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Waipa leads the way

Gerri Pomeroy returns to talk about a very exciting report her, Roger and Taylored Accessibility Solutions have done for the Waipa District Council. This report has the potential to make the Waipa District a better place to live for everyone. We need more councils to follow Waipa’s lead.

It can be difficult convincing transport planners and politicians to adequately consider how people with different mobility needs move around their communities. Often disabled people can be invisible in debates about transport and infrastructure, especially when there is pressure to reduce costs. There are, however, large hidden costs that come from having people unable to easily and safely use pedestrian routes and mobility parking spaces to access facilities and services in their community.

This is why; we were so pleased, when the Waipa District Council asked us to do an accessibility report for them. The report looked at how easy it was for people with mobility needs to get around the central areas of townships in the Waipa District. It was great to see that the Waipa District Council takes the needs of all its residents seriously. The Waipa District has a high proportion of elderly and very young residents. Many of these people need mobility aids and require safe and level footpaths.

We teamed up with, Hamilton based, Taylored Accessibility Solutions to produce the report. Together, we talked to local people and carried out inspections. Overall, what we found was largely positive. The Council, businesses and residents had worked together to create spaces that were attractive and accessible, particularly the shopping areas in Cambridge, Leamington, Pirongia, and Te Awamutu.

The majority of footpaths on the major roads were of a good width. Most business owners were also considerate with the placement of advertising and outside dining. This not only made the footpath far more accessible to people will mobility needs, but also more pleasant for everyone else. The community clearly appreciates the efforts being made by the Council to tackle social issues, and have pride in their towns.

We did find numerous areas for improvement. No matter how good regulations and professionals are, there is no substitute for the real life experience of people with mobility needs. It is very easy for people without mobility needs to overlook the small, but very significant details that can have a large impact of whether people can get around their community or not.

The report contains numerous recommendations for the Council. Most of which are low cost, but, as they are implemented over time, will have a large positive impact on people with mobility needs.

We are proud of the report, however, as Churchill said,

“Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

The Waipa District Council has shown that it takes the needs of all of its residents seriously. It is time for other councils and the New Zealand Transport Agency to show they do too. To do this, we need both disabled people and non-disabled people to come together to convince councils and the New Zealand Transport Agency to serve the whole community.

How do you think we can best do this?