Recently I posted a story online about the difficulty of finding a post box (they had been removed) and as a person with a disability, I can not drive and rely on walking.
After recent floods I had received letter that asked for permission to enter my property to assess storm stormwater drains that run under it.
The issue was the only option to reply was by post and the postboxes nearby had been removed. Searches on then internet still showed them as being there. Meaning I walked over 4km to post box locations to reply by post with no success.
Today a representative of Auckland Council reached out asking for an appointment to discuss improving their processes for those with disabilities.
I look forward to the conversation as I have multiple suggestions for them, including a design process with accessibility at the beginning and engaging with disability organisations to streamline processes.
Good on the Auckland Council for first noticing and then doing something, beginning a process to do something about it.
A friend (Lisa with her Guide Dog Romy) and Guide Dog Sienna and I were on a mission to find Lisa a dress on sale.
As someone with low vision, I struggled to read clothing tags to find the right size and price of dresses. In true blind person style, I did my best at reading tags but got a few wrong. For example – this is a size 8 when it was a size 18 and also said look, this one is 30% off when it was 40%.
A staff member (Bec) offered to help and was able to correct my size and price errors. The shout-out is how she approached us, which was a breath of fresh air. With no judgement or assumptions, she asked, “if you don’t mind, it will help me to know how much you can see, so I know how to best help”.
My usual experience with shop assistants is often waiting apprehensively until I ask for assistance or assuming I can see nothing and need to feel everything. To be asked in this manner made our shopping experience more enjoyable and less tiring than usual.
I have been meaning to write this post for a couple of weeks now—a shout-out to Auckland Transport for adding audio descriptions of stops on buses in the suburbs.
This has always been a feature of inner-city buses but has never been available on all buses. A few weeks ago, I noticed stop announcements like those on trainings and, as a blind person, find this extremely helpful.
The Stoned Cow in Auckland is a Cafe in Browns Bay that is dog friendly and caters to well behaved pet dogs and their humans.
Guide Dog Sienna and I went there for coffee this morning. We were welcomed at the door by a staff member. Found a table and my friend went off to the bathroom leaving us at the table looking at the large print / high contrast menu.
This cafe does not do table service and customers need to order at the counter. However, a staff member came up and asked if she could help in any way. I said no thank you and told her how much I appreciated the large print/high contrast menu.
She said I know your dog is working and I can not say hello until her harness is off but would she like a treat (all staff carry dog trays in their apron pocket). I said that was fine and she then asked if she was allowed to give it to Sienna or was it better if I did that.
I have had a run of people patting Sienna while she is actively guiding lately without asking and assuming I can see nothing at all. So this was a breath of fresh air to have someone well versed on guide dog etiquette.
The photo below is of Sienna waiting to be told it was OK to drink her Pupa-chino at the Stoned Cow this morning.
It is people that normalise access needs in society and people that also stigmatise those who live with a disability in society.
Today I had a meeting about accessible digital health in Ellerslie and was getting a train from Grafton to Britomart and then on to Ellerslie. I entered the train with my guide dog and sat in a nearby seat.
These days I don’t use trains much as my part of the city does not have train services. Some time ago, I would make weekly trips to volunteer and teach and I did this for around three years. At that time, I was never approached by any AT staff.
Today a staff member approached and asked if I needed any assistance at all with my journey. I did ask her a couple of questions as I am not as familiar with trains as I am with buses.
What made my day is she didn’t make any assumptions about my needs. She sat opposite me and moved herself to be in my field of view without me mentioning it or even moving myself (my usual response).
I asked her a few questions about locations of carriages with wider seating as my guide dog doesn’t always tuck right under the seat. I appreciated her way of describing things. She started with a question that was framed non-judgemental positive – she just asked, “how much can you see?” so she could describe some things for me.
When I mentioned that it was a breath of fresh air to be asked, she was surprised the first time I had met or even heard of a train manager who assisted any passengers and explained this was part of her job.
I only wish I could recall her name as her badge was small. Excellent job, AT.
The Stoned Cow is a cafe in Browns Bay, Auckland. This shout out is for both customer service and the redesign of their printed menu.
Last week I visited the Stoned Cow with a friend and my Service Dog. We were greeted at the door and given the option of Sofa seating or a table. Being a dog-friendly cafe, the server suggested table seating as the sofa was close to the door and many dogs may be less well trained than my service dog and she was concerned that this could be a problem. We agreed as table seating was better for our meal choice.
I had visited the Stoned Cow previously before I had a service dog. At that time, I had found the staff less willing to assist and the menu particularly poorly laid out for those with a print disability or low vision.
What stood out this time was the improvement in the menu (and I don’t just mean the food selection). The menu had been reformatted. Instead of the old Single page backed menu and very small print, it was now a larger Book that was spiral-bound on thick card, making the pages easy to turn.
It included (a larger than 12 point font size along with high contrast (white writing on a black background) and good spacing making this much more readable.
The cafe is dog friendly, and the staff have homemade dog treats and a pupachino made with lactose-free milk.What made a big difference was the way the staff interacted with my service dog.
They didn’t treat her in the same manner as the other pet dogs, who they approached and immediately interacted with. The server asked if she could interact and then asked if my dog could have a treat. Because my dog was working, I said no to the pets. However, I asked if I could give her a treat and did some easy obedience work before she was given the treat.
Here’s some information on allowing service dogs into premises and New Zealand –https://communitylaw.org.nz/community-law-manual/chapter-17-disability-rights/access-to-shops-transport-and-other-services/assistance-dogs-disability-assist-dogs/ along with some information on assistance dogs https://www.companionanimals.nz/disabilityassistdogs.
Some other good points about this restaurant, there is a flat entrance and it is wheelchair accessible there is an accessible bathroom alongside non accessible bathrooms.
To finish off I will add a photo of one of the kids meals we saw go out. Boiled eggs with toast soldiers.
The attitude and knowledge of staff can make a big difference to access.
Today was my first visit to Spotlight Glenfield with my Guide Dog and not my cane. When we entered, a lady behind the counter pointed out the lift as we headed upstairs to the sewing and yarn area. I have shopped at this store since it opened (? 15 to 20 years ago) and only just discovered today it has a lift.
When we entered the fabric area, a store assistant immediately approached and asked if she could help me find something which is fantastic and I had never had occur before I had a Guide Dog (but that is a story for another day).
She also offered to assist by marking the side of the sewing machine needle pack of four where the particular needle I needed was to make it easier to find as it was hard to see the difference between them in the set.
She automatically described things and read any small labels like the cotton so that I picked up the right one.
Just having a staff member understand how to assist instead of not approaching is a breath of fresh air and saved me the fatigue and stress finding small items can cause.
Shoutout to this staff member at Spotlight Glenfield.
We have received the following contribution from a person who asked that their name not be shared on our website
I had not been to the movies for many years and decided to go to a movie I particularly wanted to see that none of my family were interested in seeing.
The only viewing at a convenient time was in the City Centre. I phoned the cinema to let them know I would be travelling with a guide dog and they were very receptive and ensured I had a seat with easy access to the door.
While the cinema itself wasn’t entirely accessible. There were a lot of stairs and escalators and lifts were difficult to locate.
This shout it is for the staff at the cinema. They went out of their way to find out what I needed without making assumptions. They offered my guide dog a bowl of water while we waited and were happy to find us when the theatre was ready plus accompanied us right to our seat. Which was a long way from the counter.
I have been particularly impressed with the staff service Patch Cafe in relation to low vision Auckland. Here are a few examples which made my experience better over the last few days. I will put the names of staff that have done this over the last few days as a shout out to them.
I go to Patch alone and with friends, usually taking my long white cane. Staff generally greet me by name and if they ask me a question, always include my name in the sentence (All staff I have interacted with).
Suppose I am taking food away and have forgotten my backpack. I would usually ask for a bag because carrying a box and having my hands free for using my long cane and blocking overhanging trees can be challenging. I have noticed that staff automatically go for a bag and box without asking now.
Instead of pointing to a table like most other customers, they always ask me to follow them to a table (Gemma and Tish). Today there was only a table left upstairs, so Tish first asked if I wanted to use the stairs or ramp when we walked to a table. We took the stairs, and she asked if I wanted to be guided. I find this very uncommon in New Zealand but asking is appreciated.
I am exceeding adept at knocking over glasses of water when I don’t see them. Yesterday, Gemma (who is new) bought me a glass of water. She told me exactly where she had put it on the table, which was incredibly useful as I have knocked these over when they have been put down without telling me.
There is a small lip at the front doorstep as you enter.
A ramp and stairs are available inside to get up to the higher tables.
The Covid-19 QR Code is on the outside centre of the front door. If the door is left open, this is sometimes challenging. A second QR is inside to the right of the door as you enter about 1.5 m off the ground. A third is available from behind the counter if you ask for it.