“I don’t like to sit around,” says Mark Tonga, who became a tetraplegic eight years ago in a rugby training accident.
He cheers on the Wallabies, recites poetry, and attends Sydney Opera House performances and the art gallery on top of his prodigious volunteer work in the rugby community.
He is also a director of People With Disability Australia and Paraplegic and Quadriplegics NSW.
The key to his busy life is wheelchair-accessible taxis.
There aren’t enough of them on Sydney roads, says Mr Tonga, and when they can be found, the cost of commuting to work can be so prohibitive it takes a large chunk of the average wage of a disabled worker.
For 16 years, the state government subsidy for taxi fares has remained unchanged at $30, failing to keep up with the rising cost of taxi journeys in Sydney’s congested traffic.
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But from July 1, after a sustained campaign by disability advocates, the Baird government will double the subsidy to $60.
Mr Tonga is already planning a dramatic expansion of his workload.
“I’m excited. This subsidy allows me to get out and be part of the community,” he says.
Mr Tonga said “transport is key to overcoming isolation” for people with a disability.
“Five state governments have gone past this and not made any adjustment. It is well…