MPs navigate Parliament in wheelchairs for Spinal Cord Injury Day

The AM Show 06/09/2018

More than 2.5 million people worldwide have a spinal cord injury, and every day three people are told they will never walk again.

Yesterday ministers Carmel Sepuloni and Iain Les-Galloway spent Spinal Cord Injury Day in wheelchairs to raise awareness. Ms Sepuloni told the AM Show she was initially nervous.

"I was reluctant to do it at the beginning, but it just highlighted the fact that there are accessibility issues, even in Parliament - just the everyday things we take for granted that are not so easy if you're in a wheelchair."

They were in the chairs for six hours, but admitted getting out to go to the bathroom.

"In terms of the Beehive the only accessible toilet is on the bottom floor," said Ms Sepuloni.

"Inevitably there will be someone who comes into this place who will be in a wheelchair and that will be a great day, but there's a lot of work to be done to make it accessible.

"The incline between the Beehive and Bowen House was impossible for me to get up. It makes a huge difference. The doors, particularly the smoke-stop doors, trying to get through with the chair and open them at the same time are really difficult to do if you don't have someone helping you."

Carmel Sepuloni and Iain Les-Galloway in Parliament.

Even when she left Parliament, Ms Sepuloni said she found she was treated differently.

"Quite a few looks of sympathy. I went into a cafe to get a coffee [and it was] virtually impossible to navigate my way through - really tight places with stools and stuff all over the place.

"People I didn't know were wanting to get up and help which was really nice, but at the same time I guess there's that fine line of wanting help, needing help, when do people help."

Accordions to the Ministry of Health approximately 80 to 130 people are diagnosed with spinal cord impairment through injury or medical/congenital causes every year.

Watch the full interview with Carmen Sepuloni above.

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