Councillor Mike Neville has labelled the removal of the MLAK system on Griffith's public toilets an unfair punishment to the city's disabled residents.
In 2019, Griffith City Council installed Master Locksmiths Access Key (MLAK) systems on the city's disabled bathrooms due to frequent vandalism.
The system meant the bathrooms could be accessed at any hour by a disabled resident who had purchased a $20 key.
However users regularly locked the bathrooms after using them, resulting in a complaint and legal threat to council from a disabled person visiting the city who found himself unable to access a public bathroom in the middle of the day.
Due to this threat, council made the decision to remove the MLAK system entirely and simply lock the disabled bathrooms overnight.
The topic was brought up at Tuesday night's council meeting and councillor Neville, who has a disability himself, said the decision to remove the MLAK system concerned him greatly.
He said he felt it was unfair on residents who might require the disabled bathrooms after hours.
"What we've done is we've overreacted to a visitor ... and now we're going to penalise local community members who have a disability and want to be able to access those facilities at any time," Cr Neville said.
"It doesn't show a lot of foresight and I think it reflects poorly on council."
...now we're going to penalise local community members who have a disability and want to be able to access those facilities at any timeCouncillor Mike Neville
Cr Neville added that council's own disability inclusion access committee had recommended the MLAK system stay in place.
In response to Cr Neville's comments, general manager Brett Stonestreet said council had received legal advice advising them that if they went to court against the complainant, they would have lost on grounds of discrimination.
Mr Stonestreet said while council would usually "err on the side of supporting the views of disabled persons in the area", they were advised it would have been "foolhardy" to defend the system in court.
Following the general manager's comments, Cr Neville suggested council consider re-installing the MLAK system on at least one of the city's disabled toilets.
"In effect what we've done is open ourselves up to other litigation from people like myself who won't be able to access the toilets at night," Cr Neville said.
"It perhaps warrants a bit more thought."
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