One month into the role……………….
I have now been in the role of Disability Rights Commissioner for a month and thought it’d be a good time to share with you a bit about me, let you know what I’ve been learning, and where to from here.
This tells my story about growing up with disability and what led me to this role. I’m determined to spend my first two months listening to make sure I understand the broad range of issues to increase my knowledge and advocate well. It’s also a time to refine priorities so I can help shift the dial meaningfully for disabled New Zealanders across a few important things, rather than doing lots of things not so well.
It’s been a busy few weeks, so far I’ve met with a wide range of people and organisations: the Ombudsman, Children’s Commissioner, Mental Health Commissioner, most political parties, the Minister for Disability Issues twice, a number of DPOs, the Education for All Forum, IHC, the Social Investment Unit, some government agencies, and STRIVE (a great bunch of young people with Down Syndrome who are beginning their self-advocacy journey). Last weekend, I attended a housing hui in Auckland organised by the Disabled Persons Assembly.
So, what have people been saying? Key themes coming up at almost every meeting are: the need for accessible housing, employment issues, inclusive education, and accessibility in terms of infrastructure and transport as well as access to information for blind and deaf people.
I am also hearing that there are some big gaps in data which makes it difficult to provide services and get evidence to support the case for change in particular areas. It has been really helpful to hear about these issues from a range of perspectives and people.
I still have a lot of listening and learning to do.
Alongside the various meetings, I’ve been speaking out about data collection, accessible transport and inclusive education as well as writing to the Minister for Disability Issues on the need for a more comprehensive view of data. Local Government plays a crucial role in the lives of disabled New Zealanders and that’s why I’ll be meeting with the CE of Local Government NZ in the coming month to start conversations about how to positively influence local authorities on issues that affect us.
Agencies are reporting that they’re keen to co-design solutions with the disability community as well. And to that end, I have set up a meeting with the State Services Commissioner to talk about how we get agencies producing good service design and involving disabled people at the table, as well as diversity across the public service and the need for better data from agencies about disability.
The team and I are working hard on preparations for the upcoming four yearly United Nations review of New Zealand’s compliance with the CRPD; more about this next month.
I will be posting a monthly update on things I have been doing and invite you to drop me a line with ideas, invitations, and suggestions on who to meet and get your feedback on whether a monthly update is the right frequency.
Have a great week,