More awareness would help
You wouldn’t know Grace Lee was disabled if you met her without her walking frame.
Grace was born with a mild form of cerebral palsy and has just started her first year of university.
The 18-year-old’s disability is not obvious at a glance, so she uses a walking frame so people take care not to bump into her.
She was hoping the bus would be her main form of transport but the frame is bulky and not easy to get on to buses with.
More space should be available on buses for people with disabilities, she says.
‘‘Most buses are not spacious enough. I often have to wait for the next bus which means I would be late to wherever I’m going.
‘‘My life would be made so much easier if able-bodied people who use the bus were more aware in general.’’
The AUT student feels safer using the frame.
‘‘People don’t notice my disability, especially when people are rushing. They could bump into me and I would fall over.’’
Grace is sharing her story because she wants Auckland Transport and bus companies to do more to make buses accessible to people with disabilities.
CCS Disability Action advisor Vivian Naylor says progress with accessible public transport has been made in the past five years which is positive. But there is room for improvement, she says.
‘‘One of the main things needed is training and the comfort that the bus driver knows what they’re doing.’’
Cerebral Palsy Society manager Michael Northcott says more can be done for disabled people who fre- quently use public transport.
‘‘The bus drivers have a right to say ‘no’, which I find quite interesting,’’ Mr Northcott says.
He says Grace may fit into the Total Mobility Scheme, under which people with mobility issues can receive 50 per cent off taxis (up to $40). Even with the discount, taxis are expensive for Grace. Shane McMahon from NZ Bus says the only reason Grace would be turned away is if the bus is already full.
He also says the company has not received enough official complaints about mobility access to warrant changing the layout and space inside buses.
Ms Naylor says it’s the bus drivers’ attitudes that need to change.
‘‘They need to accept if someone is asking for [the bus to kneel], they are asking for a reason,’’ Ms Naylor says.
Better access: Grace Lee says bus companies and bus drivers should try harder to make using buses easier for disabled people.