“The COVID-19 recovery is a fantastic opportunity to help build the inclusive society we want for New Zealand,” says Disability Rights Commissioner Paula Tesoriero.
Making sure that shovel-ready projects take accessibility into account will make a big difference in creating an inclusive New Zealand.
“There are significant economic and social benefits to all New Zealanders if we get this right.”
“Ensuring shovel ready projects take accessibility and the voices of disabled people into account will future-proof these projects and potentially significantly improve many people’s lives.”
Tesoriero says lessons must be learnt from the Christchurch post-earthquake rebuild failing to be as fully inclusive as it could have been due to arguments about expediency.
Tesoriero has sought an assurance from the Government that accessibility and universal design will be considered in all stages of confirming shovel ready projects.
“A lens on accessibility and inclusion can be built into the assessment process for applications, ‘fast tracked’ resource consents, contracts, and when the District Councils that receive funding implement shovel ready projects.”
Inclusive employment practices so disabled people can get work on recovery projects is also critical.
“Disabled people who already faced poor employment outcomes pre-COVID19 are likely to be hit hard by redundancies and fewer vacancies.”
New Zealand has ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) which sets up the expectations for how decision makers should respond to and include disabled people.
In late 2018, Cabinet signed off a major piece of work for public sector agencies to thoroughly explore with disabled people how they can achieve full accessibility for disabled people and all New Zealanders.
“It is important that disabled people are part of any review process for the shovel ready projects.”
“Disabled people should be closely consulted and actively involved in matters such as this that affect them and their participation in the community,” says Tesoriero.
Universal design should be a critical component of any major spending on public works or amenities.
“There are measurable economic and social benefits for everyone when universal design is considered – particularly older people, children, disabled people and people with access needs, and culturally and linguistically diverse groups,” says Tesoriero.