In a win for accessibility and inclusiveness, Moreton Bay City Council and Belgravia Leisure have adopted technology which will give people with a disability the confidence to visit a swimming pool or aquatic centre, knowing it will be easy and they will be treated with respect.
Council and Belgravia Leisure officially launched their partnership with Cérge, a digital concierge which gives guests a platform from which to scope out a venue’s accessibility and connect with staff to outline their needs, on November 3.
The system which uses a range of technologies, web and app-based, is the brainchild of Victoria and Chris Kerrisk and was first adopted by Belgravia at its Nambour site in 2021.
It will now be rolled out across all 11 pools it manages for Moreton Bay City Council, plus South Pine Sports Complex.
The Cérge Companion app is free assistive technology for people with disability, support workers, carers, and parents to notify a participating destination or venue of specific service preferences ahead of their visit, removing fears and anxiety of how they or their loved ones will be treated.
The Cérge Companion website links directly from a company’s website and contains a visual story and sensory guide, 360 degree virtual tour, audio guide, access guide, keyword sign board, communication board and more.
Co-founder Chris Kerrisk said it was exciting to work so closely with Belgravia Leisure and the Belgravia Foundation to roll out Cérge across the City of Moreton Bay.
He said the concept started out as a tool aiming to help people enjoy a VIP experience when visiting luxury brand locations, with the name being short for concierge.
During COVID, he connected with two partners – White’s IGA and Belgravia Leisure – and the focus changed.
“The response from both was very clear and universal. (They said) ‘We don’t really want to use it for VIP entitlement. We’d much prefer to use this technology for customers with disability. If we can use this for customers with disability, we’d be very serious about adopting it’,” he recalled.
“We very quickly realised that what’s a nice, luxury, nice-to-have for some is actually life-changing for so many. The obvious change to it was essential to us.”
Mr Kerrisk said the most important thing was not whether a venue was or wasn’t accessible, it was about how two people treated each other using the technology.
He said having information about a venue online is well and good but … “if the moment you arrive, the staff are disrespectful, discriminatory or just ignore you because you look different and they talk to your carer and ignore you over and over again … it won’t matter how much you have invested into physical access … it’s about how two people treat each in the real world”.
Mr Kerrisk said the technology supported Belgravia’s existing strategy of inclusiveness.
He gave an example of a Burpengary Regional Aquatic Centre customer who had high anxiety and used Cérge to ask staff if there was a quiet place she could sit down and draw or colour.
They were able to ensure she had a positive and ‘life-changing’ experience when she arrived.
Boost for accessibility
City of Moreton Bay Mayor Peter Flannery said council was on a journey to be the most accessible council in Queensland, particularly in the lead-up to the Olympics and Paralympics in 2032.
“To Belgravia for taking this application on board, thank you for doing that. We share that vision … you guys actually deliver it,” Mayor Flannery said.
He agreed that having information and imagery available for people to see venues before they visited a venue was useful but to have the customer service to back it up was just as important.
“That one-on-one contact when you come through those gates, when you’re talking to them … you’ve got that respect at the start … they know what your concerns are … and provide that level of service they probably never get or expect to get,” he said.
Mayor Flannery said it was technology which could be used by the tourism sector more broadly.
Belgravia Leisure Regional manager Zubran Nabi said Belgravia Leisure had been the largest adopter of Cérge.
“To be able to roll it out across all our central venues as well as South Pine is a great achievement,” he said.
It follows Belgravia’s success at the 2023 Moreton Bay Business and Innovation Awards where it won the EPIC Assist Award for Accessibility and Inclusiveness Excellence in July.
Last week’s launch also included a presentation by Royal Life Saving Society Queensland State Manager Education and Training Nikki Thornhill.
She awarded Burpengary Regional Aquatic Centre and Albany Creek Aquatic Centres with silver endorsements, recognising the venues’ high safety standards.
“The Platinum Pools program has a focus on endorsing and acknowledging facilities and centres that try to achieve an extremely high standard – industry and Australian standard – on safety and maintaining those high standards throughout the year,” Ms Thornbill explained.
The venues had to complete a 300-point safety check and achieved at least 90 per cent.
Mayor Flannery, who was joined by councillors Mark Booth (Div 2) and Matt Constance (Div 10) at the event, said it was important people using council venues and facilities have a positive and safe experience.
“It’s that high benchmark that we as a council have set for our facilities and our communities,” he said.
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