Wheelchair user shares concerns

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Tracy Peters believes Invercargill could be more wheelchair friendly. PHOTO: LUISA GIRAO

AN Invercargill resident is asking the Invercargill City Council (ICC) to have a better look at its mobility parking spaces and pathways to make the city more “wheelchair friendly”.

Tracy Peters has had disabilities since she was young, but last year she became a permanent wheelchair user.

Since then she needed to “think twice” before she went shopping because the infrastructure in town was usually “not fit for purpose” for someone with disabilities, she said.

“We have a more challenging climate in Southland, we have an ageing population and we also have a population who have learnt to appreciate and expect certain standards. We are failing [here].”

Mrs Peters said she became especially frustrated after driving in the city centre.

Car parks for disabled users were not wide and long enough for an adapted vehicle.

“The parking was designed for the best possible scenario [no vehicles parked nearby]… but who[ever] designed it wasn’t in a wheelchair and did not really understand what is needed.”

The parking spaces should be at least 7 metres long, so users could manoeuvre and take the ramp out from the back of the car, she said.

“If a car needs to pull in here [at Dee St] it has three problems if the driver is in a wheelchair he would not able to get the door open enough because it has the other car next to it.

“If the wheelchair is in the back… you are quite exposed at the road behind you… If they put the ramp down [they’re] literally over the white line [road]. If I don’t get hit

“But I still need to walk, in the traffic, to the end of the road where it has a crossing to be able to get on to the pathway.”

Mrs Peters recalled an embarrassing situation a couple months ago.

She was stopped by an ICC officer in Elles Rd after he saw her using her wheelchair on the cycleway.

“I had to show him I had no option – I could not physically get on to the footpath because of the kerb and the rubbish bins.”

A few hours later, on the same day, another council staff member approached her when she was using her electric wheelchair on an Esk St footpath.

“He said he would give me a ticket. I thought he was joking. It was the same day.

“It is quite frustrating because it seems to be a no-win situation.”

Mrs Peters presented a submission at ICC’s last infrastructural services committee meeting and said she would meet officials this week to discuss her concerns.

“I really believe they have done everything with the best intentions.

“However, as the city is in constant transformation, it is time to think how we can do better.”

She believed ICC could find simple and cheap solutions, such as installing mirrors at the crossings.

“It is about having a healthy conversation with them [ICC] and making this city better and friendly for everyone.”

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