As a wheelchair user, Brittney has always had to rely on other people for help, which is something she – as a fiercely independent person – has struggled with.

After growing up in Mataura with her family, a move to Invercargill in 2014 was a chance for Brittney to gain the independence she had been craving.

“As much as I love my family, I wanted to have a chance to look after myself as much as possible and make my own decisions,” Brittney says.

When Brittney first moved to Invercargill, she lived in community housing where she was supported by a carer 24/7. While the move away from home was a good first step towards independence and gave her a sense of achievement, she longed for even more independence.

Brittney in her accessible Kāinga Ora home

“Having a carer around to help was good, but sometimes felt a bit like having a babysitter – and I’m far too old for one of those,” she jokes.

In 2019 Brittney’s dreams for more independence came true when she was offered an accessible Kāinga Ora home – and since moving in, Brittney has thrived and gained new confidence in herself.

Photos and art that reflect Brittney’s personality now dot the home and make it a warm, welcoming space for her and her inquisitive cat, Craig. The home has a range of features that make it easy for her to safely move around, including level-entry access, wider doorways, open-plan living spaces and slip-resistant flooring in the bathroom and kitchen.

Brittney says that having such an accessible home of her own has made her realise just how independent she can be.

“I thought I’d always need to have a caregiver 24/7 like in my previous house, but the accessibility of this home has helped me do so much more for myself,” Brittney says with a big grin.

This sense of confidence and newfound independence have also helped her gain a part-time job working for the same local community organisation that provided her with accommodation when she first moved to Invercargill.

“I love being able to go to work each week. It’s nice to feel like I’m contributing to an organisation that helped me so much when I relocated.

“When my family come down to visit they’re always taken aback by how much I’m doing for myself these days and the fact I’m also working part-time. It shows them I’ve finally grown up.”

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Page updated: 26 June 2023