Ever since becoming a powerchair user, in my last year of primary school, I have experienced countless barriers to everyday activities and events. I remember when my family and I went to a function for my Dad's work at a local softball club ...
There were stairs at one end and a big step at the other end of the room where we were going to have a shared meal. A few men offered to lift the powerchair and me over the step and I politely declined, letting them know how heavy the powerchair is. They decided to try to lift me in anyway and I was afraid that they might break something: either my chair, or me, or themselves!
This year I am starting university study with the aim of getting a BA in Psychology. So far, the study has been online but lectures will be starting back in person soon. The student disability service is very helpful and welcoming. My access issue is to do with the built environment, which I am hoping will improve in the next few years when new buildings are completed.
The largest disabled bathroom at the University is not quite big enough for my equipment and me. In order to use this undersized bathroom my family carer would need to bring in my portable hoist and commode chair, and I would need to buy a change table, which is both expensive and difficult to store and transport. The space is also available for other disabled students who would bring and store whatever equipment they need.
The solution to this dilemma would be the construction of a Changing Places-style toilet. However, this could only be incorporated into new buildings at the University, rather than the existing facilities that I will be using when I start attending lectures.
In the meantime, I will have to go home for toilet breaks. This type of issue is not new to me. Every school I have attended has had these sorts of issues, which can take years to resolve. At high school, one of the accessible renovations was only finished a few weeks before my graduation. Obviously, it wasn't a waste as it will accommodate future disabled students, but it's sad to think of all the times that I missed out on having an accessible environment that would have allowed me more freedom and time to spend learning and with my peers.
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.