I was giving feedback to a Rotorua Lakes officer on the construction of new facilities at Lake Tarawera Landing. Another electric wheelchair user and myself commented on a jetty that is to be built straight out into the water, only 1.4m wide and with no larger platform at the end.
Rotorua Lakes has a so called "Rotorua Access Group" chaired by the CCS Disability Action BoP Access Coordinator, a position currently vacant. The officer said they had consulted with the group, but it appears a very brief look over by the access coordinator was considered adequate consultation with the disability community. Both myself and the other disabled person did not recall anything from previous meetings. Hence it appears any consultation was merely an excuse to 'rubber stamp' their design.
Another issue occurred when we sought a bit of shelter from the rain. Although the nearby cafe had a covered area we could have used, no attempt had been made to install an improved ramp to the front entrance, leaving the only disabled access via a rear entry which was very narrow and blocked by builders' materials and other debris. Surely any definition of "reasonable accommodation" in these circumstances would have included working with the cafe owner to improve access, and should be a part of the cafe's license to operate. We ended up getting wet in the rain.
There are many other restaurants and cafes without level access, or where there is alternative access via ramps that have been blocked by miscellaneous items, often chairs and tables. One example in Rotorua is the 'Pig and Whistle' bar, in Tutanekai Street, which has no access to the inside or to toilets from their accessible area at ground level. Level access for wheelchair users, to a decent accessible toilet, should be a requirement for all restaurants and cafes where customers can be expected to eat on the premises.
These sorts of barriers will never be adequately addressed unless some degree of legislative compulsion is put in place. We absolutely need improved access laws in New Zealand.
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.