Wānaka pupil advocates for accessibility changes

The Te Kura o Tititea Mount Aspiring College campus will undergo a range of improvements to its...
The Te Kura o Tititea Mount Aspiring College campus will undergo a range of improvements to its accessibility thanks to disability advocate and Year 10 student Toby Mills. PHOTO: SUPPLIED MAC
Wānaka teenager Toby Mills has successfully encouraged his school, Te Kura o Tititea Mount Aspiring College (MAC), to improve campus accessibility.

Toby (year 10) recently joined the Minister of Education’s Youth Advisory Group (YAG) to advocate for better accessibility in the education system.

"The moment someone who is very clearly more ‘abled’ than you has to do something for you that you physically can’t, you feel really bad. 

"What I’m trying to achieve is for everyone to be treated the same so accessibility is not a ‘thing’."

Principal Nicola Jacobsen said Toby’s advocacy had been instrumental in bringing about some important changes at MAC.

"In Term 1, Toby, Toby’s mother Jo Mills, our deputy principal Vicki Ashton and myself met with an occupational therapist from the Ministry of Education to walk around the school and identify what changes needed to be made to improve accessibility.

They identified several improvements they could make, including replacing heavy doors with sensor-activated doors, installing ramps to give access to the playing field, and re-surfacing gravel paths to make wheelchair access easier, she said.

"We are really grateful to Toby and his mother for advocating for these changes, and to Toby for his efforts in getting the work approved by the Ministry of Education," Ms Jacobsen said.

Toby said a disability should not stop anyone from being able to learn and access school facilities in the same way as everyone else.

"If you aren’t able to walk up a set of stairs to get to your classroom and there’s no lift, then you no longer have equal access.

"When something as seemingly insignificant as a heavy door means someone else has to open that door for you, or push you over a big lip into a classroom, then immediately your independence is taken from you.

"Ensuring everyone can preserve their independence is what I believe is most important."

The campus improvements will be completed during 2024.