For disabled people, attending a show is difficult, but a newly introduced "Companion Card" will make it easier for those who need a support person to help them get into the venue.
A trial partnership between Mana Whaikaha, a government disability support system, and Palmerston North City Council was introduced on August 13. The finer details of the Companion Card haven't been worked out yet, but the fundamental programme is already available.
"There should never be a barrier to people attending a show or going to do something," said the manager of Palmerston North's Globe Theatre, Gerry Keating.
"We are hoping that it can be online but it may be a case that you or your support person may have to call the theatre," he said. "You tell us that you're booking a companion card, we go into a system, we book two tickets for the price of one, you pay for one, you come to the show with your companion and you have a great time."
The Companion Card is funded by the Palmerston North City Council. The extra ticket will be paid for by the fund.
"The people putting on the show or the performer or the artist, are not missing out on the free ticket that is given on the companion card," Keating said. "We have to look after our patrons and we have to look after the people putting on the show. So it's just a fantastic way for the arts community to just work inclusively with everybody."
Currently, there are four Manawatū venues enrolled in the scheme - The Globe, Te Manawa, Centrepoint Theatre and The Regent. It is hoped more venues will sign up soon.
Rose Boddy from the Palmerston North City Council Disability Reference Group is hoping there are lots of people who take advantage of the trial.
"Previously [they] wouldn't have been able to because of the cost of a second ticket," she said.
"The really great thing is unlike other cards and options, you don't have to prove your disability right there," Boddy said. "All you're giving is permission for Mana Whaikaha to go to several agencies and check that the impairment matches what you're saying."
Mana Whaikaha was established in 2018 and is turning old thinking on its head. The broad variety of disabilities means one solution doesn't fit everyone and the Enabling Good Lives framework is designed with that in mind.
"It's more person-centred," Boddy said. "It's more about what the person wants as opposed to an A, B or C and no discussion."
Waikato and Christchurch are also trialling the Companion Card, which has been three years in the planning.
The idea was led by Boddy, who says it will make a big difference to people's lives.
The Palmerston North initiative was given $10,000 by the council and time will tell whether it is too little or plenty.
"If it's used very quickly that would say lots of things wouldn't it," Boddy said.
"Generally, organisations sometimes have to make changes or do things and you can feel when it's grudgingly done, you can just feel it and that's an unpleasant vibe. Whereas with this, [the performers] are going to be reimbursed. I think that is fair."
With accessibility issues contributing to further isolation for many disabled, it's likely the Companion Card will be a welcome post-lockdown accessory with many Palmerston North venues able to accommodate audiences at Covid levels one and two.
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