As part of our 25th Anniversary celebrations, we were honoured to be able to co-sponsor a project that embodied everything we stand for in terms of removing barriers for people with disabilities and highlighting the importance of accessibility - and not just in the physical sense.
Along with Waiapu Kids Homebased Child Care and Joy Plaisted, we helped fund the creation of a specialised carriage for the River Edge Park Miniature Railway in Whakatane, making the train safe and accessible for people with disabilities.
The carriage, which was designed and rigorously tested by the Eastern Bay Model Engineers Society, converts from a conventional bench seat to a singular high-backed seat which provides head and shoulder stability and has armrests and twin seat belts. It also swivels to allow easy access for wheelchair transfers and can be used by people of all ages.
We usually use the term accessibility to talk about access to buildings and infrastructure - how ramps, lifts and mobility parking can help people with disabilities navigate their physical environments. Innovative projects like this not only give people with disabilities physical access, they also provide access to participation, inclusion and the ability to enjoy the little things, which most of us take for granted.
To us, achieving true accessibility means changing our thinking, seeing things from others’ perspectives, problem solving, collaborating and striving for equality - the kind of vision that brought the train carriage to fruition.
On the new carriage's opening day, students from James Street School were among the first to try it out. Seeing Tiarete’s huge smile as he waved to us from the train along with everyone else illustrated what true accessibility means for people with disabilities and was an inspiring example of why we are so passionate about working in this sector.
The Disabilities Resource Centre would like to thank everyone who was involved in the project and who came to celebrate with us on opening day.