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Accessing the Everyday

Josh is an articulate 26 year old who works part-time as admin at a logistics company. Like your average 26 year old he enjoys a workout at the gym, a few drinks with his mates in the weekend, and gets into a bit of gaming in his spare time. But Josh isn’t average, in fact, he’s pretty extraordinary.

After falling ill two years ago Josh lost the use of his body from his chest down and now uses a wheelchair.

It has been an intense process for Josh to accept how different his life is now, and like anyone would, he struggled at first with having to rely on other people to get through his day. It has been a big adjustment for his whole family who are incredibly supportive.

However, his family can’t do it all, and that’s where the team from Your Way | Kia Roha come in. Previously called Life Unlimited, they support people with disabilities by helping to plan, and connect individuals to the relevant resources, support, information, and people that could help to live life more easefully.

Your Way | Kia Roha’s friendly facilitators Jessie Clare and Christine Hills say that anyone can self-refer, or refer on behalf of someone else, “Self referral is a way to reduce barriers for people seeking support. You don’t need to go through a GP, although you do have to have a

diagnosed disability.”

Whether a person refers themselves or is referred by someone else it doesn’t matter, they will be given a needs assessment and if eligible, Your Way | Kia Roha coordinates the funding support and connects them to services for resources like equipment, home help, or respite care.

As an able bodied person, Josh says he would set his alarm for 15 minutes before he started work. He’d jump up and have a shower, then drive to his job - something we tend to take for granted as able-bodied people.

Nowadays Josh sets his alarm two hours before work. His carer helps him to the shower using a hoist and a sliding board. They provide personal cares and assist Josh to get dressed. Then they help him with his breakfast and Josh is driven to work as he doesn’t have a modified vehicle yet. This is one of his goals to becoming more independent. He wants the freedom to drive himself wherever and whenever he wants.

Just getting to work is exhausting, and as a tetraplegic, Josh’s core muscles are weak to non-existent. Sitting in a wheelchair all day he has to work to hold himself upright, using his right hand balanced on his thigh to prevent himself falling forward. He gets pain and fatigue, particularly in his back and shoulder blades.

After work he is driven home and needs the relief of a positional change, so his carer helps him to lie on his bed and they move his legs in various exercises to reduce fluid retention and get the circulation going. Then it’s lunch and back into the wheelchair. A couple of times a week, Steve, a health and wellbeing coach from Pinnacle Health takes Josh to the gym for an upper body workout, other days Josh just relaxes in front of the TV or a plays a game of Call of Duty.

His carer comes again in the evening and helps with dinner, personal cares and gets Josh back into bed. “It’s not until you have a disability that you notice other people with disabilities” says Josh. “There’s a lot of people who are not able-bodied in our community, including those with ‘invisible’ disabilities.”

Some of us have autoimmune, or long term conditions which limit our ability to get around. “And that can be isolating” Josh tells me. Since being in a wheelchair he’s noticed things most of us don’t.

The accessibility in our CBD is far from ideal. Our roads and footpaths are uneven, tiles can be skew whiff, and it can be hard to manoeuvre wheelchairs. Parking spaces for people with disabilities could be better.

Josh offloads/onloads from the back of his van which means he’s offloading into oncoming traffic. A lot of doorways are too narrow in the CBD so people in wheelchairs can’t actually enter many local businesses.

Josh shops at accessible businesses like The Little Hair Shop, which has a wide, sliding door entry, where he can get his hair cut with ease. In talking to Josh I wondered what the barriers are to having a fully accessible CBD. While the width of shop doorways is up to individual business owners and landlords, I contacted the Gisborne District Council to find out how they support accessibility around here.

Gisborne District Council say they adhere to universal design principles when building anything for our community. For example, all new community facility builds (like Kiwa Pools) or new crossings (like the Peel Street roundabout) have modern elevated platforms, universal access appropriate ramp gradients as well as blind/low vision aids.

They do recognise that footpaths in our CBD are an issue however and say there will be a focus before Christmas to fix safety issues on our footpaths and tidy up the CBD before the summer season.

Chief Executive Nadine Thatcher Swann says Council wants to hear from people having problems with any public areas, or accessing our community’s facilities. You can do this by calling 0800 653 800, emailing or or via the eFix service on Council’s website.

Council also has a disability strategy that is up for review, so if you or anyone you knows is having accessibility issues or perspectives on how people with disabilities may be better supported here in Te Tairāwhiti, please make sure you get in touch with Council to see how you can feed into this process.

'It's only paradise if everyone can afford (access) it'.

Story by Aimee Milne Photograph Tom Teutenberg


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