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Politics create barriers for Deaf


Politics create barriers for Deaf

A Human Rights complaint has been laid with the New Zealand Human Rights Commission over the lack of access within politics. Mr Kim Robinson a member of the Kirk Branch under the Labour Party is profoundly Deaf and relies on a NZ Sign Language Interpreter to "listen" to live debates.

The high costs of using an Interpreter is way out of range for a Deaf person to afford personally if they were to be actively involved with Party politics at grassroots level. Full active involvement could cost around $50,000 per year per location. If 5 Deaf persons living in 5 different locations were to be fully active, this could amount to $1/4 million per year.

The current political arena is verbally dominated in terms that only people with the ability to speak and hear well are the pro-active members of the party. Paying membership dues to a Party does not mean one has to be excluded from the decision-making, submitting or verbal debating progress.

Neither it is reasonable for the political parties to fund this cost due to the fact that they are made up of volunteers under a voluntarily democratic political group which is not entitled to receive funding from the Government. This creates a communication vacuum for a member who has the right to be enrolled, the right to vote, the right to the freedom of speech. Where does the ideology actually apply when that member requires a 'service' to enable them to 'listen' and 'participate' within the party?

This conflict also seriously erodes the rights of a person who may have been 'normal' whom has a disability associated by birth or age to participate in a democratic progress. Do the current barriers mean that only normal able-bodied persons can be involved with the political spectrum of this day and age? If the Government and Political Parties can not fund this - then who can? Where do the rights of a person with a disability begin to be limited when the vision of the Human Rights Act is to remove discrimination barriers?

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