A trial Companion Card programme is enabling people with disabilities to more easily take part in activities at participating city venues.
The trial is a partnership between Mana Whaikaha, a Government disability support system, and Palmerston North City Council. Council in 2020 allocated $10,000 towards the scheme’s implementation. The trial will run for 12 months before being reviewed.
Companion Card holders show their card at participating venues when buying their ticket or paying an entry fee. They’ll receive a ticket for their companion at no extra charge.
However, presenting a Companion Card does not guarantee tickets where events might be sold out, or when accessible seating arrangements are already allocated through earlier bookings. The cardholder will also need to check the venue is accessible to their needs.
The Disability Reference Group has championed having a Companion Card programme.
Chairperson Rose Boddy says the card has been a long-term goal of the group and they were excited Palmy Council and Mana Whaikaha were making it happen.
“In the disability community, there are high levels of isolation and this is in part because of accessibility. This card opens huge opportunities.
“It gives dignity back to people. For example, I recently wanted to go to an art exhibition and I needed help to get around. But I couldn’t go, because the cost of another ticket was out of reach of myself and my support person,” Boddy says.
The trial has venues signed up to take part from the start. “We’re hoping this is the thin edge of the wedge, and more places will get on board,” Boddy says.
Participating venues for the start of the trial include Centrepoint, the Regent on Broadway, the Globe Theatre and Te Manawa. It is hoped more venues will sign up as the trial progresses.
The Companion Card is being administered by Mana Whaikaha. Enabling Good Lives (EGL) is the strategic leadership group for Mana Whakahai. EGL’s core group spokesman Martin Sullivan says it’s been rewarding to partner with Palmy Council to support the quality of access to the great events in our city.
The digital card operates through mobile devices, using the sporty.co.nz membership app. “Most people have a mobile device, and if a person with a disability doesn’t, it’s likely their companion will and can access it on their behalf.”
Sullivan says people eligible for a Companion Card can apply for one online at palmycompanioncard.co.nz.
Once your application has been verified by Mana Whaikaha and you have received your card confirmation, you’ll be able to show your electronic card at approved venues when you book your ticket. Bookings need to be made in person or over the phone, as the trial is not suitable for online bookings, Sullivan says. When bookings are made over the phone, you must show your digital card when you collect the tickets.
Card users are welcome to share their feedback to email@example.com. “It’s a learning process and there will be areas that can be improved as we move through the trial,” Sullivan says.
Information about the Companion Card will also soon be added to the Palmerston North City Council and Mana Whaikaha websites.