Picnic table for everyone

Amanda and Gemma Lowry take a coffee break at the first wheelchair friendly picnic table in Tauranga.

Papamoa Domain has a new picnic table.

And this isn’t any ordinary picnic table – it’s specifically designed for people in wheelchairs.

Tauranga woman Amanda Lowry has been in a wheelchair for six years and she says the new table is going to change the game for her and the family.

“When you’re in a wheelchair, you have to take what you can get, and you are always kind of jammed in places.

“This table changes things, it’s incredibly inclusive. I get to roll up and have my partner on one side and my kid on the other.”

The design enables a wheelchair user to sit in the middle of the table, not just at the end.

“A simple design like that just means I am not the odd one out, I am not stuck on the end of a table. I am included, it just makes your heart happy.”

Tauranga Disability Advisory Group co-chair Paul Curry agrees, saying that this picnic table allows everyone to be seated together as equal participants.

“Inclusion is about having a feeling of belonging; this picnic table provides precisely that feeling.”

Tauranga City Council collaborated with the Disability Advisory Group to come up with a suitable design for a table.

The idea was born after Amanda made a passing comment to a TCC staff member about how difficult it is for people in wheelchairs to use the picnic tables around Tauranga.

The council will be installing 12 accessible picnic tables around the Bay this year, however, specific locations are yet to be confirmed.

About 28 per cent of people living in Tauranga have some form of disability.

Paul says the adapted table design invites the disability community to participate like ordinary people, “so we too can have our fish and chips with the rest of our family”.

Amanda is most stoked about being able to share kai with her daughters after surf lifesaving practice in Papamoa.

“Knowing that I am going to be able to rock down to Papamoa while Lola is doing surf lifesaving and actually sit there and have some kai together afterwards. That’s magic.”

She reiterates the importance of continuing the conversation around accessibility for disabled people across New Zealand.

“The accessibility conversation is ongoing and there are so many of us pushing to make little changes where we can because it has a massive impact on the disabled population.

“If you can access your community, then you are free to live in the world. But if you can’t access your community then you are isolated.”

Amanda would like to see more public spaces in Tauranga made accessible for people who use wheelchairs. Currently, she enjoys spending time with her whanau at Fergusson Park and the Waterfront.

“At the moment I am quite limited with where I can go. The more work that is done around things like picnic tables, and level entry off pathways and roads, the more places I can go.”

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