Daniel Te’o is a staff member at Blind Low Vision NZ who is blind due to Retinitis Pigmentosa, a condition which causes vision loss. Daniel is grateful to have the support he needs to carry on with his daily life, especially now during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, he has serious concerns about how the move to Alert Level 3 will impact others living with an access need in our community.
“The COVID-19 pandemic highlights the importance for our community to access services and to be adequately supported to do so,” said Daniel. “People with access needs must have the same access as other Kiwis to do grocery shopping, pay bills, carry on their work or study and conduct their daily lives. In fact, for them, it is more important as they may be most affected. In many cases, they lack any assurance that their basic needs will be consistently met.
“Blind and low vision customers will be particularly disadvantaged because businesses are not obligated to make their online services fully accessible,” says Daniel.
“With New Zealand’s move to Alert Level 3 lockdown, businesses are operating through online shopping. This could create more barriers for people who rely on online shopping and delivery services as more competition creates bottlenecks. The demand for shopping online will increase to the point where those who need it the most could be pushed out of the market,” said Daniel. “This will prevent people with access needs from buying essential products such as winter wear and bedding, household items and takeaways that are ready to eat.”
Accessibility Legislation should put in place rules and regulations that will help protect the rights and well-being of every New Zealander with or without a disability, especially in times of a nationwide crisis. Though the focus is on those with access needs, the legislation will create a more inclusive New Zealand by lifting economic and social outcomes for everyone.
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.