Tauranga families of those with disabilities are speaking out against the set-up of Bay City Cinemas in Tauranga saying accessing city theatres isn't easy for the wheelchair-bound.
Ohauiti mother Jenny Noble has approached SunLive in support of Narissa Siemonek, 26, who last week said there's a lack of appropriate seating at Tauranga's Bay City Cinemas.
Narissa said her request to staff for better treatment has fallen on “deaf ears” but Bay City Cinemas general manager Justin Chaney says staff do everything in their power to make going to the movies an enjoyable experience for everyone.
Jenny has two adult children with disabilities and says son Hayden, 32, can't access the wheelchair area in cinema six – instead he sits in the lift floor.
Couple this with helping 28-year-old daughter Sarah up stairs to this cinema and it's a difficult task, says Jenny.
“Cinema Six has only got one lift and if you can transfer out you've still got to step over a little shelf there and get into the seating.
“And if you can't then you're stuck; you virtually have to watch the movie on the lift floor.”
Jenny says if one disabled person can't shift to theatre area it clogs the lift for others.
Hayden and Sarah have a very rare genetic disease called mutoliticosis. Hayden is wheelchair-bound while Sarah can walk with help.
“They're the only two in New Zealand who suffer from this disease – it's particularly rare.
“Sarah she can't stand up straight and to walk she has to be supported – I'll tell you it's bloody hard getting them up the stairs at Cinema Six,” says Jenny.
Jenny says the wheelchair-users designated area doesn't allow able-bodied to sit beside them.
“I hate when I've got to park Hayden in a wheelchair bay and the rest of us – because Sarah can get out of her chair – go and sit in the seats,” says Jenny.
“It's like he's watching the movie by himself – it's isolating and not enjoyable.”
The set-up also doesn't encourage community connections to be made.
“You can see straight away a disabled person sitting in a wheelchair by themselves. They're not connecting with anybody; they're sitting out by themselves because they're in a wheelchair.”
Jenny says Bay City Cinemas staff at Mount Maunganui go above and beyond to ensure her family's visits are comfortable – Hayden now bypasses Tauranga for the Mount complex.
“Those at Tauranga need to walk a day in the shoes of a disabled person to see how difficult it is to access the world.”
A Bay of Plenty CCS Disability Action staff member refused to comment, saying it's a long-term issue that's nothing new and is currently being worked on.
Western Bay of Plenty Disability Support Trust chairperson Margaret Boyes says she hasn't had anyone come to her with access problems to cinemas.
Paul Curry, a member of the new Tauranga City Council Disability Advisory Support Group, says the group is just setting up but he hopes to lend his support to Narissa and others.
“We've had two meetings and will be appointing a chair soon.”
Former Tauranga City councillor Tony Christiansen, who is a double-amputee, says disability provisions in Tauranga's cinemas aren't the same as at the Mount.
But says he knows owner Paul Desmond would be willing to listen to concerns.
“I do know it's an issue in Tauranga City cinema; you're sit out on a platform and the people you're with sit slightly beside you but down.
“And yes, there's a rubbish tin right beside you but I'm sure they don't do that on purpose,” says Tony.
“I'm sure if was pointed out to them, and it was easily enough done, and another two seats could be put up in the area so another person could sit beside those in wheelchairs.”
Tony says Tauranga isn't an easy city to navigate for people with disabilities.
“Some footpaths are very uneven, many crossings dip down steeply and come back up sharply and Willow St has steep-angled footpaths.”
A disability strategy for Tauranga would give council the chance to work with businesses to cater for people with disabilities, with it being implemented into the city plan, says Tony.
“So anything done by businesses; those strategies have to be taken up. There is national standards that cover many issues but you'll find councils don't always adhere to them or are stringent in policing them.”
Tony says the response to pointing out disability issues depends on how people voice concern.
“Some people who have a disability or some form of challenge in their life believe it's their right to have accessibility and that sort of thing.
“Often many of the things done in the world today are for able-bodied people and really it's an education thing – sometimes some people are naive or don't understand the requirements because the disability strategy covers some many forms of the word ‘disability'.
“And you can't always cater to everybody, no matter how hard you try.”
Bay City Cinemas owner Paul Desmond did not return SunLive's calls on the topic.