One In Five for Sunday 13 April 2014
Anna Jameson is a wheelchair user and disability rights advocate who has written a book about accessible walks.
New Zealand is full of scenic locations but not all of them can be enjoyed by wheelchair users or others living with a disability.
Anna's book, co-written with her brother, Andrew Jameson, provides detailed information about 100 South Island walks, all of which she completed using her wheelchair.
Sometimes you almost need a V8 engine on the back of your wheelchair to get up a steep walk.
That's the view of Anna Jameson, wheelchair user, advocate for disability access and, more recently, author of a book of 100 accessible South Island walks.
But, whilst she wants better access to tracks for the disability community, she also set herself the goal of finding walks that weren't boring. "You actually had to get somewhere like see a cool waterfall or an amazing tree. Sometimes people's idea of accessibility is to go round in a circle in the middle of a park which is not really that exciting."
She believes its "good for the soul to get out of the house and get the wind on your face" and the Queenstown local has done plenty of that in the last couple of years, researching, cataloguing and then rating the walks with her brother, Andrew Jameson.
Tracks that earned four stars included those with manageable gradients and smooth surfaces, wide enough to accommodate multiple users and, most importantly, without steps or protruding tree roots.
Users had to be able to get out of their car and into a wheelchair and then wheel straight onto the track without being stopped by an initial step or stile.
However the book also includes more difficult tracks that gained a lower star rating but were aimed at those who wanted to push themselves.
"The Conical Hill walk, for example, in Hanmer, that's a mission of a walk but what a view from the top ! Absolutely stunning so it’s totally worth the effort to get to the top" she said.
She believes that whether walkers want a challenge or an easy stroll, the key to the grading is that they know what to expect and can then ask a friend to come along and help if needed.
Obstacles aside, Anna and Andrew Jameson found their way to plenty of interesting and scenic locations and Anna found the reactions of other walkers noteworthy too. "Zooming along a swing bridge in a wheelchair, to see the expressions on people's faces was quite classic: "Wow, what are you doing out here?", "well, the same thing as you." she said.
Anna Jameson also works for CCS Disability Action and liaises with community organisations to promote better access for all. Over the years she's encountered what she calls some tokenism in disability access and says, while some walks and facilities are well set up, in other cases, one small thing like a step can stop wheelchair users from getting where they want to go.
More recently she's worked with the Queenstown Trail to smooth out some parts of local walks, a positive project she says will help more people enjoy the popular tourist destination.