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One in five New Zealanders report disability

Monday, 14 June 2004

One in five New Zealanders report disability: PHA calls for equal employment opportunities

The Public Health Association is disturbed the employment prospects for people with disabilities have gone backwards, given that one out of every five New Zealander reports having a disability. The PHA says is calling on employers toemployers should look at the skills that individuals bring to the workplace, rather than focussing on a disability. stop questioning the ability of people with disabilities and to recognise the benefits that this group brings to the workplace.

The PHA's comments follow the Human Rights Commission finding that in 2003 significantly more people with disabilities were unemployed and complained about discrimination than in the mid 1990's is a wake-up call, according to the PHA. .

PHA spokesperson Dawn Gourdie, who was initially employed in her current public health position through the Mainstream Employment Programme, points out people with disabilities are often economically disadvantaged paid less, or do not receive promotion at the same rate as their peers, even when they are employed.

"The total personal income for working age adults with disabilities in New Zealand is significantly lower than for adults without a disability."

Unemployed people with disabilities risk deteriorating health, as unemployment and low income are clearly associated with poor health, Ms Gourdie says.

"People with disabilities who are lucky enough to gain employment often experience an improvement in their condition."

Ms Gourdie says most of these people have been worthwhile contributing members of the workforce before the onset of the disability and have the potential to remain so if provided with employment opportunities.

Government, ACC and other agencies should focus on preventing injury or diseases that are a leading cause of disability, according to Ms Gourdie. She points out the current diabetes epidemic is a major cause of disability

The PHA is calling on the government to fully implement the New Zealand Disability Strategy.

It also points out that people with mental health disabilities who are lucky enough to gain employment often experience an improvement in their condition.


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