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5th anniversary of the NZ Disability Strategy

5th anniversary of the NZ Disability Strategy

The fifth anniversary of the release of the New Zealand Disability Strategy is a time to reflect on the progress made since April 2001, says Disability Issues Minister Ruth Dyson.

Government departments and agencies are becoming increasingly responsive to disability issues and a toolkit has been developed to help government and other agencies to consider and address the impacts of any legislation, policy, programme or decision on disabled people.

"I am delighted to see that over the past five years the initiatives of government departments and agencies are having an increasing impact on disabled people in areas such as employment, human rights, transport and communication," Ms Dyson said.

Progress to date includes:

• The Pathways to Inclusion Strategy was launched in 2001. This Strategy aims to improve the quality of employment opportunities for disabled people. It promotes a shift in emphasis within vocational services away from sheltered work and day activities to supporting disabled people to have meaningful participation in their community and into real jobs. In the 2004?2005 year the initiative helped 1,100 disabled people into more open employment.

• In July 2002 the Office for Disability Issues was established to promote and monitor the implementation of the New Zealand Disability Strategy in government and wider society, and to provide advice to the Minister for Disability Issues.

• The Telecommunications Relay Service was established in November 2004, to overcome barriers that deaf, hearing-impaired and speech-impaired New Zealanders face in using standard telephone services. The service works by using a relay assistant who serves as the "ears and voice" on phone calls between a deaf, hearing-impaired, or speech-impaired user, and the other party to the call.

• A major report on findings from the 2001 New Zealand Disability Survey, entitled "Living with Disability in New Zealand" was published in 2004. The government has approved funding to enable the Disability Survey to be repeated in 2006 and 2011. The Health Research Council has this year initiated a funded programme to build the capacity and capability of disability researchers.

• A Disability Advisory Council was established in May 2005 to provide advice to the Office for Disability Issues on implementation of the New Zealand Disability Strategy, and on emerging disability issues. The Council is made up of disabled people and their families, and selected by consumer organisations nominated by the Office.

• The New Zealand Sign Language Act was passed in April this year. The purpose of the Act is to promote and maintain the use of New Zealand Sign Language by declaring New Zealand Sign Language to be an official language of New Zealand, providing for its use in legal proceedings and sets principles to guide government departments in the promotion and use of New Zealand Sign Language.

• Closure of large institutions for people with intellectual disabilities has continued. Eighty clients from Braemar Hospital, Nelson, were resettled into the community in December 2004. As of April 2006, more than 170 former residents of Kimberley Centre, Levin, have been resettled into the community. The Centre is now due to be closed and the remaining residents resettled by September 2006.

• The government approved a $9.49 million funding increase for the Total Mobility scheme, to allow the scheme to improve and expand over the next three years, as a result of the Disability Strategy. The Total Mobility scheme provides a subsidised taxi service to people with serious mobility constraints. It is operated by local authorities and jointly funded by central and local government.

" All these changes have required a new way of working, both within Government and within the disability sector. Vocational service providers are also moving into a much more positive employment environment for disabled people ? a move that is not without its challenges," says Ms Dyson.

"These changes also require close interaction between the government and non-government sectors. We have the same goals. We all want to see the realisation of the Disability Strategy's vision: an inclusive society, where disabled people can say they are valued and their participation encouraged," says Ms Dyson.

ENDS


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