Why accessible travel in New Zealand still has a long way to go

It’s high time accommodation and transport providers pay more attention to an eager travel market who have long been ignored, writes Juliette Sivertsen.

Chris Wilcox dreams of going on a horse riding trek in a remote part of the South Island.

The Auckland woman rides with Riding for the Disabled, but as a permanent wheelchair user, facilities required during these sorts of backcountry adventures mean she often misses out on ticking off her bucket list.

“I’m not sure if that would be available to me, because of the accommodation and bathroom facilities along the way,” says Chris.

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The 68-year-old has been in a wheelchair for the last 10 years, as a result of a tumour on her spinal cord. It hasn’t stopped her and her husband Garth from travelling and they’ve been able to cruise the Mediteranean, do safaris in Kenya and Tanzania, travel around the US, road trip through the North Island and go paragliding in the South.

Naturally, they’ve had to adapt the way they travel, but both of them wish booking travel was easier for people with disabilities.

“Just little things that for a normal person it doesn’t seem a big deal but to a person with a disability, for independence, it makes it really tricky,” she says.

Garth says it can be hard to find accommodation that has accessible rooms, and they often aren’t made clear on booking websites. Usually they have to phone to secure a room, rather than the ease of quickly booking online like non-disabled travellers. Sometimes a room states it has wheelchair access, but that’s as far as accessibility goes.

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