Last week a new Ministry for disability was announced and after reading 2/3 of an RNZ article I feel ready to give my hot and spicy hot hot take on the matter. (Of course, you can watch the full announcement below or read the cabinet paper for yourself)
During the last election cycle, politicians said a lot of good things that they were going to do. However, politicians often like to say they will do something and hope people forget before they have to deliver. This year however has seen politicians back up their words. Just this week UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said we are facing an ecological doomsday and so in support of taking action against climate change he created a fuel shortage across the UK greatly reducing their carbon footprint. Get out of the way Greta Thunberg there is a new climate hero in town.
Meanwhile here in the country map makers forgot, New Zealand, after promising big changes to the way disability issues are handled this Labour government has pushed forward the reading of accessibility legislation to July 2022 and created a new Ministry for Disability issues.
Obviously, the establishment of a dedicated ministry is essential. We have a population ageing so fast the bell curve looks less like a curve and more like a mushroom; we have inaccessible public spaces and an underfunded medical system. Is it spending millions on more bureaucratic faff within government? Yeah probably, but it is bureaucracy to help people, not to give them any advantages but to ensure they have the same opportunities as every other New Zealander. When around 1 in 4 Kiwis’ have a disability the most surprising part of all this is that we didn’t have one already.
For decades decisions about how ‘fix’ disability issues have been made largely without the voices of those very same people the announcement of a ministry, the Enabling Good Lives initiative, and Accessibility for All legislation shows a real commitment and passion to change that.
A side note, does "Enabling Good Lives" sound like a name someone came up with while they panicked trying to remember if it was still ok to say disabled?
These are all really great first steps that I think will have a major impact largely because a lot of businesses aren’t against accessibility, they just don’t know how to 'do' accessibility.
Minister Sepuloni outlines that the first actions of the ministry will be to create frameworks for identifying, isolating, and removing barriers to participation. It will also develop methodologies for addressing these barriers, creating expectations to consult with disabled people, and commit current and future governments to accessibility. These are all really great first steps that I think will have a major impact largely because a lot of businesses aren’t against accessibility they just don’t know how to 'do' accessibility.
I asked a friend of mine who is a Doctor what she thought about this news she too thought it was essential. She then told me her own experience in medical school of learning about disability. What she learnt was they don’t teach it. When her and some other students wrote to their teachers about how valuable they had found an external paper on disability their teacher came back with basically 'too bad so sad'. This I think gets to the heart of why a dedicated ministry is so important.
For too long disability has been thought about after the fact, as something ‘extra’ to do, if we feel like it. Now it has focus, now it has people who have lived it and who understand the impacts of inaccessibility to make sure it permeates through the thinking of every decision made in Government. Just like accessibility permeates through every decision a disabled person makes.