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Report Shows Progress On Disability Issues

The first report on progress in implementing the New Zealand Disability Strategy shows that government departments are becoming more aware of disability issues and more responsive to people with disabilities, Disability Issues Minister Ruth Dyson said today.

The report, which was tabled in Parliament last December, outlines the activities of 10 key departments that developed plans to implement the disability strategy for 2001/2002. It covers the three months from 1 July-30 September 2001.

Ms Dyson said the departments had made considerable progress, even during this short period.

“Many departments have focused on infrastructural issues such as recruitment of people with disabilities, improving physical access to buildings and equipment, staff training, and more accessible information.

“The State Services Commission, for example, has initiated a number of projects, including a survey of graduate students with disabilities about their knowledge and perceptions of the public service as an employer, and a seminar on disability awareness for Equal Employment Opportunity coordinators and human resources advisors.

“This sort of leadership is critical if we are to change negative attitudes, which are the biggest barrier facing people with disabilities.”

Ruth Dyson welcomed reports of joint government department projects to provide services for people with disabilities.

“People with disabilities get very frustrated having to deal with different government departments to meet different needs. It is heartening to see more cross-sectoral projects, such as collaboration by the Ministries of Education and Health to improve support services for children with autistic spectrum disorder and to develop services for people who are deafblind.”

Ruth Dyson said a number of key initiatives had also occurred during the report’s timeframe, which were in keeping with the strategy’s philosophy of human rights and removing barriers to participation.

These included the decision to resettle Kimberley’s 375 residents with intellectual disabilities in the community; the launch of Pathways to Inclusion, the government’s new direction for vocational services for people with disabilities; and the removal of the government’s exemption from human rights legislation.

While the primary focus was on the role of central government, the report also outlined local government and community responses to the strategy, Ms Dyson said.

“The disability strategy has given new impetus and confidence to the disability movement, and the report acknowledges excellent local initiatives in many areas.”

Future annual reports to Parliament on implementation of the disability strategy would be more comprehensive, she said.

“From 2002/2003, all government departments have to prepare annual work plans to implement the disability strategy, and will be formally monitored against them. I expect departments to become increasingly responsive to the needs of people with disabilities who make up 20 per cent of the total population.”

The 10 government departments whose activities are covered in the first report are the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs, Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Ministry of Social
Development, Ministry of Transport, Department of Labour, Te Puni Kokiri and the State Services Commission.

 The report, Progress in Implementing the New Zealand Disability Strategy: Report of the Minister for Disability Issues to the House of Representatives for the period 1 July to 30 September 2001, is available on the NZDS website at www.nzds.govt.nz, along with the 10 government department implementation work plans for 2001/2002.

 The report is also available electronically, in hard copy, large print, Braille, on audiotape and as an easy-to-read summary from the Ministry of Health.


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