Hold on for the ride because this is a long one!
I spent Monday and most of Tuesday doing housework and prepping to head to Wellington on Tuesday afternoon for the first of the “Networking” meeting for the System Transformation on Wednesday.

Flying with ADNZ Ben on AirNZ for the first time. #clickbaitpic
This was the point that my week ramped up, I’m travelling to and from Wellington with AirNZ instead of driving for this working group. This was to be my first flight with AirNZ since I got ADNZ Ben; when the paper work from “Special Assistance”, it stated that I had to have the paperwork to them 48hrs prior to flying. The problem with that was, it was less than 12 hrs when I got the paperwork. Luckily AirNZ got my paperwork through quickly and they rang a few hours later to let me know that ADNZ Ben was approved to fly. I confirmed that as long as I give the booking agent the pre-approval code I shouldn’t have to fill out all the forms again. “Surely things should now go smoothly” I thought.
For this set of meetings I’m travelling with Rose, another member of the Regional Leadership Group and once we were both checked in we were directed to the “Special Assistance” seating. While waiting for our flight we briefly saw Jade Farrar as he boarded for his flight, we managed to snap a quick selfie before he had to keep rolling.


Jade, Hannah and I
Rose and I
As I boarded the plane, the flight attendant reached out and took my elbow while asking if I needed help to find my seat. This messed with my balance (which is crap in general) and I almost ended up toppling over into some of the seats. ADNZ Ben and I got ourselves settled and as I clipped his leash to the seat (as stated in the “on flight requirements” information that Special Assistance AirNZ had sent) the flight attendant asked what I was doing. My response “following the policy that Special Assistance sent me.” The flight attendant then stated that she wasn’t sure about that because if something happened then they wouldn’t be able to get him out quickly. I was thinking “you leave us crips until last, I’ll have heaps of time to unclip him”. I did try to say that if something did go wrong that he’d be a 30kg unrestrained hazard, the flight attendant looked a little confused and said they’d go and find out. The other passengers boarded and the flight attendant came back to say that they had asked the pilot, the ground crew and checked the in-flight staff manual and couldn’t find their policy. “Oh and how much vision do you have?”, the flight attendant looked a little confused when I said “All of it”, and then I explained that ADNZ Ben was an Assistance Dog, covered by the same set of laws, but his role was to help with my mobility limitations. It then made sense as to why they grabbed my elbow when we boarded. Do my crutches look like a white cane?


Laters Palmy


The rest of the flight was uneventful, with some gorgeous views and we touched down in Wellington and met with our mobility taxi van. A quick drive around to our accommodation and we checked in. Between checking in and making it to my room I briefly met someone I’ve crossed paths with on Facebook, then one of the facilitators from the Regional Leadership Group.
After offloading my gear we met up with Rose for dinner, it was a good meal and great company. After chilling out in my room for awhile I went down to the bar and caught up with a couple of the facilitators from Regional Leadership Group who were there with some colleagues. It was really nice to spend a little time with them outside a meeting.
On Wednesday I had breakfast with Rose and some others that were staying and attending a range of disability related meetings. Then it was time to throw my gear in my bag and head for the meeting venue. I’d been staying at the meeting venue for the last working group and I that a lot easier logistically. I’m always a bit nervous for “first meetings”, I can find it hard around new people and we’re not always talking about “easy” subjects.
Hello Wellington
Once again I felt slightly out of sync with some of the jargon being used, but I seem to be catching up pretty quick. It’s just I haven’t worked specifically in the disability sector a lot so it’s just a new set of language to learn, a lot of the concepts and ideas aren’t new to me, just called different things. I’m always slightly more reserved on these “first” meetings, I like to get a bit of an idea of who I’m working with and there are definitely some strong personalities on this group.
Some of the first meeting is “getting to know each of each other”, then coming to an understanding of what this working group is actually for. Although we have some common understandings of what sort of networks we will be needing this is merely a starting point. What a lot of people don’t understand is how long some of these things take to work out. Yes I’ve been known to say that people take “disability related” language too seriously, but in these sorts of working groups it really does matter. We want to give people the latitude to make decisions on an individual level, but don’t want to leave big wide loopholes for things to fly through when it gets to policy and process. Coming to the “best” language around that takes time. Before we knew it, it was time to pack up into a van and head for the airport.


Networking Working Group
ADNZ Ben catches a nap
The taxi arrived early so I didn’t get a chance to give ADNZ Ben a pee break (he’d had one mid-afternoon) before we got to the airport. With all the renovations that Wellington Airport have done they haven’t allowed a place for us to easily do this. I found some poles in a carpark and although not the easiest to get to and he did not seem impressed (he prefers a bush) he did have a quick pee.
Then we checked in. The comedy of errors continued. It appears that AirNZ only has “Guide Dog” as an option for the “Service Dog Type” in their computer system so everybody assumes that I’m blind. I lost count of how many “I’m not blind, he’s an Assistance Dog, not a guide dog but covered by the same laws” type conversations I had to and from Wellington. Quote of my flights from staff was “So how much vision do you have? because you make really good eye contact for a blind person”.



I tend to forget that people are used to us around town these days so there’s not quite so much “oh my god look at the dog” etc at the places I tend to go. I tend to forget people are scared of dogs and will literally jump away from us squealing. I tend to forget that every time I sit down is an open education session on Assistance Dogs. And Wellington Airport delivered it all, I just wanted to get on my bloody plane and go home.
Wasn’t a bad flight home, and I was glad to get there.
Your know your coming into Palmy when…
I spent Thursday catching up on emails, phone calls and finishing off the Safeguarding work I had on. I felt like I got a lot of those “little” bits and pieces done. It was just frustrating that I didn’t feel like I had anything tangible done.
On Friday that “nothing tangible” changed. Since the end of the Safeguarding Working Group set of meetings I’ve been working my way through analyzing the first round of papers that came from the working group towards a Safeguarding framework. Anyone that knows me well knows that I have zero attention span, which means I jump around a document, then review it several times while jumping around some more. This turned into a long phone call with the Working Group facilitator to turn my jumble of notes into constructive feedback towards the document.
I took yesterday off “doing” stuff and rested and have chipped away at getting this blog together throughout the day today. And it’s a new week tomorrow!
Have a great week people!

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