Ask yourself who you see when you think of somebody who has an impairment, a disability, someone who is differently abled?
Do you see a wheelchair, a crutch, a cane? Somebody who has a carer with them?
Or do you see somebody who looks just like you, who goes about their day just like you?
Nearly a quarter of the adult New Zealand population (21 percent) identifies in some way as disabled and for people over the age of 65 it increases to over half the population (59 percent) according to the Disability Survey for 2013. I don’t know about you but I don’t see all that many wheelchairs, crutches and canes. Most impairments are hidden. We may not notice them in everyday interactions. We need to be aware of the needs of others.
Just because you do not wear glasses and have no cane doesn’t mean you can see. You can be functionally blind but able to see just enough to navigate into and around buildings but unable to read signs and fill out forms or use self-service points. Somebody without a wheelchair or crutches may have muscular weakness which leaves them unable to stand for any length of time and unable to lift and carry luggage, groceries or shop purchases.
What do we do when we see somebody struggling? Do we assume they are fine struggling on by themselves? Do we ask if they need help?
Better still do we build our buildings and service points with everyone in mind?
You may say we do we bear in mind wheelchair access by having light switches at a lower height and ramps but have they been test driven by someone in a wheelchair before your business opened? Only then will you know if you have thought of all the barriers and are truly barrier free. Do not forget it only takes one link in the chain to break to make all your efforts in vain.
On the 3rd of December it is International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Time to include everyone because inclusion matters. We subtly exclude people when we focus on the impairment and not the ability. How can we support people to continue living their lives fully in society?
Have you ever seen people ignore somebody and talk to the person they came with? Would you like being spoken about as if you where not really there?
You may think you would never ignore somebody in this way but if you do not give consideration to everyone when you plan services, websites and buildings you are in effect ignoring and excluding a large part of the population. With that in mind Christchurch City Libraries strives to serve everyone. Let us know how we can improve and serve you better by contacting us.
Check out our page on help in using the library where you can find out about captioned DVDs, large print and talking books as well as our eResources including eBooks where you can change the font size. If you want help with using our library eResources come along to one of our computer drop in sessions.
New technologies especially in the field of communications have come a long way but not everyone has access to them. Mobile phones can help with vision impairments as an installed magnifying glass app can be a great help. Our library computers for public use also have some accessibility tools installed.
I have a tip for searching our library catalogue. Did you know you can search the catalogue for accessible formats?
Click on ‘Search’
Select ‘Accessible Formats’ from the ‘All Formats’ dropdown list.
Enter your search word e.g. Lee Child, then click on the magnifying glass
Can you recommend any other useful apps or tips to help?
For more library resources about accessibility check out:
- Barrier free design
- People with disabilities in New Zealand
- Services for people with disabilities
- Achieving a Fully Inclusive Society : the Annual Report from the Minister for Disability Issues to the House of Representatives on Implementing the New Zealand Disability Strategy.
- Making a World of Difference Whakanui Oranga : the New Zealand Disability Strategy Discussion Document.