A deputation to Rodney Local Board on facilities and support for disabled people and their families in the region made for some pretty uncomfortable listening last month.
Two charities, Rodney Inclusive Communities Incorporated (RICI) and Adults in Motion (AIM) painted a decidedly bleak picture of the current state of things, as they made a bid to develop a new ‘inclusion hub’ in Warkworth.
At present, Rodney has no central point where disabled people and their families can meet, access services or find information and support.
Nor is there any data on the growing number of disabled people in the region, the range of disabilities that exists or any active programmes prioritising accessibility and inclusion.
What that boils down to is that there are far too many disabled people and families who are isolated, lonely and excluded from everything from employment opportunities to venues and events.
AIM itself, a vocational service for adults with intellectual disabilities, is a classic example. Yes, it has its own base in Warkworth, but as it’s a cramped converted house with a vertiginously steep driveway, and where wheelchairs can’t access the bathroom, it’s barely fit for purpose.
So the charities’ push to lease Shoesmith Hall and transform it into an inclusion hub for the whole of Rodney seems not just timely, but long overdue.
The aim is to convert it into a multi-functional, inclusive and accessible space that operates for a wide range of people, groups and services, seven days a week.
RICI and AIM are also keen to build relationships with existing users of the hall, to share the space and build relationships that benefit everyone. After all, the last thing they want to do is exclude anyone. But, as they point out, it is far easier for any able-bodied group of users to find an alternative venue than it is for people with disabilities, since so few places are genuinely accessible to all.
This is something that needs to change. With the local population about to explode, it’s time to make sure that not only is new development fully inclusive, but existing facilities are brought up to scratch as well.
Rodney Local Board and Auckland Council giving RICI and AIM the chance to create a regional inclusion hub at Shoesmith Hall won’t solve all the problems by any means, but it would be a good start. Let’s hope they make it happen.