Going to the hospital and having surgery is traumatic enough – imagine your diagnosis and treatment information isn't presented to you in a format that is accessible, that hospital staff don’t have adequate tools required to communicate with you, and that the waiting rooms overload your senses.
This is the case for me and tens of thousands of other Autistics and people with neurodiverse needs around the country.
Whenever I have appointments at the hospital, emergency department, with hospital staff, and my support workers I am faced with the same barriers.
Ahead of recent surgery I was faced with inaccessible information about my upcoming surgery and staff that did not understand my Augmentative Alternative Communication needs. I was left waiting unsupported for ages in an environment that was not sensory-friendly causing me to head bang and self-bite while other members of the public could see me in distress.
I want an Accessibility for New Zealanders Act so we can have mandatory minimum standards for access to healthcare.
Hospitals could have sensory friendly rooms for patients waiting to be to be seen, where there is supervision from nurses. Staff should be trained in how to communication with an individual who uses Augmentative Alternative Communication. The Emergency Department should have available basic visual symbols board for AAC users to communicate what we need.
Hospitals should develop easy read brochures on medical treatment and diagnosis and for it to be accessible on a national website as well.
An accessibility for New Zealanders Act means safe and equal access to healthcare 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.