they bob up and down, and expand their spectacular coloured and shaped feathers to attract the opposite sex.

There were some clear counters all the way along one wall with preserved birds laying in them with the date they were found, tagged to their feet, and when you moved a certain way, the counter went from see-through, to a cloudy white colour, so you had to be at the right angle to view each bird. We were later explained to by staff, that this was because most people didn’t fancy seeing a whole stack of deceased birds lined up next to each other in a cabinet, so they came up with this idea instead. Talking with Museum staff later, I advised them that it would be quite difficult to see the birds, for someone who was in a wheelchair and couldn’t stand up, as I could. We discussed the possibility of making the sides of the counter clear too, so that the birds could be viewed from a side angle as well as from the top. The staff thought this was a great idea and said they’d look into the possibility of modifying their display in the future.

Next, we wandered through the other levels of the museum, where there were lots of Australian native animals, current and extinct, including a giant wombat, which would’ve been quite scary to see, if it was still around today.

There was an interactive, computerised table that, when touched, it responded. For example, there was a snake slithering around and if you put your hand near its head, it would lunge toward it, trying to take a bite. Same thing on the other end, a shark was swimming around the water and would dive out in attack mode. There were also educational advantages too, in the form of bubbles of information about Australian animals, which would pop up, explaining all about them. Some of our trainees with autism found this very appealing and were enthralled at what the table could do.

Off we headed into the Dinosaurs exhibit, which saw giant bones hanging from the ceiling, fossils under glass and dinosaur replicas all around. Most of the trainees were fascinated by this section and loved taking photos and learning all about the history of dinosaurs. The printed information that was around, about the dinosaurs, was on low level stands, which were at a perfect height for most wheelchair users.

We were then on our way to check out a prototype of another interactive-type table, but along the way, I had a quick look at the bugs and butterflies section..... Snapped a few photos of some really creepy looking spiders! The sneak peak of the new interactive table we got was awesome, all of the trainees loved it and were really fascinated at what it could do! I can’t give away too much, but let’s just say that it’ll be a great tool to get to know your way around the museum, and learn about all sorts of interesting facts.

Next it was off to enjoy a bite to eat down in the museum’s cafe, where we were lucky enough to receive a complimentary lunchbox each, with all sorts of yummy snacks inside.

On our way home, after I climbed down the many, many steps, again, we were at Central Station waiting for our train. I was on the blue ‘wheelchair accessible’ sign that was painted on the ground, and I asked one of our trainees to inquire about the wheelchair ramp for me to get from the platform, onto the train. To our shock, the station staff just pointed to the wheelchair ramp and told him to get it himself! We thought maybe he was confused or misunderstood the trainee and was just pointing out where it was, so one of the Job Coaches went to clarify the situation, but again, the station staff person told them to get it themselves... We were outraged, isn’t this part of their job?? Not only that, he wouldn’t walk down to the ‘wheelchair accessible’ sign (which was only about 5 metres away), he made me go closer to him so he didn’t have to walk far! And, there were three station staff just sitting there in the booth! So after venting my frustration on here, I will also be making a formal complaint to City Rail, (or as I like to call them – City Fail) where I will express my anger about their incompetent staff.

Besides that, we all had a great day out, and I recommend it to any of my wheelchair using friends. Skip Museum station though, and try and get a taxi or bus there from Central, unless you’re ready for an adventure!

Australian Museum exit
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Australian Museum entrance
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Signs to wheelchair access entrance
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Access ramp
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Access ramp
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Entrance to elevator
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Group getting ready to start the tour
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Group getting ready to start the tour
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Museum staff explaining about birds
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Bird in the glass case - clear view
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Bird in the glass case - cloudy view
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Birds in the glass case - clear view
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Museum staff explaining about birds
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Museum staff explaining about birds
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Trip to the Australian Museum
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Trip to the Australian Museum
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Next level
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An Emu
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Signs to wheelchair access entrance
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A Dingo
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An Australian Marsupial Lion (extinct)
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Giant Wombat (extinct)
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Live baby Crocodiles..... Beautiful!
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Big one snapping at the little one
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Hanging around, munching on a cricket
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Trip to the Australian Museum
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Information desks at perfect height for most wheelchairs
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Trip to the Australian Museum
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Trip to the Australian Museum
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Eagerly listening to Museum staff
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Australian Museum view from the top floor
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Dinosaur
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Museum staff making adjustments
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Huntsman eating a moth
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Huntsman spider
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Golden Orb Spider
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Ramp access inside museum
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Beautiful view from the Australian Museum
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Playing with the new interactive table

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