Our family home has become inaccessible to our daughter, due to inadequate funding support and lack of access to finance, that would enable us to make our house accessible.
Our wheelchair-using daughter is unable to independently and safely get in and out of our home as it is up one level of stairs. Our house is not suitable for a ramp and, as our daughter is a powerchair user, a stair lift is not suitable either. A platform lift is also not viable due to the lack of fixing points at the bottom and top of the stairs. The only solution is a through-floor internal lift or an external lift.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) limits funding for housing accessibility at $15,000. This is insufficient for a lift - the design and consent alone cost that much! We are unable to move and we are unable to borrow as we are on Māori land. For seven years our daughter has only been able to leave the house if her father carries her. This is not independent or dignified or safe; and at 32kg its not sustainable either.
Furthermore, because we don't have powerchair access to the home, MOH won't modify our bathroom and they withheld a powerchair for years as we couldn't get it into the house. My daughter is now able to have at powerchair at school and has thrived, with having at least having some independence at school. She should also be able to move independently around her own home.
Despite being a competent powerchair user, our daughter can not move independently into and throughout our home as we can not get her powerchair up the stairs. This lack of mobility impacts her mana and wellbeing. Our daughter can not safely bathe and toilet due to a lack of accessible bathroom amenities. She daughter can not leave the house unless her father is home. We daily risk her safety, and ours, having to carry her up and down the stairs. We cannot just leave home to go to places. Everything must be carefully planned and managed. This limits our life immensely.
We have been planning in advance and saving up for a through-floor or external lift, but every time we get close to the amount required, the costs go up!
Housing needs to be future-proofed by building in accessibility. Māori whānau need access to finance to make their homes accessible. Ministry of Health funding needs to reflect the actual cost of making homes accessible.
The new accessibility bill should address accessible housing, and the building code needs to be updated to include universal design standards.
This is a story about the barriers many face. We're sharing it because we want a law that puts accessibility at the heart of an inclusive Aotearoa New Zealand.