News and opinions on disability
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To our future New Zealand Government

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Ruth Jones (Chairperson for, Earthquake Disability Leadership Group or EDLG) has written an opinion piece asking the ‘future government of NZ ‘ what they will do to ensure accessibility is achieved in the regeneration of Canterbury.

I am a business owner and employer, I am involved in several charities, I volunteer in my community, I am Ngāti Porou, I am a wife, sister, daughter, aunty and I am also a wheelchair user. Here in Christchurch we have been given an amazing opportunity post-quake to rebuild our city. This is an unprecedented task and although it has many challenges I am excited by the chance to create a city that I can be a part of.

Although the term Accessible Christchurch has been bandied around a lot as part of this rebuild – for me it does not mean traffic flows, cycle lanes or bus routes. It means the ability to get into, around and out of the places I use daily, independently and easily. It is not important to me that the new Convention Centre or Central City Library or Metro Sports Facility wins an architectural award for its fancy look. It is important to me that I can get on stage and present at a conference at the Convention Centre, meet a friend for a coffee at the library and have a spa after I’ve completed my Aquasize class at the new Metro Sports complex. All without the need for some ‘look at me’ hoisting device that requires two staff members and a 25-page manual to figure out how to make it work.

I really don’t believe that what I want is that different to what everyone else in Christchurch wants as we rebuild this magnificent city. We are all striving for a city that we can use, work or go to school in, shop in, visit, socialise or play in.

However, do you as the Future Government of New Zealand realise that we are attempting to create this incredible city with a Building Act and relevant standards that are over 16-years old. Yes, that’s right Standard 4121 Design for Access and Mobility was published in 2001. In 2001 there were no smart phones, no Facebook / Twitter / Instagram, double glazing wasn’t compulsory (until 2007 if you please) and Australia were the Bledisloe and Tri Nations champions (what the!).

We are creating a brand-new city, a brand-new city in 2017 that will still be in play in 2067. Do you think in 2067 that it will be acceptable to have an accessible entrance to a building that is only around the back? Will it be acceptable to have doors widths so narrow that you can’t fit a wheelchair, walker, pushchair, delivery trolley through? Or so heavy that you need to be body builder to open them. Will it be acceptable to have offices or restaurants or bars on the second floor of a building with no lift access?

I don’t believe what I am asking of the Future New Zealand Government to be a particularly onerous, controversial or costly task. I am simply asking for practicable solutions to ensure that I, as a citizen and voter, can contribute to this society.

So Future New Zealand Government – what you will do?

Ruth Jones

2 Responses to “To our future New Zealand Government”

  1. Vicki Terrell says:

    Hi this is a great piece of writing very clear or concise about what access means! Great Ruth thank you

  2. Absolutely Ruth, the disaster hid an opportunity for the govt and private businesses to create and improve accessibility in the new buildings of Christchurch for all to use.
    Its not good enough for the “same old govt” to just talk about “inclusive NZ” and disability policy its time they “just do it” and so lead the way.
    How hard is it to slip an “accessibility” question into the resource consent process, an initial council process before building that should consider access.

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