Access to shops, transport and other services
Access to transport
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.
Using buses, taxis and other public transport
What are the access requirements for city buses?
The government has set some disability access requirements for urban buses. These are 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 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 be “double-leaf” with 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, especially in the entry and exit door areas (including the wheelchair ramp), and the areas designed for wheelchair users and priority seating. Those areas should 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: “Assistance dogs (‘disability assist dogs’)”).
Airlines, like land transport operators, have to make reasonable accommodations to provide equal access to disabled people.
Example: Who pays if you need extra oxygen as an air traveller?
Case:  NZCA 20
In this case, the judge decided an airline was justified in charging a passenger for the extra oxygen she needed because of her respiratory condition.
The Court of Appeal said that it would be unreasonable to expect the airline not to charge more. In other words, providing the extra oxygen for free would fall outside what would be “reasonable accommodation”.
The judges looked at various factors in deciding what was reasonable here, including the fact that the airline was in the business to make a profit, and also what other airlines were doing, both in New Zealand and internationally. It found that most airlines providing international flights offered extra oxygen and that many of these charged extra for it. The judges said the question of what is reasonable will generally involve broad value judgements that consider the overall benefits in comparison with the costs.
But the judges said that although excessive costs could justify a business refusing to accommodate a disabled person, the courts needed to be careful they didn’t put too low a value on the importance of accommodating disabled people. The business should have to give clear and concrete evidence to back up their claim that the costs would be unreasonable – they can’t just make a general claim that they would be too much. The judges said there may be ways to reduce costs in these situations.
Help with paying for door-to-door taxi transport
The Total Mobility scheme
The Total Mobility scheme pays up to half the cost 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 idea is to help people with long-term impairments 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 amount you get subsidised depends on where you live, as 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. Contact your regional council for more information on their appeals process.
For more information about the Total Mobility scheme, go to nzta.govt.nz/resources/total-mobility-scheme
Disability (mobility) parking spaces
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 ccsdisabilityaction.org.nz/mobility-parking
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. Other people, like your driver, can wait in the car for you while you’re going to wherever you need to go. But 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 check their website.