Cabinet has approved a work programme to thoroughly explore how we can achieve full accessiblity for disabled people and all New Zealanders, Minister for Disability Issues Carmel Sepuloni says.
The work programme will focus on accessibility for disabled people but will also look at how we can improve accessibility for other groups such as seniors, carers of young children, people with English as a second language, and those with temporary injuries.
The work programme will involve collaboration with a wide variety of stakeholders, including the Access Alliance, other disability groups and small business. It will look at:
· how to define “full accessibility”
· the challenges and opportunities of different approaches
· whether legislation is needed for mandatory codes and standards for accessibility and what domains any might cover.
“Earlier this year I was presented with a petition to put accessibility into a legislative form by the Access Alliance. Accessibility is enforced in law in some other countries, transforming the lives of disabled people and its time that we explored the feasibility of legislation in New Zealand,” Carmel Sepuloni said.
“A lack of accessibility to transport, information, communications and customer services creates barriers to employment, housing, education and to a decent standard of living and quality of life.
“A quarter of New Zealanders including seniors are disabled. With a rapidly ageing population, we need to start work now, so that all New Zealanders and future generations can participate fully in society.
“Over 25 % of disabled people are underemployed compared to 11.5 % of non-disabled people. Many disabled people are qualified to work but they’re excluded from employment because things like transport, buildings and services aren’t accessible.
“In this day and age that level of exclusion for such a big proportion of our society is unacceptable. These barriers must be broken down,” Carmel Sepuloni said.
Chrissie Cowan, CEO of Kāpō Māori Aotearoa and Chair of the Access Alliance says: “On behalf of the Access Alliance, we applaud the government on this decision, and thank Minister Sepuloni for listening to New Zealanders with disabilities and taking action.
“All New Zealanders deserve an equal footing to enable us to do the things we want to in life. For too long barriers that may be invisible to others, such as the absence of environmental cues in public spaces to help vision-impaired people know where they are, have been standing in the way.
“Universal access will enable everyone to contribute more to society and create economic benefits such as making our country more accessible for the one billion potential tourists with access needs. The opportunity is huge, and the future is exciting,” said Chrissie Cowan.
The Ministry of Social Development and the Office for Disability Issues will lead the work programme and consultation with stakeholder groups will start in early 2019.