Upper Hutt Leader
A recent incident where a wheelchair-bound Nigel Nickalls found he was unable to use "so called" accessible public toilets in the former Hazelwoods car park has further sharpened his resolve to highlight the problems he and other disabled people continue to face.
Detail of the incident, via The Leader, has "highlighted" incorrect signage on the toilets which is being changed "as soon as possible", the city's asset management and operations director, Lachlan Wallach, says.
Faced with an emergency a few weeks ago - the emptying of a colostomy bag - Mr Nickalls found himself having to use his closest accessible toilets, the pair behind Dick Smith Electronics on the edge of the public car park.
The left-side toilet, with a wider entrance, was in use and Mr Nickalls had no joy with its neighbour.
"I was unable to even get my wheelchair through the doorway and had to complete my colostomy bag change in open view to the public," Mr Nickalls says.
"These toilets and others might suit most able or disabled users but since 1983 and over the ensuing years of my disability I have found that nothing has changed when it comes to everything public being totally accessible," the Silverstream resident says.
In the near 30 years he has been wheelchair-bound following a car accident while working, Mr Nickalls has battled with access issues on his behalf and for all the community.
"New Zealand received the World Disability Award in 2008, recognising its pivotal role in creating the Convention for the Rights of the Disabled," he says.
"The Government got awarded for this stuff yet I haven't seen anything change."
"These toilets were built new in 2007 but, to me, it means the Upper Hutt City Council has abused and breached my human rights by not providing suitable public amenities."
"It is my understanding that accessible public toilets are meant to be built to meet the requirements of all," he says.
The issues extend beyond public toilets and his recent event, he says.
Mr Nickalls acknowledges there has been improvement some forms, if very gradual. For example, with the arrival of the Matangi commuter train he can now use the suburban railway network.
Mr Nickalls is ready to praise improvements, in Upper Hutt and elsewhere, where the needs of the full community are obviously recognised.
"It's not too bad, when you think of the places I could live, but it could be better," he says of Upper Hutt.
Recent examples of improvements include the pedestrian crossing just north of the city library and the entrance and exits to the petrol station on Fergusson Dr near Camp Rd.
"If the standard here was incorporated throughout New Zealand in all maintenance updates or new road crossings accessibility within New Zealand would be greatly enhanced," Mr Nickalls says.
"I'm not just talking about people in a wheelchair, I'm thinking of older people, those with visual disabilities, mothers with strollers, etc," Mr Nickalls says.
The complaint from Mr Nickalls has highlighted a problem, Mr Wallach says.
There are two toilets," he says.
"One is a standard toilet with a narrower door, the other is designed in accordance with the New Zealand Standard as an accessibility toilet with a wider door.
"But both toilets have a sign advising they can be used for wheelchair access."
This was wrong and the sign on the standard toilet would be removed, he said last week.
- Upper Hutt Leader