I went to use the accessible bathroom in the new shopping complex in Frankton, Queenstown. I had visited the facility before and applauded it, sharing with others this good example of planning using universal design principles. It was one of the best accessible bathrooms I had come across.
To my horror and absolute frustration I discovered that the toilet had since been 'disabled' by having a stainless steel pipe installed with a back rest, to stop - I guess - the toilet lid going back too far and damaging something. This made it very difficult to maneuver on the toilet seat.
I managed as best I could as my bottom is still small enough to fit. But I came away so angry, and spitting sparks.
Just a week or two later I came across a similar installment at the X-Ray Department, Southland Hospital, Invercargill where the toilet lid must have banged against the wall, making a hole, as it was also covered with stainless steel. Why not just remove the seat lid instead of trying to 'fix' it by creating another problem?
I checked with a cleaning lady at the hospital and she confirmed this was a frequent occurrence. The toilet in main foyer is still accessible, thankfully, but for how long?
Accessibility legislation should address issues of accountability, and regular inspections and audits of accessible spaces. All trades people and property managers should receive training as to why accessibility equipment must not to be tampered with, if and when repairs are required.
The 'access needs' light switch still needs turning on! We need education, accountability, and auditing with outcomes. If that means fines then so be it.
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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