John is a senior reporter at the Bay of Plenty Times

Poor planning 'causing problems for disabled'

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A Tauranga disabled access advocate wants the city council to be more alert for potential footpath hazards when it signs off new commercial developments.

CCS Disability Action's access co-ordinator Mandy Gudgeon highlighted several instances where people with disabilities were confronted with obstacles that should have been anticipated in the planning stage of a building.

Councillors were shown a photo of a footpath altered after the construction phase of a recent Pyes Pa retail development to allow a flush entrance into shop doorways.

"This consequential unacceptable design, reminiscent of an older Papamoa development, now requires people using the footpath to travel on an uneven surface."

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Ms Gudgeon said the footpath presented a challenge for people with poor or no vision and those in wheelchairs, on walking frames or mothers with prams.

"This is only one example of essential details being omitted at design stage where architects, developers and council inspectorate staff do not appreciate the impact of such omissions."

She said the council's building services team had experienced significant personnel changes, with staff employed to cope with growth.

"It is critical that this team and planning services clearly understand their obligations under the Building Act... and seek proactive barrier-free design advice to ensure new commercial, retail and public space developments are inclusive for all."

Another photo was of a lamp post directly in front of the entrance to a Cameron Rd pharmacy.

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She surprised councillors by saying that the lamp post was there before the building.

Ms Gudgeon also showed a photo of a bus that needed a portable step for the many elderly and disabled cruise ship passengers to access the bus.

"It is disappointing that the buses used to ferry passengers this year were less than desirable from an access perspective."

She then produced her council water bill and highlighted how the font and light blue printing on white paper was difficult for people with low vision.

CCS Disability Action offered its services to work alongside council project managers to check designs.

Its submissions to the council's 2016-17 Annual Plan included that building and planning services received priority training on disability awareness and participated in this year's Universal Design Expo.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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