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Wheelchair users take to the stage

JANELLE CHEESMAN
Last updated 05:00 27/06/2013
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LIFTING SPIRITS: Craig Woolliams, left, and Kendall Akhurst are delighted with Wellington's new wheelchair lift, which will allow access to the stages in city venues.

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When wheelchair user Kendall Akhurst spoke at a recent event, he had to do so below the stage, at ground level. He has also received awards at ground level because the venue stage was inaccessible.

Now a new wheelchair lift will make stages around the region more accessible to people with mobility difficulties.

A grant from the Performing Arts Foundation funded the lift, owned by Positively Wellington Venues, which will allow speakers, university graduates and performers to access stages with ease.

Positively Wellington Venues director of facilities and operations Craig Woolliams says the wheelchair stage lift is improving the accessibility of its venues, including the Michael Fowler Centre, Opera House and St James Theatre. "Access in our venues is extremely important. We are constantly learning different ways of making Positively Wellington Venues more accessible to the community and the wheelchair lift is contributing to this."

Positively Wellington Venues will lend the wheelchair stage lift to organisations or venues in Wellington for free.

"We want the wheelchair lift to be used as much as possible. It's very mobile and we would deliver it to any venue wanting to use it."

Akhurst says anyone with mobility issues who is unable to walk up stairs could benefit from the lift.

"This is a fantastic initiative for Wellington and will open a lot of doors for people with mobility issues."

Investigations for a wheelchair stage lift began after Positively Wellington Venues received requests from universities to find easy access to the stage for disabled graduates at graduation ceremonies. "We initially looked at building a stage lift but it was too expensive. We decided that the best and cheapest way would be to purchase one from overseas and the Performing Arts Foundation was happy to fund the project," Woolliams says.

For more information on borrowing the wheelchair stage lift, contact Craig Woolliams at craig.woolliams@pwv.co.nz or ph 04 801 4046.

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- The Dominion Post

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