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Access to shops, transport and other services

Access to transport


Human Rights Act 1993, ss 44, 52

Access to transport is a critical issue for disabled people so that they can participate equally in life and society – getting to work, study, shops, public meetings and events, and so on. This area, as with access to other activities and services, is governed by the anti-discrimination laws in the Human Rights Act 1993. Those laws require transport operators, like bus, train, taxi and airline companies, to make “reasonable accommodations” so that disabled people have equal access to the services these companies provide.

Note: In 2005, the Human Rights Commission completed a major inquiry into access to transport, using its powers under the Human Rights Act. The Commission’s report, “The accessible journey: Report of the inquiry into accessible public land transport”, is available at www.hrc.co.nz/your-rights/people-disabilities/our-work/accessible-journey

Using buses, taxis and other public transport

City buses – Access requirements

Requirements for urban buses in New Zealand (2014), sections 2.5, 3, 6

The government has set some disability access requirements for urban buses, as a common national standard that local councils have to meet if they want to get central government funding for their bus services. The main requirements include the following:

  • Getting onboard – All buses should kneel and allow wheelchair access:
    • all buses must be able to kneel, and there should be a sign saying: “This bus kneels on request”. When the bus is kneeling, the first step should be no higher than 30 centimetres above the ground
    • buses have to allow wheelchair access through the front door. The door must be at least one metre wide, and also be “double-leaf” (in two parts that move to the sides). There must be a wheelchair ramp (of the flip-over type) that is put in place and then removed by the bus driver when you ask for this. This ramp should be non-slip. The rear door on the bus doesn’t have to allow for wheelchair exit.
  • Priority seating – The priority seating area, which is usually just behind the front bus wheel arches, provides space for a wheelchair user and seating for people with physical, sensory or cognitive impairments, including people with guide dogs (and also for parents/caregivers with children, whether or not they have a pram or stroller).
    • there must be at least four seats, preferably all forward-facing
    • there must be a separate space designed for a wheelchair and user, at least 0.8 by 1.3 metres. The wheelchair should preferably be rearward-facing
    • there must be signs that tell other passengers that this priority seating area is for disabled people, older people and parents with children.
  • Floors – All floors should be non-slip, but especially in the entry and exit door areas (including the wheelchair ramp), and the areas designed for wheelchair users and priority seating. The floor surface in those areas should also be in an easily seen, contrasting colour to the rest of the bus floor. Also, the floor must be completely flat from the front entry area all the way to the back of the priority seating area.

The law also says you can take your assistance dog with you on public transport: see below, “Assistance dogs (‘disability assist dogs’)”.

Note: Some technical requirements for buses and other passenger vehicles that have special disability equipment are set out in the Land Transport Rule: Passenger Service Vehicles 1999 (in section 8).

Air travel

Human Rights Act 1993, ss 44, 52

Airlines, like land transport operators, have to make reasonable accommodations to provide equal access to disabled people. See the case study earlier in this section (“Example: Who pays if you need extra oxygen as an air traveller?”) where a high-level New Zealand Court discussed exactly what “reasonable accommodation” meant in that case.

Subsidies for door-to-door taxi transport

The Total Mobility scheme

The Total Mobility scheme pays some of the cost – up to half, depending where you live – of getting taxis or special mobility transport for door-to-door transport. The scheme is run by regional councils and is funded by councils and the central government. The scheme is for people with long-term impairments and is there to help meet their daily needs and help them participate in their communities.

The Total Mobility scheme provides you with vouchers or electronic cards that pay some of the cost (up to half) of the normal fares. The level of the subsidy is set by the relevant regional council (or by Auckland Transport in the Auckland region).

Not all taxi companies will necessarily honour your electronic card or vouchers, so you should check with the transport company about this when you book your trip with them.

There is an appeals process if you are turned down for the Total Mobility scheme, but you believe you qualify for it.

For more information about the Total Mobility scheme, go to www.nzta.govt.nz/resources/total-mobility-scheme

As an example, here’s how the Total Mobility scheme works in Wellington:

  • Taxi companies like Wellington Combined Taxis, Hutt and City Taxis, Porirua Taxis and Kiwi Cabs participate in the scheme, as well as some specialist operators like Driving Miss Daisy.
  • Most of the participating operators have wheelchair hoists.
  • The scheme pays half of the fare, up to a maximum subsidy of $40.

Disability (mobility) parking spaces

Land Transport (Road User) Rule 2004, clauses 1.6, 6.4(1A), Land Transport (Offences and Penalties) Regulations 1999, Schedule 1

Disability parking – or “mobility parking” – is when parking spaces are provided for disabled people at places like supermarkets, libraries and community centres, usually close to the particular venue. People can only park their cars in a mobility parking space if someone in the car (the driver or a passenger) is disabled and the car is showing an approved mobility parking permit that’s issued in the name of that disabled person.

Permits are issued by CCS Disability Action Inc or the local council. (Sommerville Disability Support Services in Whanganui also has its own disability parking scheme.)

The permits hang from the rear-view mirror, or they can be placed on the dashboard of the vehicle so long as the details can be seen clearly.

Disability parking spaces are marked by yellow lines and a disability logo, or sometimes the whole space is painted blue.

The fine for parking in a disability or mobility parking space without a permit is $150.

How do I get a mobility parking permit?

You’ll need to fill out an application form. If you have a permanent impairment or medical condition, you’ll apply for a long-term permit, which lasts for five years. The permit will be issued to you personally and can’t be used by anyone else. You’ll have to apply to get it renewed when the five years is up.

The first time you apply for a long-term permit you’ll need to get a doctor to confirm that you qualify for the permit – but you don’t need to do this when you come to renew the permit.

Short-term permits can also be issued for between three months and one year.

To apply for a permit, or to get more information, go to www.ccsdisabilityaction.org.nz/mobility-parking/applications-and-renewal

What does a mobility parking permit allow me to do?

The mobility permit is only for when you want to park and get out of the vehicle (although other people – your driver for example – can wait in the car for you while you’re going to wherever you need to go). If you (the permit holder) just want to stop the car for a while and stay in it, you’ll need to park in a standard car park.

Your disability parking permit doesn’t entitle you to free parking. It also doesn’t allow you to break the rules or park illegally. For example, even if you have a parking permit you still can’t park in places like bus lanes, on broken yellow lines, or in bus stops.

In some areas, the parking permits can also be used to park longer in standard parking spaces than is normally allowed, and there may be other concessions for permit holders. For details about what rules apply in your area, contact your local council, or go to www.ccsdisabilityaction.org.nz/mobility-parking/find-parking

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Disability rights

Where to go for more support

COVID-19 information


The Disabled Persons Assembly (DPA) has up-to-date COVID-19 information for the disabled community on their website. They also post new information on their Facebook page and their Information Exchange newsletter. You can sign up by going to the website linked above. For more information about DPA, see below.

Community Law


Your local Community Law Centre can provide free initial legal advice and information.

Auckland Disability Law



ADL provides assistance and referrals to disabled people on their legal issues, and work with other Community Law Centres, legal professionals and community organisations to raise disability awareness and achieve the best outcome for disabled people.

Office for Disability Issues


The Office for Disability Issues is the focal point in government on disability issues.

Human Rights Commission


This page on the HRC website focuses on the Commission’s work around both individual and systemic disability discrimination. There are resources available in multiple accessible formats.

Health and Disability Commissioner


Phone: 0800 11 22 33
Email: hdc@hdc.org.nz

The Health and Disability Commissioner has a range of pamphlets and other information on health and disability issues.

Contact a Health and Disability Advocate

Phone: 0800 555 050

Make a complaint to the Commissioner

Phone: 0800 11 22 33
Email: hdc@hdc.org.nz

PO Box 1791, Auckland

You can make a complaint by phoning the Commissioner’s office toll-free, by email, by filling in the online complaint form or by writing to them.

Ministry of Health Services and Support


Publicly funded health and disability services available in New Zealand.

Disabled Persons Assembly


The DPA is a pan-disability organisation. DPA works to improve social indicators for disabled people and for disabled people be recognised as valued members of society. DPA and its members work with the wider disability community, other disabled persons’ organisations, government agencies, service providers, international disability organisations and the public.

People First


People First New Zealand is a self-advocacy organisation that is led and directed by people with learning (intellectual) disability. People First has a free Disability Information and Advice Service and they also produce legal resources in Easy Read form which are free to download from their website.

Deaf Aotearoa


Deaf Aotearoa is a national organisation representing the voice of Deaf people, and the national service provider for Deaf people in New Zealand.

Deaf Aotearoa also works closely with Deaf communities, government agencies and other organisations to increase awareness, promote New Zealand Sign Language and strengthen the rights of Deaf people.

Family Violence – It’s Not OK


Phone: 0800 456 450

“It’s not OK” is a community-driven behaviour change campaign to reduce family violence in New Zealand. Its goal is to change attitudes and behaviour that tolerate any kind of family violence. The website has resources for families who are experiencing abuse. It’s not OK is an initiative housed within the Ministry of Social Development.

Family violence and disabled people


Inclusive Education


This site provides New Zealand educators with practical strategies, suggestions and resources to support the diverse needs of all learners.

Attitude Toolbox: The Whole Truth about Courts and Justice


This accessible video has information about the New Zealand justice system and courts. The video is presented in New Zealand Sign Language and fully subtitled in English.

New Zealand Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal


This Tribunal hears and determines disciplinary proceedings brought against health practitioners.

Public Trust


Public Trust is New Zealand’s largest provider of Wills and estate administration services.

Te Rōpū Taurima


Te Rōpū Taurima is a kaupapa Māori service that supports people of all ethnicities with intellectual impairments around New Zealand.

Le Va


Le Va supports Pasifika families and communities to unleash their full potential and have the best possible health and wellbeing outcomes.

Blind Low Vision NZ

(previously called Blind Foundation)


Blind Low Vision NZ is New Zealand’s main provider of support to New Zealanders who are blind or have low vision.



Phone: 0800 24 33 33

Achieve is a national network established to ensure equal opportunity and access to post-secondary education and training for people with impairments.

Privacy Commissioner


Phone: 0800 803 909
Email: enquiries@privacy.org.nz

You can download the pamphlet “Your Health Information: Know Your Privacy Rights” from the Privacy Commissioner’s website, at: www.privacy.org.nz

You can also download a copy of the Health Information Privacy Code from: www.privacy.org.nz/the-privacy-act-and-codes/codes-of-practice/health-information-privacy-code-1994

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