When a kerb is more than a kerb

When a kerb is more than a kerb

June 2, 2016

Dragging yourself to work on a chilly Wellington morning is hard enough as it is without having to contend with a kerb that stops you from crossing the road. Simply getting to where you need to be isn’t easy when you have a disability. Seven Sharp’s Kristin Hall recently spent some time with Human Rights specialist Erin Gough navigating her way around the streets of Wellington.

One of the places where Erin often gets stuck is after crossing Bowen Street at the end of The Terrace, the kerb is too steep for her – or anyone else’s – power chair.

Erin shrugs and points at the Beehive only metres away.

“There’s parliament over there as well, where all the decisions get made and I can’t even get there so it’s a bit ironic and sums it all up really.”

Erin says she contacted Wellington City Council to let them know.

“They said they were aware of it, they’d look into it but they wouldn’t be doing anything until other roadworks had been done.  They couldn’t tell me when this was likely to happen.”

Facing challenges like this aren’t unusual and she is used to asking for help from strangers which can be awkward.

“I don’t know them, they don’t know me, it’s a bit of an intimate thing for them to be able to grab onto my chair and they’re not totally sure of what to do.”

When it comes to public transport the challenges are also real.

Ben O’Meara is blind and he holds up a sign that identifies what bus he needs to take.  He says when he was younger he was too embarrassed to do that. He thinks it would be fab if there could be a way for buses to be announced so he can hear them and know his is on the way.

Meanwhile Erin reports that some buses drive past or refuse to let her on, saying that “the ramp doesn’t work or someone with a pram is already on board.”

Buses here only take one wheelchair at a time which Erin says isn’t ideal.

“There’s been times when there’s been three of us going out in three separate buses which means you end up arriving way after everyone else.”

Seven Sharp also stood by and filmed Erin trying to catch a taxi.  The taxi drivers at the stand had no idea how to help.  When she rang them the taxi companies had no mobility vans available at all – with one saying they don’t have any on Mondays anyway.  This impacts on her work life and she says just getting to meetings is problematic.  She turns up to some meetings hours earlier than she needs to be there and stays hours later than she needs to as well – all because of mobility problems.

The Human Rights Commission has made a submission to the Inquiry into the Future of New Zealand’s Mobility. You can find out more about the inquiry here.


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