Erin Gough: My accessible journey

Erin Gough: My accessible journey

September 23, 2015

Today is my fifth day living in Wellington. Before now, I’ve only visited two or three times for a couple of days at a time. 

Aside from the not-so-ideal weather (people aren’t joking when they call it the Windy City!), I am loving the city so far. I’ve enjoyed browsing the markets, checking out the Beehive and the Courts, and starting to work my way through the long list of cafes recommended by locals and Wellington-visiting friends. 

While having so much to explore has been fun, the highlight for me has been the friendliness of people.

It started as soon as I boarded the plane. Air New Zealand transported my two wheelchairs (one powered and very heavy!) and assorted add-ons without issue and ensured I could take my powerchair to and from the plane door which was a lot easier than having to be pushed in a manual chair.

It continued when my friend and I were picked up at the airport and taken to my new home in a wheelchair cab. The driver loaded everything in quickly, made sure my Christchurch Total Mobility card worked, gave me his business card for future trips, and helped my friend with the luggage up to my floor. 

The next day, my friend and I set off to get the basics one needs when they move to a new city. All the shop assistants we spoke to were attentive in making sure I could get around their stores and get everything I needed. They were also very interested in hearing I had just moved to Wellington, were apologetic about the weather, and had their own tips and tricks to share 

My friend went home to Christchurch that evening leaving me to explore solo. Armed with a smartphone, I have mostly relied on GPS to get around in the days since, but sometimes even Google can’t compete with local knowledge. My flatmate, Alex, a Wellington local, has really helped me settle in.

When I’ve been out by myself, people have been very happy to give me directions to accessible routes, give me a hand when a building isn’t fully accessible, and offer their take on Wellington’s best hotspots when I tell them I am new to town.

While we must continue to work towards a fully accessible society rather than expect disabled people to rely on the help of others, to me, the friendliness and respect I have been subject to should be the norm for all people.

Leaving Christchurch and all the supports I have there has been and will continue to be difficult, particularly as a disabled person because there is so much more to think about.

But people’s willingness to lend a hand when needed without treating me differently has certainly made things easier and enabled me to exercise my rights to move freely and feel safe in a new place.

I am looking forward to beginning my work at the Human Rights Commission and helping to ensure all disabled people have their rights respected as I have so far. Absolutely, positively Wellington indeed!

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If you enjoyed this blog post you might like to read her blog about two people refusing to leave the Wheelchair-Accessible Area on a train in Melbourne. 

Erin Gough

Erin is the Commission's Disability focused Human Rights Specialist.

The Commission works for a free, fair, safe and just New Zealand, where diversity is valued and human dignity and rights are respected.

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