Wheelchair user Denise Cook (pictured) has been confidently travelling on Waikato’s public buses this year thanks to an event she attended for disabled and older people 12 months ago.
At the time of last year’s ‘Have a go day’, Denise was unable to drive and was instead relying on taxis and the help of others to get her to appointments, her favourite shopping destinations and lunch with friends.
“Before that day I would never ever have used the buses. I was encouraged by Rae Beilby, the community support coordinator from CCS Disability Action, to come along and I’m really glad I did, because it has opened up another avenue of travel and mobility for me.”
Denise was among a number of people in electric and manual wheelchairs, others using walking frames and sticks, to ‘have a go’ on the buses last year.
This year’s event, organised by Waikato Regional Council and CCS Disability Action, is being held on Wednesday 3 December – International Day of Persons with Disabilities – between 10am and 12pm.
An Orbiter and urban green bus, supplied by bus companies Pavlovich and Go Bus, will be parked in Caro Street for people to get on board. There will also be access and mobility displays taking place in the nearby Civic Square at the same time.
Denise said she had been apprehensive about using a bus. “I didn’t know what the process was to use one in a wheelchair. So it was really great to use the ramp and sit in the bus in my wheelchair, safely secured and with a minimum of fuss.”
The 48-year-old Hamilton East woman is now able to drive again, but is still using the buses. “To ride the bus to The Base is much cheaper than taking my car and in a lot of ways it’s much less stressful, they just drop me off and pick me up.
“I can’t wait for summer so I can use the buses a bit more. I love having a car and wouldn’t be without it, but to have the ability to use both is really good. And when you look at the cost of petrol it’s really great to have the option to use the buses, it’s pretty cost effective and awesome.”
The regional council’s public transport manager, Ben Barlow, said: “We’re holding this day because we want people to have confidence catching the bus and to be reassured that our drivers will help passengers if they ask.
“The regional council has worked hard with our contracted operators to make bus travel more accessible to people. Every bus on Hamilton’s network has been fully accessible since January this year, giving people with mobility issues or in a wheelchair certainty when they’re planning trips,” Mr Barlow said.
Meanwhile, over the past three years Hamilton City Council has upgraded more than 50 bus stops with its specially-designed accessible bus kerb. This allows the bus to hug the kerb line without damaging the rims on the wheels and provides a lower height step onto the bus, easier for those who have limited mobility. These improvements have been made in consultation with the regional council, bus operators and CCS Disability Action.
Visit www.busit.co.nz to find out more about the day and to plan your bus trip, or call the 24-hour helpline on 0800 4 BUSLINE (0800 4 2875463).