In her own home, Liz Church says she is not disabled.

The Napier woman says while she will always have an impairment (in her case a degenerative medical condition which makes her muscles weak), for her, disability is the barriers which society puts up that prevents everyone being able to participate fully.

Church has to use a variety of mobility aids, including a walker, and on occasion a wheelchair.

"I have an impairment all the time, but I am not always disabled. At home, I'm actually not really disabled because I have the supports that I need.

Advertisement

"In my work as well, I am not disabled in my work, because I do administration now and that suits me."

But every day can throw up new challenges. Church says planning her day is similar to her job as a project co-ordinator.

"Whenever you want to do something as a disabled person you have to almost project co-ordinate your day, you have to think about, not just energy levels and about that sort of thing, but about where you are going, and what you need to do there, and how long you are going to be there, and where you might park.

"I can't go and visit most of my family and friends any more, I can't get into a lot of homes, and I certainly can't use any of their bathrooms."

She wants to see a New Zealand which is built for everyone and says information about accessibility is key.

"It would be really helpful to have more visible information about access on websites, that would be a really simple thing to do."

She says having a nationwide conversation, or guidelines, about what accessibility means, would be helpful.

For example, she said sometimes venues will advertise having an accessible bathroom, but it turns out to be just a big room, as opposed to having handrails.

Advertisement

Church says Napier's CBD is relatively well set up in terms of accessibility, and it is heartening to see developments that make it even better.

"Every time I go to the CBD they are doing more development in that area, and I am just really pleased to see the accessibility that is being built into that."

However not every city is, and so she feels it is important to have a nationwide conversation, in the hope that best practice standards are instilled around New Zealand.

"It would be nice to know that you could trust when people say something is accessible, that there is enough information, whether that is legislation or guidelines, so people know what that means.

"We think of New Zealand as being a fair, diverse and inclusive society, but the reality is that, physically, in a lot of ways we haven't designed our society for everyone."

That's where the Access Alliance comes in.

Chairwoman Chrissie Cowan says they are campaigning to see a more inclusive New Zealand, and thinks an accessibility act is the way to do it.

She says it goes beyond the disabled community, and would be for all New Zealand, for example ensuring those who spoke English in a second language were able to access information in their language.

"We feel it would benefit all New Zealanders, that's why we've come together and that's our goal.

"The legislation is at the heart of a more inclusive Aotearoa/New Zealand."