I'm 22 and I want to be able to tell my future kids that the law in Aotearoa is clear: it says that accessibility is a priority, and as such, recognises that we deserve access to the premises and services of business, education providers, construction workers and transport operators as much as every other New Zealander. We want the freedom to live our lives how we choose; we want to use our time and energy to contribute to the economy and our communities.
One in four Kiwis have a disability and face barriers in their day-to-day lives – many of which involve difficulty accessing buildings and public spaces, public transport, education, employment, information, and services. When we encounter these barriers, it is currently up to us to fight for them to be removed, repaired, or remediated. Having to grapple with these is exhausting. One day at university, I got stuck in a lift because the Braille I needed to be able to touch on the buttons was covered by a thick sheet of plastic. While stuck there, I got thinking: how great would it be if we had a legally-binding system in New Zealand that focused on proactively ensuring our vibrant country is equally accessible to everyone, instead of relying on us as disabled individuals to prove we've been discriminated against and have to wrestle with one barrier after another? It's time to change the system.
I am part of the Access Matters campaign, a coalition of disabled people, disability organisations, and our supporters who are mobilising to challenge all political parties to be proactive about accessibility by committing to introduce mandatory and enforceable accessibility legislation and standards. Accessibility is too important to be swamped down by party politics; now is the time for consensus.
This is my access story, it is one of many. I'm sharing it because I want a law that puts accessibility at the heart of an inclusive Aotearoa New Zealand.