My partner and I regularly need to travel for work events and personal family events. There often is no transport available so we are denied access to public spaces and events, businesses and areas chosen by councils to be walking-only roads, government services and participation in government functions like voting and elections, tax and business support from IRD, council submissions, work conferences and meetings, houses, restaurants, and so on.
Denial of access often has physically and mentally disastrous results. For example, if we try to gain access - even with aid and supports - there are frequent injuries, including concussion, traumatic brain injury, broken bones, severe muscle damage and large skin cuts. To add insult to injury, ACC has refused recovery support, and so the cycle of access denial continues.
Going to places like the War Memorial or council offices is denied to us. Going to public theatres and conference centres is also denied. Going to public libraries and accessing medical services - even in emergencies - is denied.
We are lucky to still have one of us allowed work income, but between my partner and I, with our disabilities, we are denied access to any life outside much at all and cannot even participate in basic events or things like going to the park.
We are frequently denied access to participate in public, government and work events. I would like to be able to have transport services available and affordable to me with my income (below $5,000 annually) so I could leave the house for medical appointments, necessary meetings and public events at least once a week. I would like to be able to buy food and medication that is impossible to get online. I would like to be able to attend my study classes and for my partner to be allowed access to attend work meetings in public and in council spaces.
We wanted to attend a Green Party event, but the site chosen by Party members was not accessible and had no accessible street access or parking. The location did not have accessible bathrooms and the Green Party did not provide an accessible website to find out more information about the event. Images often contain details that are missing in the text. In addition there was no accessible transport available and the costs imposed trying to attend previous events were over 50 times that charged to able-bodied people (in the order of $100 for transport). The denial of suitable transport equitable with able-bodied people means we were denied participating in and learning about the Green Party, and being able to nominate people to vote for. We were denied access to participate on an equitable basis for voting and in the previous term had been denied access to voting altogether.
Denial of transport for work, medical appointments, public interest and private events denies us participation in our community and denies us the right to have mobility device access, such as a powerchair, which is often necessary when we need to go to spaces such as work conferences, public events and hospital. This leads us into increasingly isolated, degraded living conditions, and ostracizes our family and stigmatizes us when it comes to work, education and public participation. When we cannot even get transport with our mobility devices - like the powerchair and wheelchair - on an equal basis for work, it has led directly to loss of contracts, loss of access to IRD services, loss of access to accounting and legal support, loss of funding and publisher relations. This in turn significantly affects our income, and ability to even have work, and to participate in the community further. For example, there is a conference to meet with publishers and funders in Wellington, but there is no transport or accommodation access for the entire city for someone using a powerchair. So we are cut out of the industry in New Zealand altogether. Not even Te Papa has accessible stage access.
I want there to be a legal, mandatory requirement for government to provide accessible transport for low-mobility members of the public at an equitable charge rate, as it would be for those taking public transport to make their journey. If vehicle access has been removed from a road, due to a council decision, I would like the decision to be reversed so that users of mobility transport services are still able to access the public spaces, businesses and services that were closed off based on a belief that everyone must walk and cycle. Pro-tip: if someone cannot walk or cycle, and even travelling 50m with a mobility aid is difficult, then closing road access is closing off our access altogether. We should not be denied access to public participation and workplaces, as Auckland and Wellington councils have done by removing our access to parts of the road network.
Frankly, I do not trust councils and political parties as they have proven to be the most ableist, by abusing the term "accessible" to create spaces that are incredibly inaccessible for disabled people and their families. They pulled out the "accessible streets" propaganda and made it illegal for us to access work, public spaces, study, businesses and medical services in the area. By the removal of access for mobility vehicles they are effectively removing access to us and it directly affects our lives and ability to even live in this country. Denial of access to hospitals has lead to severe harm and the loss of urgent appointments. We have lost work due to lost access and will continue to lose access because architects and city space designers have no legal mandate to ensure accessibility for those with low mobility to essential public participation and workplaces.
We need new access laws now!
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.
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