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Wheelchair user upset about footpath hazards

Wheelchair access to footpaths in  the Dunedin suburb of Mornington has been labelled ”incredibly dangerous”.

Wheelchair users say they are being forced on to roads because the kerbs leading on to footpaths are too dangerous to use.

The Dunedin City Council says it is aware of the situation and is working to provide more than 2000 ”drop-kerbs” across the city, something that takes time.

Fiona Russell (46) is one of three residents at the McGlynn Centre in Mornington who is in a wheelchair.

The centre cares for disabled people under 65.

She said going anywhere was difficult.

There were some kerbs only certain types of wheelchairs could access, but they had to be approached on an angle.

”Our wheels are getting stuck between the kerb and the footpath and it’s far too dangerous to access,” she said.

”We have to go on the road because the kerbs leading into the footpaths are too dangerous, and so we’re having to deal with oncoming traffic.”

Crossing the road proved the most dangerous.

Residents could not get their wheelchairs over the kerbs and on to the footpath on the other side of the road, and were forced to go on the road.

Ms Russell said she had issues with similar kerbs in South Dunedin, and had tried to get the Dunedin City Council to fix the issue.

But she was told nothing could be done in the next two years because of financial issues.

More drop kerbs needed

Council transportation planning manager Sarah Connolly said the council was aware improvements were needed, and drop-kerbs were coming.

”The first lot of these improvements was to be made in South Dunedin, as they were deemed to be in the greatest need, with the Mornington area subject to upgrades in 2016-17.

”In response to this issue being raised, we will revisit the [Mornington] site to check on our initial assessment.”

About 100 similar sites in South Dunedin were scheduled to have ramps installed as part of the 2015-16 programme, and a similar number in 2016-17.

A survey last year of the urban Dunedin area, not including Green Island and Mosgiel, identified more than 2000 locations where drop-kerbs were needed.

”The programme to install these is under way. However, with so many sites, there is a need to prioritise.”

John Marrable, from the Disability Information Service, said the environment Ms Russell was having to live in was disabling her more because she was not able to go everywhere she would like.

”It’s actually a sort of ignorance,” he said.

”People say we don’t need to worry about [these sorts of issues] as it’s assumed the footpaths and roads are safe enough for everyone.

”But road maintenance is not allowing these [wheelchair bound] people to go where they like.”

Ms Russell said the poor wheelchair access would not stop her from enjoying the outdoors, despite her safety concerns.

By Ollie Ritchie for the Otago Daily Times