AT recognizes two careers of service and dedication AT recognizes two careers of service and dedication

As part of International Day of Disabled Persons 2022, we recognise the careers of two of the longest serving members of our internal advisory groups.

After over 50 years of combined service for accessibility on public transport in Tāmaki Makaurau / Auckland, 2 of the longest serving members from our internal advisory groups are heading off to well-deserved retirements.

Chris Orr, from Blind Low Vision NZ, and Alison McLellan, from Headway: The Brain Injury Association Auckland. both completed their final three-year tenure this month. Each served as one of 10 members on our 2 internal advisory groups.

A photo of Chris Orr stepping out of a train onto a platform. He is holding onto a leash connected to the harness of his guide dog, Noble, a black labrador. Noble is looking at the camera with large brown eyes. Chris is wearing a shirt with a tie, a blue blazer, long grey trousers and black dress shoes.

Chris Orr with his dedicated working dog Noble, exiting one of Auckland’s accessible and carbon-free electric trains.

Chris Orr has lived most of his adult life being blind after losing his sight in a shooting accident. Having always been an athlete, Chris carried on with running and eventually went on to represent New Zealand as a winter para-Olympian in Innsbruck, Austria, where he was part of the first ever medal-winning team. He also represented New Zealand twice in the World Blind Marathon Championships and won one of those events.

Alison McLellan has lived a similar life of dedication and bravery for her family. In 1976, living any parents’ nightmare, Alison’s life drastically changed when her 19-year-old son was in a car crash and suffered a severe brain injury. Alison came together with other parents to form the support and advocacy group Head Injury Society (now Brain Injury Association) in 1981.

A photograph of Allison McLellan. Allison is sitting on a chair by a low wooden wall. Between the back of the chair and the wall are two bushes with dark and light pink flowers. Allison is facing the camera and smiling. She is an older woman with reddish-brown hair and red glasses. She is wearing a black top with a short-sleeved black shirt over it. The shirt has patterns of pink flowers. She is wearing a silver medal around her neck.

Alison McLellan, 2021 Senior New Zealander of the year semi-finalist.

In 2021, Alison was a Ryman Healthcare Senior New Zealander of the Year Te Mātāpuputu o te Tau ​Award semi-finalist. This award recognises those who have made a positive contribution to Aotearoa New Zealand later in life.

Chris and Allison met decades ago, when they both joined the Public Transport Accessibility Group (PTAG). PTAG focuses on accessible service delivery and improving public transport experiences across the Auckland network. They have also both been part of the Capital Projects Accessibility Group (CPAG), which focuses on making sure that Auckland's public transport network is inclusive and accessible to people of all ages and abilities.

Over the past 3 years, the advisory groups have continued to meet regularly, both virtually and in-person. They have been supporting staff and helping make sure projects achieve their desired accessibility results.

Some of their many successes for Auckland include:

  • the adoption and implementation of AT's Accessibility Action Plan (now in its third update)
  • creating Accessibility Audit Tools, which are used to assess the accessibility of existing infrastructure
  • accessibility and design in the new City Rail Link (ongoing)
  • development of the new train network, with all stations now at a uniform height (ongoing)
  • accessibility and design of the new Eastern Bus network (ongoing)
  • supporting the development of and improvements to the Total Mobility service in Auckland
  • working with Waka Kotahi on national requirements for urban buses in New Zealand
  • helping staff design and implement the new PlusOne bus transportation concession.

As Alison notes, "it is over the past 3 years that we, the PTAG and CPAG members with staff, have really changed it up a gear and made an extraordinary metamorphosis, especially the Total Mobility scheme improvements and the welcome introduction of the PlusOne concession for a support person."

Chris elaborates, "I think Aucklanders may not always know how much public transport has undergone a resurgence, changing, and evolving for the betterment of all with accessibility included ... Change is an iterative process and needs to be built upon and improved. As each achievement has been reached, we need to move on to the next, making it better, and better for everyone."

Next year, the new 2023 PTAG and CPAG advisories hope to welcome youth members for the first time. They will continue to support Māori wellbeing, encourage Auckland's culturally diverse communities, including the LGBTQ+ community, and tackle safety. They will also address questions of equity, accessibility, and carbon reduction to tackle climate change.

Membership panels are drawn from stakeholder group representatives, from:

  • general or physical impairment
  • vision impairment
  • hearing impairment
  • cognitive impairment
  • neurodiversity
  • senior citizens
  • youth with disability.

PTAG and CPAG Advisory Members 2020 to 2022

Some agencies have 2 members listed if a position is jointly held at different times.