Living with disability

What people with disabilities can do is limited by service design and unsympathetic attitudes.

A team of our Nursing students have been investigating the health needs of disabled people in Ōtepoti Dunedin. People who live with disabilities have many barriers to participating in life. Limited transport options for example, affects the accessibility of health services, limits their recreational opportunities, and makes it harder for them to get to and from a job. As a result, their involvement in social life is limited and they are more isolated and lonely. Loneliness itself has an adverse effect on both physical and psychological wellbeing. As a group they are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, so fear of the disease has reduced the social participation even further.

The students decided to do something to address the transport issue, as so many other aspects of life depend on transport. They wrote a submission to the Otago Regional Council, which is responsible for bus services in and around Dunedin. They explained that the negative attitudes of bus drivers is a problem that discourages people living with disabilities from using the bus services. They recommended that the Council provide training for bus drivers. The Council was pleased to receive their submission and discussed it with the students. The intention is to survey bus drivers to find out what the Council can do to help the drivers to support bus users with disabilities.

The students also developed a prototype for a badge that can be worn by people with disabilities and which invites others to initiate a conversation with the wearer about what they are able to do. As a pilot, the Otago Polytechnic Students Association has funded production of a set of these for distribution at Otago Polytechnic.

August 2022