Palmerston Nth best city for disabled to live in

Palmerston North is the best city in New Zealand for disabled people to live, Manawatu Grey Power says, and the statistics back it up.

The percentage of disabled people living in the Manawatu-Whanganui region is significantly higher than the national average, according to the New Zealand Disability Survey released this week by Statistics New Zealand.

A total of 1.1 million people, 24 per cent of the nation, were identified as being disabled, while the Manawatu-Whanganui average was higher at 27 per cent.

Grey Power Manawatu president Lew Findlay, who is also a Palmerston North city councillor, said the services available to people with disabilities were "miles ahead" of other cities.

"This is the best place for disabled people to live. It's the centre of the universe," he said.

"It's flat, all the services are here, there's a very good hospital . . . there's a lot of support for people with disabilities. We have a very caring community and caring people."

The most common impairment type for adults was a mobility or physical limitation, which affected more women than men, the survey found.

For children, the most common impairment type was difficulty with learning. This affected more boys than girls.

The survey revealed 27 per cent of the population in Manawatu-Whanganui were disabled, with 15 per cent impaired physically, 10 per cent with a hearing disability, 8 per cent agility and 6 per cent psychiatric or psychological. Only 5 per cent of the population have a learning disability, 4 per cent seeing, 4 per cent memory, 3 per cent speaking and 2 per cent intellectual.

Mobility Manawatu owner Rob Stick said the city was very disability-friendly, particularly for those with mobility or physical impairments. "It's nice and flat, they've certainly got good support. We get the odd complaint about footpaths but as a rule people are pretty happy around town."

While the city was well-equipped with disability facilities, there was still a problem with attitudes towards people using mobility vehicles, as well as people parking in mobility car parks without a permit, Letitia Stick, also an owner of Mobility Manawatu, said.

"People don't always understand why some people are using a product. They see someone young drive up in a scooter and get out and walk into the shop and then make comments, when that person could have a brain tumour," she said.

"It's perceived ideas of disabilities. Anyone under 50 and people jump to conclusions."

The survey, which was carried out last year, showed just over half of the disabled population in New Zealand have multiple impairments.

Figures show disease or illness was the cause of impairment for 41 per cent of disabled people living in Manawatu-Whanganui, while accident or injury accounted for 33 per cent, ageing for 24 per cent and 17 per cent of conditions existed from birth. Maori and Pacific people were recorded as having higher-than-average disability rates.

Disability support and advocacy agency CCS Disability Action welcomed the survey results. Service development national manager Peter Wilson said the numbers prove that disabled people represent a significant demographic in New Zealand.

He hoped the statistical milestone would see increased responsiveness to disabled people's needs at all levels.

Manawatu Standard