A lot of fun, with a challenging finish

Story by Josh Evans

I wanted to share my recent  experience at the Melbourne F1 Grand Prix. As a big fan of cars and racing, I was excited to attend this event for the second year in a row.

This time around, I got general admission tickets instead of the grandstand like last year. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Albert Park, where the race takes place, is largely flat and accessible, which made it much easier for me to get around. Since I got my new electric wheelchair earlier this year, I thought I would give it a good test at the Grand Prix.

Getting to the venue was also a breeze, as I used public transportation without any issues with accessibility. However, once I arrived at the track and needed to access the infield, I had to rely on the accessible van provided by the Grand Prix organizers. The underground tunnel, which would have taken a minute to traverse, was not wide enough for wheelchairs. While it’s great that they offer this service, I found myself waiting for up to 45 minutes for the van to arrive, which was a little annoying. 

Despite this hiccup, there were several viewing platforms specifically designed for wheelchair users, which provided great views of the race. And when hunger struck, there were plenty of food trucks to choose from, although the lines were a bit long. I was lucky enough to be in The Field Jobs section, which had perfect views between turns 10 and 11, and was close to the disabled toilets and food trucks.

It was great to be able to see all the races before the main event, including the V8 Supercars, F2 & F3. The main race was much more eventful than last year, with plenty of overtakes and a few incidents especially towards the end of the race when we had two red flags within the last three laps.

However, my experience took a turn for the worse when it was time to leave the event. One of the wheels on my wheelchair fell off, which made it impossible for me to continue on my own. My brother helped me put the wheel back on, but when we reached the tram stop, we realized that it wasn’t accessible. We were stuck in the cold and dark, waiting for a maxi taxi that the tram officer had ordered for us. Unfortunately, we ended up waiting for two hours. Instead of getting the cab to Flinder St station, we opted to go all the way home, as the day was already long enough.

Overall, I had a fantastic time at the Melbourne F1 Grand Prix, but the lack of accessible transportation options left a sour taste in my mouth. I hope that in the future, the organizers will work to improve accessibility for all attendees, so that everyone can enjoy this amazing event without any barriers.

Building wheelchair skills and confidence at the GP

Story by Naz Erdem, Practice Leader

Thanks to the Australian Grand Prix Corporation who donated some tickets to this year’s Grand Prix, we were able to take some patients from the Royal Talbot Rehabilitation Centre to the event. For many, it was their first outing into the community since being admitted to the rehab centre.

Also invited to the event were some of our volunteer mentors who provided some encouragement and motivation. They also shared their experiences of what their lives were like after being discharged from rehab many years ago.

Special mention to Sal Dema and Pablo from the Royal Talbot who made sure the patients were ready in the morning to make it to the track on time. Sal and Pablo drove the two wheelchair-accessible vans to the race track, thankfully sticking to the road rules and remembering they were going to be spectators at the race.

As you can imagine, it would have been daunting and exciting at the same time for the patients to go on their first community outing. Knowing that mentors were also going to be there to share their expertise made them feel at ease. It was a great opportunity for everyone to test themselves and gain confidence by navigating their wheelchair in a ‘real’ environment, with crowds, grass, dirt, curbs, and sometimes mud. It also showed people that thought does go into making events like this accessible. 

There were three general admission viewing platforms dedicated to people with disabilities and their carers, so they could get a good view. These platforms were all close to public conveniences, including food outlets and wheelchair-accessible toilets called Changing Places (Marveloo). These bathrooms are fully wheelchair accessible and include overhead hoists if required. 

In addition to the three general admission viewing platforms, the Fields.jobs sponsored a wheelchair-accessible grandstand which had a great view and wasn’t as full as the other three platforms. However, this area was ticketed, which meant our general admission tickets couldn’t be used to enter. Luckily for us, Anthony Perito, who is a peer support worker, was employed during the event to manage this grandstand and allowed us to go through.

Keeping in mind that the circuit is about 5 km long, and if you wanted to get from one point to another can be hard work (especially over grass), people with mobility issues had access to accessible shuttle vans to transport people around to where they wanted to go. 

Overall, everyone had a great day. And most importantly, the engagement between the patients and mentors was fantastic, with the patients practising their wheelchair skills and gaining lots of confidence and experience while enjoying an international racing event.

  • June 12, 2023

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