Access for all

The rebuilding of Christchurch provides an opportunity to build a world class accessible city, rethink how support services are provided and make the most of the employment opportunities that the rebuild provides.

International experience shows that the most vulnerable populations tend to experience the worst outcomes in the aftermath of natural disasters.  For disabled people, access to essential services like emergency accommodation, timely access to information about what was going on in accessible formats and returning support services to pre-quake levels were all issues in the immediate response period.  Issues that continue to affect everyone such as broken roads and footpaths and inoperable public transport services often affected disabled people more.

Human Rights Commission to launch report in Christchurch on International Day of Persons with Disabilities

MP Mojo Mathers will launch a Human Rights Commission report on how to improve accessibility and introduce universal design to New Zealand’s built environment in Christchurch on Monday 3 December. Better Design and Buildings for Everyone: Disabled People’s Rights and the Built Environment is the first of a series of publications aimed at informing debate about disability issues. The publication summarises the Commission’s experience with access to the built environment, includes domestic and international law and standards and offers recommendations to improve accessibility in future.

Says Ms Mathers, “Christchurch can be a world leader in accessible design, and this report provides guidance for achieving that outcome.”

The report will be launched as part of the activities to acknowledge 3 December, International Day of Persons with Disabilities, when the United Nations asks all countries to consider ways to make the world a better place for disabled people. This year the international theme is “Removing barriers to create an inclusive and accessible society for all.” The launch will be followed be an roundtable bringing  together specialists from the building industry (including people with experience in research, design, construction, regulation and development), health sector, and the disabled community to discuss in practical terms how to achieve the vision of a fully accessible Christchurch. A key aim of the meeting is to create a process map for how this vision will be realised in the construction of new buildings and affordable housing.

Disability action plan

The Commission has worked with disabled people and their organisations to make sure their voices are heard and their rights are protected.  Workshops, seminars and discussions have been held to ensure that the Commission understands the issues involved for various groups of people with disabilities.  The Commission has made submissions and representations to the Government, the Christchurch City Council, the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority and Central Christchurch Development Unit and others to ensure that the rights of disabled people are protected and promoted.

The Ministerial Committee on Disability Issues has agreed to focus the implementation of the cross-government Disability Action Plan on the Canterbury recovery.  The Commission made submissions to the draft of this plan.

The Disability Action Plan focuses on four core issues:

  • Reconfiguring supports and services so people will have greater flexibility, choice and control over the supports they receive
  • Improving the accessibility of the built environment
  • Supporting access to employment opportunities
  • Improving emergency preparedness

More information about the Disability Action Plan is available at: http://www.odi.govt.nz/documents/what-we-do/ministerial-committee-on-disability-issues/cabinet-progress-report-on-disability-action-plan-canterbury-30-april-2012.doc

Disability Recovery Plan

As part of the earthquake recovery process a series of recovery plans are being prepared, including an economic recovery plan and an education recovery plan.  The Commission is involved in the development of a Disability Recovery Plan being led by the Canterbury Earthquake Disability Leadership Group.  The recovery plan identifies a number of issues that are crucial to disabled people including:

  • accessibility,
  • employment opportunities
  • access to recreation and sport services and facilities.

The Commission is involved with a group of key organisations including the Barrier Free Trust, the Be. Institute, the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind, CCS Disability Action and Lifemark Design Ltd to ensure that there is a common and rigorous approach to rebuilding an accessible Christchurch.

More reading on disability rights:

Disability Human Rights, 2007 California Law Review PDF

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