More aware­ness would help

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By OLIVIA SHIVAS

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.

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