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Removing barriers for people with disabilities

2000 web siteFor people with disabilities, the last nine years has seen little progress towards helping them overcome the barriers to participation in their communities, Labour disability services spokesperson Ruth Dyson said.

"Labour in government intends to end the inactivity and begin making some real steps forward.

"Our aim will be to provide the legal rights, resources and support necessary to empower people with disabilities to overcome the barriers to participation in their communities and the achievement of their full potential as individuals.

"In working towards this end, we recognise that there are many different groups of people within the disability community. Each has its own distinct identity and needs. Labour's policy will provide a framework which empowers people with any kind of disability - whether it be physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, age-related or neurological - to participate in society.

"Labour's disabilities policy covers the issues of human rights, of the appropriate agency responsibility for disability services, and of habilitation and rehabilitation.

"National has caused frustration in the disability community by not encouraging government departments to address human rights issues within the state sector. Labour in government will complete the process begun with Consistency 2000 to bring the state into compliance with the Human Rights Act.

"Under National, New Zealand has failed to build a comprehensive, integrated habilitation and rehabilitation system. Services are split between the voluntary sector, the health sector, accident insurers and other government agencies with little co-ordination between them. The expertise available to provide habilitation and rehabilitation services is in short supply.

"Labour wants services which are holistic, which empower their users, and which are integrated.
Labour will ensure that the development of a comprehensive habilitation and rehabilitation system, which enhances existing services, is given high priority.

"Our policy will also encompass issues such as:
· Assessment services for people with disabilities.
· Providing key workers for people with disabilities.
· Communication; including recognising NZ Sign Language as an official language.
· An effective advocacy service.
· Needs-based funding for disability support services.
· Minimum standards of care.
· Access to transport.
· Special education services.
· Income support.
· Housing.
· Building access.
· Cultural appropriateness of disability support services.

"For Labour's policy commitments on disability to work, we will need a minister to drive the process and oversee it in government. We will appoint a Minister for Disability Isssues who will be responsible for initiating and monitoring a national strategic plan for disability support, habilitation and rehabilitation.

"It is also important that the next Labour government acknowledges the role of the voluntary sector in caring and providing supporting for people with disabilities. Partnership with the voluntary sector and with the community of people with disabilities is vital for successful services and policy," Ruth Dyson said.

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