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Speech: Turia - Be.Accessible ‘At Our Table’ event

Hon Tariana Turia
Minister of Disability Issues

Friday 12 October 2012; 9am SPEECH

Opening address – Be.Accessible ‘At Our Table’ event
Wellington
[Delivered by Mary-Jane Rivers on behalf of the Minister]

I’ve always been one that loves a good challenge.

And so, I’m really disappointed that I can’t be with you this morning in this ‘at our table’ event.

Because I know that I would be sitting in a room full of people who have dedicated themselves to the greatest challenge imaginable – the construction of a more inclusive society.

I would be surrounded by movers and shakers – the people who if the door opens, go through that door and move forwards to the world awaiting them.

I want to congratulate you and celebrate with you our collective vision for a truly accessible Aotearoa.

The challenge that greets us is the persistent inaccessibility of many parts of the community.

Step by step, chip by chip, the disability community has been acting to change this.

And I am reminded of the encouragement of Emma Thompson: “Being disabled should not mean being disqualified from having access to every aspect of life.

Over ten years ago the disability community and government agencies came together and agreed on a common vision laid out in the New Zealand Disability Strategy.

In that strategy we told the world, ‘New Zealand will be inclusive when disabled people can say they live in a society that highly values our lives and continually enhances our full participation.’

It’s a no-brainer. Participation depends on accessibility.

Accessibility can be anything from being able to get around town, or being able to access information such as in plain English and other formats; or in simply knowing that there is nothing we cannot do.

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities articulated the importance placed on accessibility.

Accessibility is one of the key Article three principles that guide implementation over the whole Convention.

Article nine focuses specifically on the wide ranging nature of accessibility in the community and the need to take a broad view. This includes the built environment such as buildings, houses, streets, and public spaces as well as more intangible things such as how information or services are provided.

Too often, it is assumed that disabled people are not capable of participating, or they are not thought about at all. I have no tolerance for such an attitude. It serves no good to anyone, to limit the possibilities ahead of us.
For as all of us know, a truly accessible New Zealand benefits everyone.

For those who want to count the economic value, there are amazing opportunities to make the most of the ‘access dollar’ in attracting a growing number of older, disabled tourists and their friends and family.

It makes business sense, if you can increase your customer base.
And basically it makes great common sense to fling the door wide open, and welcome everyone in.

At the Government level we are working together through the Ministerial Committee on Disability Issues to have clear priorities for agencies to invest in accessibility.

The updated Disability Action Plan focuses cross-government collaboration on:
• making disability supports more individualised, integrated and flexible
• increasing employment opportunities and
• ensuring the Christchurch rebuild is inclusive and more accessible.

Ministers are looking to Chief Executives to deliver results, which are measurable and have an impact in people’s lives. This is something that I have been really emphasizing – we want to see results by measuring the positive difference made in people’s lives.

Of course Government is but one part of the jigsaw. The real power lies in the leadership that each of you take up, as the Be Accessibility Movement. (what we might call BAM!) I like that – it reminds me of Superman – kapow! Bam! Accessibility can change the world!

These events – the Be. At our Table phenomenon – are a vital means of achieving the change we want to see.
As all of you know - you don’t need to wait on government agencies. You can do it yourself.
We need to activate and strengthen our communities so that disabled people and their families are able to realise their potential.
Removing access barriers will help make this happen.
You are in great hands – and I want to mihi to Paul Curry – the Chief Executive of the Families Commission – and Mary-Jane Rivers – from Inspiring Communities – for the leadership they have demonstrated in building community momentum
For accessibility is about all of a community
You will be aware of the announcements made yesterday around the White paper – which epitomised the saying ‘it takes a village to raise a child’. We don’t just rely on parents for bringing up a child and ensuring they are safe and well. Families, neighbours and friends have a shared responsibility, through behaviours and life choices, in providing a wider community context in which a child will live, experience and grow up.

This is exactly the same approach we need to take towards inclusivity.

Just as a child’s ability to grow up healthy and well to live a good life will reflect on the strength of their community so too will all our families benefit from living in an enabling society in which all are valued and the opportunities are endless.

Authorities such as city councils and government agencies are responsible for ensuring the environment is organised efficiently and safely, and services provided for the benefit of all. And businesses have their part to play in markets providing goods and services that people consume and use as part of everyday living.

We are too small a country, and the economic environment too tight, for competing agendas or confused messages on what should be done. We will achieve more from working together more closely. This is truly what I believe to be the most significant aspect of the Be accessible campaign.

Gathered around the table this morning will be people with distinctive expertise and talents to share.
How can you use your knowledge and experience in promoting change so that you can leverage off each other and have a stronger, more effective voice?
Working together, focused on getting results and under the guidance of a common framework and vision, will also mean being prepared to work differently; to look anew at the world around you.
Today is a chance to consider what change is needed to move forward.
I encourage you to be courageous and challenge yourselves.
What will work best in a fast changing, modern society? What kind of relationships do you have with businesses?
What are disabled people and families’ expectations today? Are you engaging with the younger generation of disabled people and families?
What are the implications of an ageing population and the likely increase in the number of older disabled people? What do you understand of the importance of Whānau Ora – the sense of collective responsibility for each other to live in a way which is healthy, and sustainable?

Finally, I remind you that the kitchen table can be a site of transformation; a great theatre; an experimental breeding ground for innovation and enterprise. In our homes we often have the same group of players return to the same table day in, day out – and yet there is always a new topic of debate; an opportunity for dialogue.

I welcome the Be. At our table approach as an exciting opportunity to anticipate and plan for change in every aspect of our community.

I look forward to hearing what you have achieved today, and what you can together achieve in the future. And I hope you all have a great breakfast!


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