Did you know that nearly 1.1 million New Zealanders are disabled?
While this figure may seem high, it is important to remember not all disabilities are visible. The 2013 New Zealand Disability Survey defined disabilities as impairments with: hearing, seeing, mobility, agility, intellectual, psychiatric/psychological, speaking, learning, memory, and developmental delay. The survey also identified the most common disability in Southland as mobility – caused by a variety of conditions such as arthritis, back disorders, cerebral palsy, fibromyalgia, neuromuscular disorders, and spinal cord injury.
Disability Pride Week Aotearoa 2017 (29 November – 5 December) is about supporting the disabled community by promoting awareness, inclusion, and understanding of disability-related issues. With this in mind, the museum has decided to highlight an object from the collection that reflects empowerment for disabled people.
This fascinating looking ‘Bath Chair’ was donated by @ihcnewzealand in 1983. Bath Chairs were originally devised in the 1750s by James Heath of Bath (hence the name), as a discrete mode of transport for the disabled and infirm. They were pushed from behind by an attendant and steered by the occupant. This late 19th - early 20th century example was modified with a hand-crank and enclosed chain system to drive the rear axle and allow the occupant to move around unassisted. The drive system is New Zealand made, which suggests that it may be a local example of empowering mobility through innovation.
David Dudfield, Curator of History
Image: Bath Chair, Hand crank manufactured by Williams, New Zealand. Collection of the Southland Museum and Art Gallery Niho o te Taniwha. Gift of IHC New Zealand, 1983. Acc. no. 83.1154
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