Let me start by stating how grateful I am to have been featured on the front page of the Dominion Post today ( 10th January 2017) – it came as quite a surprise to me when I woke up and found my inbox full of messages from across the other side of the globe, letting me know. I do, however, want to set the record straight on a couple of points.
I was asked by my friend Emily Yates to write a short, three hundred word summary, on a city of my choosing that I thought rated highly in respect to accessibility – which I knew would then be used in a piece for The Independent. I did not, at any time, state that I thought Wellington was the most ‘accessible city in the world’, although I did decide to go with Wellington as my choice of accessible destination on the basis of my own personal experiences whilst in the city.
Let’s be clear on one thing – no city is ever 100% accessible for all. Wherever you go in the world, should you have any sort of access needs, you’re going to come up against obstacles at some point or other.
People often seem to forget that the term ‘reasonable adjustment’ in respect to making buildings more accessible, is just that – reasonable adjustment. The term loosely protects listed buildings and/or buildings that would require severe reconstruction work in order to be deemed ‘accessible’. It’s just a fact of life – some buildings won’t be accessible, and with that, some restaurants, bars, cafes, places of work etc. will be extremely difficult for a disabled individual to enter. Wellington is no exception to this, and there are many areas that still require work – even little things, like when the main toilet doors at Wellington Station were closed and I used to have to sit and wait until someone was exiting before I could quickly sneak in whilst the door was still temporarily ajar.
Also, I’d be a fool to say that Wellington’s naturally hilly terrain isn’t tough on the old shoulders when getting about, but I stand by (excuse the pun) my claims that logistically Wellington is great – with electronic boards that notify you when the next low-level bus is arriving and excellent staff help on most local trains in and out of the CBD, I really did feel like I was spoilt for choice.
Out of all the city’s I’ve been to across the world, Wellington is by far leading the way when it comes to ensuring access is a high priority. Since I left the city in May 2016, I’ve seen wonderful progress continue to be made by the likes of Erin Gough – a Wellingtonian disability rights activist and all round super woman – who is striving to make every last stretch of New Zealand’s capital accessible for all.
From the massive array of services offered to disabled visitors at The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, to the simple fact you can pick up a mobility scooter to use around the city, for free, by simply visiting the Wellington City Council building down by the water front – I really feel like Wellington has a boat load to offer, not to mention the fact it’s one hell of a trendy city with breath-taking scenic views!
I think Wellington is fantastic, and also an extremely inclusive city, and that’s why I felt it richly deserved a mention in the list of top destinations to travel to in 2017 if you’re disabled.
If you would like to read the article that accompanied my face on the front page of the Dominion Post then you can do so by clicking HERE!
I’ll be creating an Accessible Guide to Wellington eBook later this year – so stay tuned for that!