Living in a rural area and having a disability makes access to most types of disability service or medical support difficult. Susan tells her story.
When I lived in a rural area service provision was at times almost non-existent. As my sight deteriorated, the Blind Foundation provided me with increasing services such as O&M instruction so I could negotiate our hilly farm safely, and I had a guide dog assessment. My daughter, who has an intellectual disability diagnosed at birth, received no visits or services until she was 3. When I moved back to the city after many years living on a farm I was extremely surprised by the number of services which were provided by disability service organisations for urban members. When my talking book machine refused to work, a replacement was provided the same day, I did not have to wait three weeks. I received O&M instruction as often as I requested it, and was invited to meetings and to join groups where I could meet other blind and vision impaired people.
Today disability support services are increasingly provided at a central location, usually in the nearest large city. Disabled people are expected to travel for services, this is often impossible. Farmers and farm workers are often unavailable or uninterested in providing transport, a car may not be available and financially a trip to a city can put extreme strain on a limited budget. Public transport is unavailable. Farm emergencies can mean that long-awaited appointments have to be cancelled and people have to wait many months to attend a rescheduled meeting. In rural areas, disabled people, particularly women, are viewed as a burden and expected to accept their diminished farm role, often without any type of family or outside support.
A re-think of the centralisation and funding of disability support for rural people should be an essential part of accessibility legislation. This would ensure rural people receive the same level of access and support that urban people with disabilities expect.
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.