Call for Cambridge to increase its accessibility for disabled people

The toilet in the Cambridge New World car park does not have a flat transition from the ramp into the toilet, making it ...
Emma James

The toilet in the Cambridge New World car park does not have a flat transition from the ramp into the toilet, making it difficult for people using wheelchairs to access.

Cambridge may be the home of champions but when it comes to disabled people it's far from the model town.

Poor access to shops, buildings and car parks for those using wheelchairs is putting extra challenges in the lives of disabled people.

Aaron, who only wants to be known by a first name, is paralysed from the chest down and uses a wheelchair to move around town.

This car park outside the Cambridge police station is narrow, leaving little room either side for people to safely ...
Emma James

This car park outside the Cambridge police station is narrow, leaving little room either side for people to safely access their car.

He's worried about speaking out, for fear of reprisal from business owners, but hoped his comments would inspire change.

Aaron said half of the disabled car parks and public toilets in Cambridge do not meet accessibility requirements.

"The toilet down Halley's Lane was meant to be accessible for disabled people, but the average wheelchair can't get around the corner.

This car park on Duke St in Cambridge is too steep, when someone gets out, the door slams on them.
Emma James

This car park on Duke St in Cambridge is too steep, when someone gets out, the door slams on them.

"And that's not the only one. Those portable toilets, like the one at the New World car park are supposed to be accessible too.

"They are a grade one in 10, which is okay for normal wheelchairs, but then they are meant to have a 900 millimetre flat transition to the door for safety," he said.

The required grade is one in 12.

A lot of the car parks are either too steep, or have street furniture or rubbish bins too close to them as well.

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"If they're too steep we can't open the door because it will just slam back on us, it's dangerous," said Aaron.

"It's not just a problem for people in wheelchairs, but people who are sight impaired or people on crutches too."

He said the Waipa District Council needs to enforce the necessary requirements for access.

The other issue was struggling to find somewhere to socialise.

Most restaurants and cafes have ramps to get in to the outlet and disabled toilets, but the space between tables inside is often too narrow for a wheelchair to fit around.

"There's the space aspect of it too.

"I'll be sitting somewhere, and someone will just come and grab my wheelchair and push me to where they think I should be, so many people do this, it's offensive," he said.

"People think we should be used to living this way because we're disabled, but it's not how we should have to live. Disabled people aren't accepted, they're tolerated."

Council's group manager, services Barry Bergin said it was disappointing to hear the feedback. He stressed all new council and private infrastructure is being built to the correct standard, and in some cases exceed the standard.

"But the fact is that some infrastructure in Cambridge is old and standards over the years have changed. So given that, yes there will be some issues," he said.

"Where possible, and as fast as possible, we're trying to fix those issues. For example, we're retrofitting car parks and pedestrian crossing ramps to meet the newer standard. But sometimes things can't be fixed because of sloping ground or limited space or where they're located.

"We're doing what we can within the budget we have and we're also making sure that anything new fully complies."

Bergin said council's priorities for people with disabilities were developed in conjunction with disability advocacy group, CCS Action.

Recently some workshops were held to help identify trouble-spots. Further workshops were scheduled for Cambridge and Te Awamutu in May before budgets and priorities for next year are set.

"This is similar to work we did about four years ago which helped prioritise spending and led council to budget $100,000 per year to upgrade disabled parking and footpath links."

 - Stuff

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