Come with me on a journey. I want to go to the city to do some shopping. I’m Deaf (I communicate in NZSL) and I’m Blind (I have a guide dog).
To save money, let’s take the bus. Oh no! I can’t go by bus because my local bus takes me to the bus hub where multiple buses stop and I can’t see the bus numbers or ask people for help.
Maybe change plans and go to the mall instead. My local bus stops there. Oh no! I can’t get into the mall because there is a free left turn at the traffic lights so there is no vibrating pad to let me know I can cross.
Try a communication card asking for help … yay, 40 minutes later and finally someone helps me cross onto the footpath. Oh no, now I can’t cross through the mall carpark to get into the mall. Try a communication card again … another 30 minutes before someone stops to help.
I try to get money from my bank’s ATM – oh no, it’s touch screen and touch screens don’t work with my skin condition. Lucky I had a little cash with me. Finally shopping’s over, again it’s a waiting game, using communication cards to escape from the mall. I can’t find my bus at the bus hub, and even if I could, I can’t access the timetable info so I’ll try walking home.
Oh, a gust of wind close to me, what was that? It made my guide dog stop suddenly and I got hit on my shoulder – oh no, it’s a combined cycleway / footpath and that cyclist was going really fast.
By the time I get home, it’s been six hours and all I wanted was a tube of ointment from a chemist. I haven’t even had time for lunch.
Yes, Driving Miss Daisy could drop me at the mall, but I can’t afford it when I have medical appointments to get to as well. Yes, I could rely on family, but I want to be independent.
Thank you for going shopping with me. Compared to a trip to my hospital appointments, this journey to the mall has been easy.
In my journey, I faced a number of different barriers. Together they are stressful. Some are a matter of educating the public about the importance of stopping to check if someone with a communication card needs help. But regarding the road crossings, the number of zebra crossings that have lights could be majorly increased in transport regulations under an accessibility law. All ATMs should be required by law to have physical buttons, not just touch-screens, and also audio for blind people who aren’t Deafblind.
Changing the law alone isn’t a silver bullet, but I would welcome an Accessibility Act. It has the potential to make it easier for me to get around on a daily basis with greater independence and less stress.
This is my access story, it is one of many. I'm sharing it because I want a law that puts accessibility at the heart of an inclusive Aotearoa New Zealand.