I was trying to go swimming. I have fibromyalgia, which means cold water causes a flare up of my pain. So I had gone all the way across town so I could use the warm hydrotherapy pool at QE2.
Once I got into the hydrotherapy pool, there was a lady using the pool who objected to me being there. I tried to explain but she called me a liar about needing to use the hydrotherapy pool and then complained to the lifeguard. Presumably this was because I am relatively young - late 20's - and fibromyalgia is not necessarily visible to others.
The lifeguard talked with me and confirmed it was okay for me to use the pool, but they didn't tell the lady who complained to leave me alone. I was too scared to go back into the pool in case the lady complained again. I didn't go back into the pool until after the lady left, which felt like forever, but was maybe an hour.
This particular access barrier hasn't happened to me again - as I have never gone back to the hydrotherapy pool! despite how much it helped my pain levels. This encounter made me feel like there is no place for me, as I can't swim in other pools because of the cold, and I don't look disabled or injured enough to use the hydrotherapy pool. I also felt very ashamed of having fibro and not being able to do a lot of things. I often feel like I don't fit in, and this is a common experience for me in many public spaces.
Having fibro means I can't physically cope with the timeframes or activities of most people my age. Many of the activities that I would be able to do are aimed at a different age group, or only take into account either my physical health OR mental health OR sensory disability needs. I just want to have a hobby and make friends, with at least some of the people involved being around my age and stage of life.
The new accessibility legislation should make sure there is access for all.
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.