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Disabled daredevils tackle Mission Accessible

28 November 2005

Disabled daredevils tackle Mission Accessible

Fear will fall by the wayside when a wheelchair user abseils down a 13-storey building and a blind person walks a high wire as part of this week's 'Mission Accessible' event.

The Auckland City event on Thursday 1 December celebrates the United Nations International Day of Disabled Persons.

'Mission Accessible' will feature teams from Auckland City, Vodafone, AUT University and IBM competing in an 'Amazing Race' style contest.

The day will also see the launch of a new publication - 'Access Auckland: an access map for Auckland's CBD'.

This unique map highlights mobility car parks, accessible toilets, accessible public telephones, accessible ATMs and the steepness of streets among other things.

The council's disability advisor, Minnie Baragwanath, says the 'Access Auckland' map will be hugely important in helping disabled people to negotiate their way around the central city.

"It's crucial that the city is accessible for disabled people so that they can live full and active lives. This map will help many people move around the CBD and enable them to participate in education, business and leisure activities.

"Disabled people are not the only ones to benefit from this map. It will also provide valuable information for older people and parents with young children," she says.

The 'Access Auckland' map will be one of the tools teams can use in the 'Mission Accessible' event, in which they have to complete a series of challenges around the central city.

The teams must have a combination of disabled and non-disabled members and must include members of senior management. Auckland City's team will include a number of councillors.

The event will begin with 28-year-old wheelchair user Justine Hunter abseiling down the Mercure Hotel.

"I will definitely be nervous abseiling down that massive building, but I passionately believe in accessibility so I'm prepared to do it. A disabled person can find it really difficult to get around a city and anything that makes streets, buildings, or opportunities more accessible makes such a difference.

"Disabled people just want the chance to participate in every part of life and I'd just urge businesses and other organisations to think about that," she says.

Clive Lansink, who has been blind since birth, agrees. To make the point he will walk a high wire at the Auckland Art Gallery.

"Just getting into a café past a footpath crowded with tables, chairs and sandwich boards can be a bit like walking a tightrope for a blind or vision impaired person, so I'm sure I'll take this challenge in my stride," he says.

Ms Baragwanath says she's pleased other organisations have joined with Auckland City to celebrate the International Day of Disabled Persons.

"It's fantastic to have this level of support from organisations across the city that are committed to raising awareness about the importance of accessibility.

"It's especially important to focus on the issue of physical access this year because it's New Zealand's Year of the Built Environment," she says.

All participating teams will receive an artwork created by the Panacea Arts Trust, an organisation that provides arts training for people with intellectual disabilities.

Mission Accessible: 1 December 2005 11.45am Performance by Touch Compass Dance Troupe in QEII Square Noon Wheelchair abseil down the Mercure Hotel 12.10pm Teams leave to complete challenges around the central city 1pm High wire traverse at the Auckland City Art Gallery 2pm Teams arrive at AUT University campus.


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