26 September 2018 – Genevieve McLachlan is a member of the Life Unlimited (now known as Your Way | Kia Roha) Disabled Leadership Group. She and her assistance dog, Pedro, are regular users of public transport in the Wellington region. Genevieve is positive about the changes Metlink has made to ensure buses in the region are fully accessible.
Over the last 20 years, I have been a regular user of Wellington’s accessible buses and have observed many changes, both in the design of the buses themselves and in driver attitudes towards people with disabilities and impairments.
While it has become easier for people with disabilities and impairments, and other access needs, to travel by bus it has taken considerable planning as not all buses or routes have been accessible. This has caused considerable stress and often resulted in arriving at my destination late or very early, until now.
Since taking over management of the buses, and ensuring all buses are fully accessible, Metlink has made travelling by bus a lot easier for people with access needs. It is now possible to catch any bus in the Hutt Valley without having to think about such things as; will the bus be wheelchair accessible and if so, will the ramp be at the front or back door; where is the location of the accessible space inside the bus; how difficult will it be to get my wheelchair into the accessible space; will I be able to reach the Snapper machine from my wheelchair; where is the Snapper machine located?
I am in the unusual position of using a power wheelchair for mobility and having a guide dog due to low vision, so for me this is huge. I can now catch any bus, just like anyone else and not have to think about it. This is hugely important as I run my own business and rely on public transport to get around.
Being a standard design, with clearly marked accessible and pram spaces, and Snapper machines at a consistent height make getting on and off the new buses much easier. There is also room in front of my wheelchair for my guide dog to sit so he is not in the aisle, as has sometimes been necessary in the past.
Driver attitudes have also improved and while there will sometimes be issues, these can be reported directly to Metlink so there is one point of contact.
Planning journeys using the website is much easier and the introduction of the accessible concession for Total Mobility card holders opens up the discount for more than just Blind Foundation members.
Well done on making public transport more accessible to everyone.