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Gate Opener

Sylvia has multiple sclerosis and has only very limited walking ability, so she uses an electric scooter for day-to-day mobility. Although she found the walk’s wide boardwalks and footpaths easy to negotiate with the scooter, she was unable to open the childproof gates at each of the two entrances.

Sylvia was delighted when Pittwater Council opened the Swamp Forest Walk in Warriewood. One entrance is only minutes from her home, and the path provides a shortcut to the district shops as well as giving her access to the local wetlands.

Sylvia has multiple sclerosis and has only very limited walking ability, so she uses an electric scooter for day-to-day mobility. Although she found the walk’s wide boardwalks and footpaths easy to negotiate with the scooter, she was unable to open the childproof gates at each of the two entrances.

The gates, which the council was required to install in order to meet safety regulations, have a pin mounted on the top of the gatepost. This has to be lifted as the gate is pushed open, which is easy for standing people with two working arms, but impossible for a seated person such as Sylvia.

Sylvia contacted the council to see what they could do to enable people with scooters and wheelchairs to get through the gates. The council in turn approached TAD, and volunteer Ingram Paterson took on the job.

Ingram visited the site and discussed the job with Sylvia, and before long he had come up with an answer. The first stage was to make a device to help Sylvia lift the button at the top of the gate. To do this, he used an old barbecue fork he had lying around at home.

The fork wasn’t long enough for Sylvia to reach the button from the scooter, so Ingram extended it by making a sausage-shaped handle using Pimbo modelling clay, then attaching the handle of the fork to it with insulating tape. He also used Pimbo to fashion a knob on the prongs of the fork, to provide leverage to lift the pin.

Sylvia also needed to be able to push or pull open the gate (depending on whether she is entering or leaving the boardwalk) at the same time as lifting the pin, which required another tool. Ingram bought an extendable broom handle and mounted a metal pin on a bracket at the lower end, at right angles to the handle.

The pin fits into an eye bolt which Ingram installed on a mounting block on the front of the gate. Sylvia can slot the pin into the eye bolt using the broom handle in one hand, pull the gate pin up using the fork in the other hand, and then push the broom handle forward to open the gate.

The third step was something to hold back the heavy metal gate while Sylvia rides through on her scooter. For this, Ingram mounted a traditional door magnet on an angle bracket, and bolted this securely to the post and beam fence that encloses the beginning of the boardwalk.

Ingram then fitted a second eye bolt and mounting block on the gate at the other end of the walk, and made a second magnet fitting. This will be bolted in place when council installs a suitable post for the purpose.

And of course, Sylvia has to transport her ‘tools’. She carries the fork in the basket in the front of the scooter, and the broom handle stands upright in a clip that Ingram fitted behind the front wheel. He also made a second set of tools which the council keeps for loan to anybody else who might need them.

When TAD visited the wetlands recently, both the gate release pin and the eyebolt and mounting block were missing, presumably removed by vandals. According to the council, this has happened several times, and they will replace them again. But even without them, Sylvia still finds the broom handle useful to push the gate onto the magnet, and to reverse the procedure when she leaves the boardwalk.

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TAD acknowledges the traditional owners of country throughout Australia and recognises their continuing connection to land, waters and community. We pay our respects to them and their cultures and to elders past, present and emerging.