“Everyone with access needs – including disabled people, older people, Māori, migrants, people with English as a second language, and those with temporary injuries - must have an equal opportunity to live life without being hindered by barriers to participation.”
My name is John. I’m from Bluff. And I believe every word of this statement, so aptly expressed by the Access Alliance. People with access needs absolutely deserve an equal opportunity to live life without constantly having to try to overcome problems and difficulties on a daily basis.
We don't serve their kind here
My elderly mother, who is a wheelchair user, was a regular customer at a hair salon in Invercargill, until recently. The business is owned by a married couple. We were told by the husband that they could no longer serve my mother because he almost dropped another elderly customer while trying to lift her off her wheelchair onto the salon chair, and they didn’t want the same thing happening to my mother.
Something wasn’t right, so I took the matter to the Human Rights Commission who communicated with the husband, while I spoke with his wife during the process. I was very disappointed to learn that the husband’s story was different from the one that his wife told me. I made it clear that what they were doing was discrimination against the elderly, but they didn’t care. I didn’t take the matter further with the Human Rights Commission because I believed I could sort this out with the couple in good faith, especially since my mother had been a loyal customer.
No one is interested
I then took my concerns to the media, but no one was interested. I’ve also spoken to some disability services in Invercargill and they have been aware of issues with the hair salon. I feel helpless that I can’t get justice for my mother, and I feel like she has no voice.
My mother’s story is just one of many that involves people who are hindered by systemic barriers. This is why Accessibility Legislation is essential.
Accessibility Legislation is the answer
Accessibility Legislation would uphold the rights of every Kiwi with an access need by holding the system accountable. It will make people think twice as to whether or not their actions would be in violation of the law. I, along with many others, would be greatly comforted knowing that an enforceable law protects people like my mother whenever they are confronted with an accessibility barrier.
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.