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Minister support rights of disabled people

3 December 2000 Media release

Minister supports call for international convention on
rights of people with disabilities

Minister for Disability Issues Lianne Dalziel today gave her support in principle to the call for an international convention on the rights of people with disabilities.

Ms Dalziel was speaking at a function in Wellington organised by DPA, the assembly of people with disabilities, to celebrate the International Day of Disabled Persons.

At the function, DPA president Carolyn Weston presented Ms Dalziel with a charter, drawn up by Rehabilitation International and endorsed by the World NGO Summit on Disability in Beijing in March 2000.

The Charter for the Third Millenium outlines eight goals to improve the lives of people with disabilities, including the call for a United Nations convention.

"New Zealand has made considerable progress promoting equality for people with disabilities," Ms Dalziel said. "The 1993 Human Rights Act, which outlawed disability as a ground for discrimination, was a particular milestone for the New Zealand disability community.

"However, we still have a long way to go, both nationally and internationally. There are more than 600 million people with disabilities around the world and many of them continue to be excluded from the mainstream of society.

"For this reason, I support the growing international call for a United Nations convention which would legally bind countries to protect the rights of people with disabilities."

Ms Dalziel said the development of a New Zealand Disability Strategy showed this Government's commitment to people with disabilities.

"One in five New Zealanders has a long-term disability. They have hopes and dreams just like the rest of us. What gets in the way of those dreams is not their disability, but the barriers they face every day doing the things the rest of us take for granted.

"Physical barriers stop people with disabilities from catching a bus, having a cup of coffee with friends at a café, or attending their local school. Communication barriers mean they can't enjoy a TV programme or find their way round a website. Attitudinal barriers keep them out of the workforce and socially isolated.
"The aim of the New Zealand Disability Strategy is to remove those barriers, wherever they exist."

Ms Dalziel said the strategy was being developed in partnership with the disability sector and would be launched in April 2001.


Accessible information

Ms Dalziel also welcomed the theme of this year's International Day of Disabled Persons - "Making Information Technology Work for All".

"It is high time we recognised that many people with disabilities are excluded from our communities because they can't get the information they need in the form they need it," she said.

Ms Dalziel said information technology had the potential to either improve the lives of people with disabilities or increase their isolation.

"Digital documents can dramatically improve communication for people with disabilities because, with the right technology, they can be easily converted into other formats like speech or Braille.

"At the same time, the new technology can create financial and practical barriers for those with sight, hearing and coordination difficulties."

Ms Dalziel said designing accessible websites was not difficult or expensive, but it did require a change in attitude and awareness.

"There are a number of simple ways to make websites more accessible, including creating text-only versions of web sites, explaining in words the information conveyed by charts and photos, and breaking up unwieldy tables of statistics into bite-sized chunks of information."

Ms Dalziel said people could check to see if their web sites were accessible by using free web-based tools such as 'Bobby'.

ENDS

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