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International Day of Disabled Persons

International Day of Disabled Persons 3 December 2006

"Good progress is being achieved in our country in creating a fully inclusive society for disabled persons and their families", said Disability Issues Minister Ruth Dyson today, marking International Day of Disabled Persons.

"Many inventions in history began with improvements for disabled people in mind, including the telephone and the web. Today it is worth reflecting on how information in all its forms can be made more accessible for all people.

"This year's theme is E-accessibility which is particularly pertinent for New Zealand given that on 1 January 2006, it became compulsory for all government agencies to meet web guidelines to ensure disabled users can access information easily.

"The Telecommunications Relay Service, which assists deaf, hearing impaired and deaf-blind people to make phone calls was reviewed this year and improvements to the service are underway. A speech-to-speech trial for people with speech impairments has also now been made a permanent feature.

"In April, we passed the New Zealand Sign Language Act. The recognition of sign language as an official language provides Deaf people access to interpreters in legal and other settings. The recognition of NZSL is a monumental achievement for the Deaf community who have seeking this for 20 years.

"In August a United Nations General Assembly Committee reached agreement on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The New Zealand delegation included disabled people and took a leading role in negotiations. The convention, which is expected to be adopted by the UN General Assembly later this month, will formally recognise the rights of an estimated 650 million disabled persons in countries which ratify it.

"With one in five New Zealanders living with a long-term impairment or disability, the Labour-led government remains committed to continuing make progress so New Zealand becomes a truly inclusive society," said Ms Dyson.

ENDS

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