Disability Rights Commissioner Welcomes New Ministry and Accessibility legislation

Disability Rights Commissioner Welcomes New Ministry and Accessibility legislation

October 29, 2021

The Disability Rights Commissioner is strongly supportive of the government’s announcement of a new Ministry for Disabled People from 1 July 2022 and of the establishment of a framework for improving accessibility for disabled people. 

‘The language used in the government’s announcement indicates a strong commitment to nothing about us without us – an important principle for the disabled community, said Paula Tesoriero.

‘Critical to this will be reflection of Te Tiriti relationships so tāngata whaikaha Māori are able to exercise rangatiratanga. This shift helps Aotearoa New Zealand towards meeting some commitments to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. 

Ms Tesoriero says the announcement signals a significant move in the visibility and leadership of disabled people and the way the current barriers disabled people face will be addressed in Aotearoa New Zealand. 

‘It was vital for disabled people to be closely involved in the thinking behind these proposals. Having Enabling Good Lives as the backbone for its vision and principles points the new Ministry in the right direction – because core to EGL philosophy is that disabled people are always at the centre of decision making about our lives.  It’s also great to see the intention to roll out this approach across the country.

‘It’s pleasing to see an explicit commitment to working closely with the disabled community to establish the Ministry. This is an aspect I will be closely monitoring. This Ministry won’t succeed without disabled peoples’ leadership - and disabled people as employees and decision-makers during the transition and in its on-going development.

‘It’s also important, that other government agencies don’t decrease any focus on disabled people’, she said.

Ms Tesoriero believes a smooth transition of Disability Support Services (DSS) to the new entity without disruption for New Zealand’s over 40,000 disabled people is also vital, and the move must not reduce the critical focus needed in the broader health reforms to better respond to disabled people.

‘This Ministry, in conjunction with the Accessibility for New Zealanders Bill also announced, presents a real chance to advance the rights of disabled people. The bill includes a suite of monitoring mechanisms that are essential to finally gathering aggregated data about our lives and to benchmark progress to remove barriers and reduce inequity.

‘I strongly encourage people to engage in the select committee process considering the proposed legislation. I’m keen for robust discussion to ensure Te Tiriti based governance, as well as considering whether the legislation would benefit from greater independence, greater incentives and stronger enforcement mechanisms”.

‘Today’s announcements mark a new era for us – I’m optimistic about the platform for change these announcements create’.