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Reflections on Access for All

 

 

CCS_DA_Photography by Scott Boardman Collective-2834

 

Roger Loveless is new to the Rotorua area and as a prior Access Coordinator for CCS Disability Action he’d like to see a greater understanding from city planners that there are other disabilities besides physical that need to be considered.

Reflections on Access for All

By Roger Loveless

For some reason when I am out and about I cannot help myself. I am always looking at the environment from a disability perspective, and seeing the barriers people face. All too often it takes a serious accident or near miss for those with the resources to remedy what are often minor changes that could significantly improve access.

  • I see a vision impaired person entering a shop to ask someone to escort him across a busy intersection to get to his destination.
  • I see someone’s grandmother knocked over and fatally injured where there is now a refuge that should have been built years earlier.
  • I see the frustration in a young and excited child’s eyes who could not negotiate a rocky path in a nature reserve due to his disability and had fallen over.
  • I see people who have learnt, or even been taught, to keep safe by severely limiting their involvement in society to avoid the risk of accident and injury.
  • I have spoken to young people who seek freedom to make their own decisions, and to reduce dependence on their parents.
  • I don’t see vision impaired people in many locations. I wonder if it’s because they find it impossible to navigate safely around our towns.
  • I have sensed the joy of getting back at least some independence when my first electric wheelchair was delivered, and also being able to afford a vehicle which I can drive to my destination.
  • I rejoice when I follow the lives of severely disabled people on social media completing their education and travelling to exotic places.
  • I have been delighted by the responses of severely disabled people working with their carers in Hamilton’s hydrotherapy pool.
  • It has been great to see engineers and planners realise it is possible to include access issues within their priorities in the same way as other issues.

So what does access mean to you?

Many engineers and other professionals rely on standards, for example NZS 4121, or RTS14, to meet their obligations, and fail to consult with the people who will use their designs. It’s great having compliant ramps, but if they merely take you to an inaccessible track, wouldn’t the resources have been better allocated elsewhere?

Do our decision makers like their names associated with significant projects while accepting there may be lots of small issues still creating barriers to our most vulnerable? Is this a result of possibly misguided attempts by government to direct funds through subsidies to projects that attract good publicity?

Does it matter that persons with disabilities actually use the facilities provided for them? Why don’t we count persons with disabilities out and about?

Evidence is something that is hard to find to support better access. It’s all very well to state how much has been, or will be, spent on access improvements, but what was the process of determining the need? Good asset management starts with determining what level of service we wish to provide. There are always limits beyond which it is just not practical to provide access for all, but there is nothing wrong with trying to push those limits. We also need to recognise the different capabilities of the people we wish to include, and also how comfortable they are with asking for assistance. Clearly it is impossible to upgrade New Zealand’s famous tramps to cater for electric wheelchairs, but DOC have proved it possible for everyone to be given a taste of our beautiful bush. Whereas a physical disability may make access impossible, other disabilities often will not.

One area where evidence is lacking is in the value, in dollar terms, of the benefits of better access. Just because this is difficult, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

Wellbeing is important for everyone, as those lobbying for a better deal well know.

  • Physical wellbeing. How do we value specialist exercise facilities that give those with limited capabilities at least some opportunity to participate in physical activity? Do we see the cost of a facility, or do we see the increased value to disadvantaged people enjoying the facility and contributing to society?
  • Mental wellbeing. How do we ensure everyone feels valued and can contribute meaningfully to society? Do we measure the cost to society of our horrific suicide rate, or stand alongside people as they cope with the inevitable traumas of life and move through despair?
  • Cultural wellbeing. Diversity and a sense of belonging are important to us all. Do we celebrate our differences by encouraging everyone to be involved in a safe and accepting way?

Access to transport options.

  • Some people have impairments that mean they cannot drive. Can they use public transport, including buses, taxis, trains, planes and ferries as cost effective alternatives?
  • As our population ages and the incidence of disability rises, are we prepared to upgrade our old and tired footpaths to make them safe for everyone?
  • Is New Zealand’s current mantra that the invisible hand of the market will work to justify the costs of better access appropriate?
  • Should our tourism industry be required to provide at least limited numbers of buses that can accommodate wheelchairs? What about intercity transport?
  • Must we depend on charity and volunteers to get persons with disabilities to medical appointments?

 

Let’s all make a New Year resolution for 2018 to improve access for all by engaging with our transport and commercial decision makers.

 

3 Responses to “Reflections on Access for All”

  1. Paul Arnott says:

    Hi, one of the barriers I am concerned about is the lack of access to swimming pools. Apparently the rule is that the buildings are required to be accessible but not the pools themselves. Often the hoists are old, poorly maintained, lack of trained staff, lack of staff and the hoist/sling type are antiquated and inhumane. We need greater standards in access in public swimming pools!

  2. Accessibility is not about cost its about a change of attitude by those (1%), those that borrow money in our names and are seen treating the most vulnerable badly.

    No research aside from attention is needed to make changes in consciousness.We can see the problems.

    Everyday we can see problems with accessibility (and needs of the “vulnerable”) .

    Physical: Why are people not saying non disabled persons must “contribute”?
    Does John Key selling our national assets mean his negative financial contribution to the people of NZ is a good thing!!!Oh he contributed to the privatization whats so good about contributing to insanity and poverty.

    Mental: most people are insane.
    Cultural: A set of beliefs that can change with trends ( overvalued concept and limiting)

    • Yes that concept “contributing” is a Govt word and does not mean anything without context.
      Even the most vulnerable ” contributes” by their very being. If they need 24/7 care and their care costs they provide an opportunity for compassion and loving kindness that exceeds other contributions such as working for a company or corporation’s profits.

      In the issues of transport and access we need to abandon the corporate incomplete cost benefit model (*the govt doesn’t use one anymore).
      And consider if you will the culture of a corporate mentality ( where I fear this word ” contribute equals ” tax paying “).
      Being Cost effective is not what a human beings life is about ( the govt is not even “cost effective” and has built up record debt while it talks about the financial costs of the growing numbers with disability and mental illness)
      Lets not pretend that having the govt (as the biggest discriminator )that govt (MOH and ACC ) sets up a top down flow of unfairness, inequalities and does not care about the vulnerable .
      Middle men ( enable and accessable are not cost effective they are a bureaucratic process) sucking money out of the health system between govt funding and the disabled person cost cutting through not providing disability needs to all disabled people.

      Needs of the vulnerable are not being funded by govt, needs such as access.
      Yes we can see this and we need to see clearly the problems if we wish to fix them.
      Totally agree, the state of mind of the govts ” city planners” and the ” disability service providers and funders needs to change and be more human less corporate.

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