I am Renata & this is my daughter Te Akau. She is my world and the dearest part of my life.
By sharing my experience of purchasing a stroller for my baby I hope to highlight the importance of listening and how attitudinal barriers impact on accessibility.
My intent is to challenge society about their attitude toward me as a mother with disability. I hope I can help to develop more understanding that having a physical impairment doesn’t mean you don’t have the desire or the capacity to be a good parent.
I have Cerebral Palsy, so for me it is crucial to try before buying. “Can this stroller be folded with one hand?, Is it lightweight? Is the suspension good enough so my baby will sleep despite my bouncy walking?” My process was to look online – eliminate the “no go’s” & then go in store to try and find the best option.
Mostly staff ignored me. Sometimes they’d ask if I was OK or comment that whatever I was looking at was cute and would make a lovely baby shower gift. In contrast, I noticed other customers got all the ooh’s and aaah’s under the sun. “Oh your first baby! Congratulations! Boy or girl?”
When they finally spoke to me long enough to realise that I was an expectant first time mother, the reaction was very different. One assistant even went as far as saying “Wow I didn’t think you would be having a baby?!”
As I got further along and it was obvious I was pregnant the default reaction changed. Looks of shock or pity, sometimes fear. I would then almost unfailingly be led to the specials section.
Do you know how incredibly frustrating it is to try and buy something specific only to have someone disregard what you ask then proceed to demonstrate unsuitable, cheap products and try to sell you things in ugly bright colours?
It’s exhausting to constantly advocate for oneself, particularly when the other party seems incapable of listening. Many levels of discrimination were in evidence, particularly an assumption that I had no business having a baby. In addition, staff assumed that because I had a disability I couldn’t afford high quality baby products, and also that I had no taste in regards their colour or style.
Accessibility legislation should require education and training for the retail sector so disabled people are treated with equality and dignity.
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.