Participate disability newsletter, no 23

  • Ruth Dyson
Disability Issues

From the Minister

I’m delighted to continue to be the Minister for Disability Issues in an historic third term for a Labour-led government. I have also retained my portfolios of ACC, Child, Youth and Family and Senior Citizens, as well as becoming Minister of Labour.

Our election manifesto is our work programme for the next three years. We have also scheduled a wider review of the implementation of the New Zealand Disability Strategy, after five years in action. This will be a great opportunity to look at areas where the strategy has been successful, identify any gaps, perhaps extend the partners to the strategy (for example, to local authorities as well as government departments and agencies), and generally ‘raise the bar’.

Last week, the latest progress report was presented in Parliament. It shows government departments and agencies are becoming increasingly responsive to disability issues. Initiatives are having an increasing impact on disabled people in areas such as employment, human rights, transport and communication.

This year, the report is presented under five key themes: promoting citizenship; building government capacity; improving disability support services; promoting participation in all areas of life; and addressing diverse needs.

For the first time the report includes the stories of 25 disabled New Zealanders and their families. Their voices give us a personal insight into their current experiences of disability and a much richer picture of the situation facing disabled people in general.

Also for the first time, the report presents measurable indicators to help focus information on outcomes, as well as describing activity and general trends.

A major focus in the last year has been on ensuring that websites and public information were accessible. Although progress has been made on accessible government websites, further improvements are needed, including perhaps even strengthening the State Services Commission guidelines. Information is indeed power, and government departments and agencies need to lead by example.

I want to thank the Office for Disability Issues for offering strong leadership to departments on developing their implementation plans for 2005/06.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all readers of Participate for your ongoing support in our important work, and wish you and your families a safe and Happy Christmas – and I look forward to a lot more work in 2006!

Policy updates

NZ Sign Language Bill reinstated

The New Zealand Sign Language Bill has been reinstated in the new Parliament. Because of the need to pass urgent legislation before Christmas, this Bill will now be considered in 2006. I want to reassure you of my commitment to ensure that New Zealand Sign Language becomes our country's third official language, and I look forward to celebrating this with you all. I will keep the Deaf community fully informed on progress.

Look online here.

Employment progress continues

The Disabled Persons Employment Promotion (Repeal and Related Matters) Bill has also been reinstated on to Parliament's legislative programme. Whether this legislation will now be passed will depend on how the votes fall in our new political climate. I will continue to push for equitable treatment of people who attend sheltered workshops, and will keep you up to date with developments.

For more information about employment relations and minimum wage exemptions, visit:
or freephone 0800 800 863.

UN convention moves into new phase

The United Nations committee developing the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Disabled People will next meet in January 2006.

At this meeting, negotiations will move into a new phase of getting agreement to the text rather than focusing on improvements or proposing new ideas.

A revised text of the convention has recently been issued by the committee chair, New Zealander Don Mackay. You can access this text at: here

New Initiatives

The Accessible Journey

I would like to commend the Human Rights Commission for their excellent report into the accessibility of public land transport.

The Accessible Journey was prompted by the experiences of disabled people who went to the commission seeking enforcement of their right not be discriminated against in the provision of public transport. The two-year inquiry considered the need for changes to legislation, regulations, policies, procedures and funding arrangements.

In spite of improvements in some areas, the report says public land transport is still significantly less available, less accessible and less affordable for disabled people than for other New Zealanders. Many face great difficulty just getting to work, seeing the doctor, going shopping and meeting friends -- things that other people take for granted.

The report calls for improvements to be progressively introduced and for the requirements of disabled service users to be taken into account from conception through to the delivery of passenger transport services. It also makes a number of recommendations for immediate improvements including mandatory accessibility standards for buses, trains, footpaths, bus stops, shelters, station and other transport infrastructure.

Legislation passed while the commission’s work was underway allows for many of the themes raised in the report's recommendations to be taken into account. These include requirements for community representation and the need to take accessibility into account when planning and delivering services.

Work is proceeding to investigate the development of a national accessibility standard for buses. Another positive move has been the inclusion of accessibility features in the design of new rolling stock to be built for Wellington regional commuter rail services. As more of these buses and trains are introduced, the ability of service providers and staff to consider the needs of disabled passengers will improve.

For those unable to use public transport, expansion of the Total Mobility subsidised taxi scheme is underway. In August 2005, the government announced a $9.49 million funding increase for Total Mobility that will allow for a 60 per cent increase in the number of users from 43,000 to 69,000 over the next three years.

The ability to move around the community is one of the objectives of the New Zealand Disability Strategy. It recognises the rights of disabled people and enables them to take control of their lives. Working together is the best way to come up with practical, lasting solutions. For this reason, I am particularly heartened by the buy-in from all major stakeholders, including disabled people, transport providers, regulators and funders.

I look forward to continuing to work with the disability sector to ensure that public transport becomes more accessible so that disabled people can participate fully in our communities.

Read the full report online here

Anti-discrimination plan launched

A multi-agency plan to reduce discrimination against people with mental illness was launched in November 2005. It outlines what agencies can do to contribute to "the development of a country where people with experience of mental illness can live in recovery, supported in health and in illness, participating fully in life as valued members of our communities".

The plan has been developed by the Mental Health Commission, the Like Minds Like Mine project of the Public Health Director, Ministry of Health, the Office for Disability Issues and the Human Rights Commission

The report is available online at or by clicking here.
For a printed version, phone the Mental Health Commission, (04) 474 8900.

UK to set up Office for Disability Issues

A new Office for Disability Issues is to be established in Britain as part of a strategy to tackle inequality for people with disabilities within a generation.

UK Secretary of State for Work and Pensions David Blunkett said decision making and, where possible, the finance to achieve this, should be put into the hands of disabled people.

"Rather than people fitting into services, services need to fit to individuals. Every person with a disability should have the power to choose the support and services they need from a wide range of possibilities that exist within a given community.

"This concept of individualisation is now becoming global. The idea of a menu of choices -- focused on the individual but supported by the community -- is both powerful and inspirational.

"We want to ensure individuals have control where possible over budgets so they themselves can hand-pick services. This is a key driver in our ambitious strategy to tackle inequality for people with disabilities within a generation."

For more information, go to:

Toolkit promotes disability perspective

The Office for Disability Issues has published an online resource aimed at government policy makers, providing tools to help them include a disability perspective in their policy development.

This resource provides an overview of disability issues, facts on disabled people in New Zealand, a history snap shot, and advice on how the government can work with the disability sector.

Any decision by the government may have an impact upon disabled people and their families. The goal is to help ensure policy changes contribute to the increasing inclusion of disabled people in society.

The toolkit can be accessed at:

First deaf person on jury

Victoria University lecturer David McKee recently served on a jury in what is believed to be a first for New Zealand. Not only was he picked for a jury to hear a tax case, but his fellow jurors made him foreman. The court arranged two sign language interpreters for the two-day trial.

Dr McKee, an American-born senior lecturer in deaf studies, is the first deaf person to teach in a university here.

He said the bill currently before Parliament to have New Zealand Sign Language recognised as an official language and for use in legal proceedings, probably made officials more open to having an interpreter in the court and jury room.


Deaf Oscar winners

Congratulations to everyone who participated in the recent New Zealand Deaf Film Competition. Victoria Manning was the star of the show, scooping several awards for her comedy, Land of the Deaf.

I would also like to congratulate other winners: Sonia Pivac, Daniel Harborne, Oliver Ferguson, Michael May, and Brent Macpherson.

I welcome any opportunity for the Deaf community to showcase their fantastic culture and visual language. I have no doubt that the Deaf Film Competition, and the contributions, will go from strength to strength in the future.

For more information, click here

Mainstream employment awards

The Ministry of Social Development’s Work and Income Office in Oamaru has been named the 2005 Mainstream Employer of the Year.

Mainstream is a supported employment programme provided the State Services Commission for people with disabilities.

Announcing the winners, State Services Minister Annette King said the programme is a world leader in the development of supported employment.

"The Mainstream Programme plays a big role in delivering one of government’s key disability strategies, fostering an aware and responsive public service. It helps to promote the state services as employer of choice for all, through its support of workforce diversity.

"I want to acknowledge all Mainstream participants who have seized this employment opportunity with just a little help and a lot of determination."

Other winners were:

  • Runner-up for Employer of the Year: Cosgrove School, Papakura.
  • Merit winners for Employer of the Year: New Zealand Police, Porirua; ACC, Palmerston North.
  • Mainstream Placement Specialist of the Year: Siona Tulia, Emerge Trust, Wellington; Joan Hamilton, Edge Employment, Auckland.

    ASENZ Supported Employment Provider of the Year 2005

    Congratulations to the Livestock Improvement Corporation for being judged 'Employer of the Year' at the Association of Supported Employment in New Zealand conference.

    Attitudinal barriers are the hardest hurdles for disabled people to overcome. I support any company which focuses on the abilities of disabled people and in so doing shows others the way forward to realise the New Zealand Disability Strategy's vision of a society that is fully inclusive and highly values disabled people.

    Upcoming conferences and events

    23rd Australia New Zealand Conference for Educators of the Deaf
    11 - 14 January 2006
    More information, click here.

    VASS national conference -- ‘Thinking Smarter - Ideas and Innovation’
    21 - 23 June 2006, Rotorua
    More information: email -

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