I experienced an access barrier when I tried to cross the road in Central Wellington. I couldn't cross the road safely without getting my feet soaked.
There is an awful crossing near the New World supermarket, with no tactile markers, and the signal pole is miles from the curb cut. So, as a blind person, I have to feel for the tactile signal, jump, and line myself up as best I can with only the signal box to give me an idea of the best angle to safely cross the road. If I get it right, there is a massive puddle that involves climbing over the edge of a garden to avoid. If I get it wrong, I have a choice between standing in fast traffic or navigating a short ledge into a muddy garden bed.
Crossing the road in Welly is a 'fun' little game of Russian roulette. Will there be tactile markers on the footpath or will it be a curving corner that directs me into the path of traffic? Will I cross this five lane road, or end up balancing on a silly little road triangle? Will the footpath be completely impassable with roadworks? Who knows? Let's 'play'!
EVERY street should be accessible. We don't put up signs saying, "No Disabled People Allowed In This Part Of The City!" So stop putting up infrastructure that says exactly the same thing.
Needless to say, walking anywhere in Welly is stressful as heck. And on this particular day, my shoes did end up getting very wet. But at least I survived to tell the tale.
We need accessibility legislation in Aotearoa New Zealand that requires accessible public infrastructure ... yes, even in our capital city of Wellington! This must include tactile markers at ALL pedestrian crossings, traffic light crossings and corner curb cuts. The law must require councils to actually check infrastructure for accessibility. Why should I have to report hundreds of individual lapses in access through the Council app, one by one? (Especially when I then receive a phone call at some ungodly hour of the morning regarding every single incident.) I don't mind reporting the odd fault. But if you want a full accessibility audit of the city, then hire me properly, guarantee to fix the access barrier issues, and pay me for my mahi.
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.
What's your story?
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