Commissioner challenges others to follow Waikato lead

Chief Human Rights Commissioner Rosslyn Noonan has challenged local authorities throughout New Zealand to follow the example set by Hamilton in ensuring the CBD and beyond bus service is accessible for all people, but in particular people with disabilities.

"I am sure that this will set a benchmark against which to measure how well public transport organisations serve everyone in their communities by removing the barriers to public transport," she said at the launch of the Accessible Journeys trial in Hamilton.

The project has been a model for collaboration, bringing together bus operator Go Bus, the CCS Disability Action Group, Environment Waikato, Hamilton City Council, The Human Rights Commission, Land Transport New Zealand and the Royal NZ Foundation for the Blind. The Commission’s inquiry into public transport for people with disabilities, The Accessible Journey, was a catalyst for the project.

Ms Noonan singled out two people, Kevin Churchill and Gerri Pomeroy as "human rights heroes" for their patient and well-judged advocacy work for people with disabilities as members of the Waikato Regional Land Transport Committee at the project launch on 25 July. She acknowledged the support of the Minister of Disability Issues Ruth Dyson who took an active interest in the pilot project.

The Accessible Journeys team researched bus network standards around the world and applied this information to make a series of small changes that have resulted in major gains for accessibility.

Two CBD Shuttle buses have been retrofitted with new seating layouts, and audio and visual equipment. Also, bus stops en route have been modified with new kerb heights and angles to assist with boarding the buses.

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