The race for the mayor’s office of the Queenstown Lakes district reached a new level in Arrowtown yesterday – in a wheelchair and on crutches.
Mayoral aspirants Vanessa van Uden, Simon Hayes and Michael Scott were challenged by Disabilities Resource Centre advocate Stefanee Woodham, of Arrowtown, to try out the aids and experience first-hand the challenges of mobility for residents living with a disability.
“I just want them to think and acknowledge how hard it is to get around, and I’ve said I’ll visit whichever one of them gets in office and ask them to improve accessibility in the district,” Mrs Woodham said.
Queenstown Lakes district mayoral candidates
(from left) Simon Hayes, Vanessa van Uden
and Michael Scott, with Disabilities Resource
Centre advocate Stefanee Woodham (right),
of Arrowtown. Photo by James Beech.
“We can’t help the ice, we can’t help the hills. The one thing we can do is police the yellow lines so they can access the drop-kerbs outside.”
Mr Hayes navigated slowly while Ms van Uden sat in the wheelchair and Mr Scott hobbled on crutches down the steep incline, from Arrowtown Surgery to Arrowtown Pharmacy.
They commented on the physical difficulties they were experiencing and imagined how disabled people and carers coped every day, especially in icy conditions.
It was Mr Hayes’ turn in the hotseat and Ms van Uden’s chance to push him along Buckingham St, from the Arrowtown Bakery corner to the pharmacy.
Mr Hayes was unable to enter the pharmacy in the wheelchair due to the high step and had to call for staff assistance, which was what disabled people had to do, Mrs Woodham said.
The advocate said people in wheelchairs and their carers often had to travel on roadsides and contend with traffic, when there was a lack of space on footpaths, or just a grass verge available.
Mr Scott, in the chair, manoeuvred with cars passing him in Buckingham St, but needed a helping push from Mr Hayes to get up the kerb to the pharmacy footpath.
The group also tried wheeling and walking on crutches through puddles along the muddy verge to St Paul’s Church.
“It’s incredibly difficult [to push a wheelchair] on that corner where it’s uneven and cambered,” Mr Hayes said.
“I think Stefanee illustrated the problem pretty well and pretty quickly.”
When asked what he would do to aid mobility if in office, Mr Hayes said there had to be a compromise between accessibility and village amenity.
More information was needed to see how extensive the problem was.
Ms van Uden said practicality for all users had to be balanced with amenity.
Awareness needed to be raised in the community not to park in front of drop-kerbs.
The Buckingham St road width was not huge and residents did not want signage cluttering the street, she said.
Mrs Woodham was among the people the council could work with during urban design phases, rather than retrofit, she said.
Mr Scott said it was “not as easy as it looked” to use a wheelchair or crutches.
“It’s a district-wide problem and everything to be done [in Arrowtown] would have to go through the village association.
“We need to keep Arrowtown as a village and we need to think smarter where we need to put things in town.”