Paralympian Elizabeth Edmondson has seen Queen Elizabeth II Medical Centre (QEIIMC) grow from just one building to the integrated Medical Centre it is today.
Elizabeth was just 14 years old when her coach told her she had broken a swimming World Record.
After contracting polio at fifteen months and becoming paraplegic, Elizabeth began a lifelong love affair with the sport.
“I have a cupboard at home that has about sixty medals in it,” she says with a grin.
At the 1964 Australian Paralympics Elizabeth broke both a Paralympic World Record and a Commonwealth World Record. For 48 years Elizabeth held the title of youngest ever Australian Paralympian.
The QEIIMC has been a big part of Elizabeth’s life. These days she is at the Centre at least once a week, whether it be for personal reasons or on behalf of one of the many organisations and groups she belongs to.
“Back when I was a little girl the Hospital was just A Block,” she says, “now there’s AA Block, Y Block, F Block, it’s huge.”
Elizabeth’s input into the Master Plan is invaluable. She brings a unique perspective and highlights future considerations for accessibility.
“You know the phrase ‘big enough to swing a cat’? Well, I like to think of accessibility by asking ‘is it big enough to swing a wheelchair?’”
Elizabeth points to a picture of a bus stop on Hospital Avenue and says, “Public transport to the Campus is great, the timetables are accurate and the buses are nice and frequent.”
“The bus stops could be a little wider, just so people in wheelchairs can turn around easier, and there should be a dedicated taxi area with a ramp for wheelchair users. There is a ramp at the moment but it comes onto the drive and blocks other cars.”
Elizabeth produces another picture of what looks like brick paving and explains that it is actually concrete spray-painted to give it the look of interlocking bricks.
“Many people don’t realise how bumpy some surfaces are,” she says, “it’s fine to walk on but I feel every single bump and dip.”
“They seem like silly little things but they make life for people in wheelchairs a lot easier. Even simple things like lower counters so people in wheelchairs are more visible makes a difference.”
Elizabeth would also love to see more signage directing people to alternative options for getting around the facilities.
“Stairs are my biggest nightmare,” she says, “and it would be good to not have to worry that stairs are the only option. Just some signage pointing the way to the nearest disability friendly access would be good.”
When asked how she feels about the future of QEIIMC Elizabeth pauses and considers the question carefully. She spends more time at the Campus than many non-staff community members and has a different experience of the area to most.
“If there was more development like the new short-stay centre upgrade it would be great. I would like to see the communication within QEIIMC continue to improve so there can be a further sense of community and togetherness.”