Simon Collins

Simon Collins is the Herald’s social issues reporter.

Kids solve bank's problem of disabled access

Primary school children suggest wheelchair stairlift solution for disabled access.

Mission Heights pupils Olivia McSaveney (left) and Hannah Gillespie on the chair lift at Victoria Park Medical Suites in Auckland. Photo / Chris Gorman
Mission Heights pupils Olivia McSaveney (left) and Hannah Gillespie on the chair lift at Victoria Park Medical Suites in Auckland. Photo / Chris Gorman

A group of primary school children have solved a problem that our biggest bank couldn't solve - finding a way to let disabled people into its downtown Auckland branch.

The six students aged 9 and 10 from Mission Heights Primary School in South Auckland easily found a wheelchair stairlift on the internet that folds up when it's not in use, so it would seem to be suitable for a confined space such as the ANZ Bank's new branch in a renovated older building on the corner of Auckland's Queen and Customs Sts.

A wheelchair user who works in an office above the bank, Juliana Carvalho, complained last week that she couldn't use the bank because of steps from street level up to the main banking chamber.

The bank said there was no room for a ramp so it put a service desk at street level for disabled customers.

Mission Heights student Hannah Gillespie, 9, said her group was researching stairlifts because twin boys in wheelchairs who attend the school were unable to get into a Life Education Trust mobile classroom when it visited recently.

The deputy principal had to lift the boys into the classroom manually.

Hannah Grant, also 9, interviewed one of the boys and said he might be "really upset" if he could not do the same things as other people.

"[The boy] said he doesn't mind at this stage but he's still 7. As you get older, by the time you're in college, you might not want the deputy principal carrying you into something," she said.

Dr Grabiel Ng and Dr Jeffrey Wong, who installed a $20,000 fold-down stairlift in their new Victoria Park medical practice five weeks ago, said they had only used it so far to lift their 4-month-old baby Ella's pram, but it was essential even if only one patient needed it.

"If we can afford it, I'm sure the bank can afford it," Dr Ng said.

An ANZ spokesman thanked the children for their idea. "We're working with Barrier Free Trust and our architects to find the best solution," he said. "A wheelchair stairlift will certainly be one of the ideas we'll discuss." Meanwhile, a trust serving disabled people said it was a huge challenge to find affordable office buildings in Auckland that its clients could access.

Taikura Trust, which allocates funding for all working-aged disabled people between Wellsford and Mercer, had to evacuate its former office in Papatoetoe on July 1 because of a water ingress problem. Spokeswoman Kate Williams said it inspected 18 buildings before finding first-floor space where the landlord was willing to install a lift and larger toilets for disabled people.

- NZ Herald

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