As you know, many disabled people struggle to get employed but do want have good jobs like other people. Can you tell us your thoughts and ideas on how to break through the barriers employers seem to have when employing disabled people?
One of my main priorities is getting disabled people into work. Disabled people want the same opportunities in life as others, getting a job is an important part of this.
I think most businesses do want to employ disabled people, but some lack the confidence or knowledge to put this into action. For example, a lot of people probably don’t know that 75 per cent of disabled candidates require no extra equipment, support or modifications to work effectively.
The key is to work with employers to help them see the benefits of employing disabled people.During your trip to Australia in April you visited Disability Employment Australia, can you share some of the ideas you came away with that might be applicable here?
My visit to Australia was a great opportunity to exchange ideas in the disability space.
Disability Employment Australia emphasised the importance of talking to employers about the skills they need, which is important in matching the right people with the right job.
One employer I visited, Australia Post, had launched an Accessibility Action Plan to improve accessibility for disabled staff and customers. They also created a short film entitled ‘Work-Mate’ which is a funny and entertaining story about one of their employees who happens to be blind. It helps break down stereotypes and to focus on people’s abilities not their disabilities.
How is the employment trial in Christchurch going? Can you give us an update? If this pilot is successful what would this mean throughout NZ?
Project 300 has the ambitious aim of getting 300 disabled people in Christchurch off a benefit and into work.
With the earthquake recovery boosting economic activity, Christchurch has a lower unemployment rate than the rest of the country. This provides a great opportunity for more disabled people to find work.
The project is currently in phase two where we are meeting with employers to gain a better understanding of what it will take to assist disabled people into work.
There is now a single point of contact for businesses, so they can speak to one person who will help them get involved.
From the outset we have been working with clients to understand the type of work they can do and the level of support they need to find and stay in work.
As an MP for Christchurch are you finding that disabled people are getting what they need there to get their lives back to where they were pre 2011 or are there new Christchurch specific issues arising?
Out of the Christchurch earthquakes we have an opportunity to rebuild the city as a place people want to live, work and raise a family.
This also provides an opportunity to rebuild Christchurch as a city that is more accessible for disabled people – especially as the city’s flatness gives us a head start on other places!
I think some good progress is being made on making new facilities more accessible for disabled, but there are always challenges and there is always more we can do. For example Latimer Square and the recently opened Bus Interchange are two examples of facilities with great disabled access.
Whenever I speak to property developers, designers and builders I always challenge them to create accessible buildings. I think accessibility is all about future-proofing. The more accessible a building is, the more tenants and future buyers it can be marketed to. Accessibility can be a win-win.
I understand you participated in the sign-language taster course. How was that for you?
It was fun! I particularly enjoyed being able to learn and develop my own sign – ‘Kiwi and Land’, which shows how important conservation is to me. I would also like to take the opportunity to thank the two NZ Sign Language interpreters who provided a NZSL interpretation service in Parliament throughout Budget week.