Beau’s message mission: “Access is a fundamental need, not an afterthought”

Beau’s message mission: “Access is a fundamental need, not an afterthought”

Small but insidious, Beau Potter says thumbs tacks are kind of a big deal to wheelchair users.

An Armadale man has made a difference to wheelchair users in WA by drawing attention to something most people wouldn’t have ever thought of.

Beau Potter has been instrumental in Mission Australia WA’s offices phasing out a common office item – the humble thumb tack.

“The thumb tack might not seem like a big deal, but it can easily puncture a wheelchair’s tyre,” he said.

“This can result in a lot on anxiety for the user while the tyre is replaced as they can be without their mobility device for several days.”

Most people using wheelchairs are forced to go with solid rubber tyres due to frustration from punctures. When the issue was raised, Mission Australia NDIS Regional Leader Verity Sullivan moved quickly to spread the message throughout the teams.

“It’s a small thing that can cause a lot of inconvenience and we were happy to phase the thumb tacks out,” she said.

“There are lots of alternatives to pinning things up around the office – such as double-sided tape, Velcro or Blu-Tack.”

Beau is no stranger to creating waves by going against the tide.

Beau has TRPV4 Congenital distal arthrogryposis, an extremely rare condition which means he requires a wheelchair for life.

“When I was diagnosed, an Allied Health Professional told me I had more chance of winning the lotto 44 times,” Beau explained.

“When I was six years-old and the doctor told my family I had a reduced life expectancy and would only live until about 18, none of us could believe it, especially my Dad.”

Beau refused to let his condition define how he lived his life.

“You find another way. My Dad always pushed me – I even learned to ride a bike despite not having the normal range of use within my legs,” he said.

The 36-year-old has been involved in wheelchair basketball, served in the State Emergency Service cadet corps for 10 years as well as the SES as a volunteer, has several blackbelts in martial arts and is a motivational speaker.

He is also happily engaged and has a 12-year-old daughter – who plans to study anthropology, palaeontology and osteology.

His passion for people living with disability led him to his current job as a Local Area Coordinator with Mission Australia in Perth – helping participants navigate the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Beau is also passionate about advocating for access and inclusion for people with disability.

Mission Australia’s 2023 National Community Access and Inclusion Survey found nearly 50 percent of respondents rate employment opportunities for people with a disability as ‘poor or very poor’.

It also found that 38 percent of people with a disability felt ‘somewhat unsafe or very unsafe’ in their local community.

“Even in 2023, we still have a long way to go in making society more inclusive for people with a disability,” Beau said.

“I once had a job where I had to wheel 120 metres to the local shopping centre to use the bathroom as the office didn’t have an accessible one for a person in a wheelchair.

“My local supermarket near work has checkout lanes not wide enough for a wheelchair.

“Their solution was for me to raise my hand and someone would take my groceries to be scanned, while I remove a barrier to get to an accessible counter.

“Many people might not know that if a person is in wheelchair in a multi-story building, during a fire, they will have to wait in the stairwell for a firefighter to come get them.

“Nobody wants to be made to feel different or unimportant.”

Beau also continues to advocate for his community on issues such as housing.

“My last three rentals were not fully accessible,” he said.

“My wheelchair can only access about half of my current home, however I am advocating for accessible homes to be a foundation thought in building plans offered by builders.

“I would like to see mobility options on Google Maps, accessibility clearly defined on real estate websites, flashing smoke alarms to be standard in homes.

“Access is a fundamental need, not an afterthought.”