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Access Alliance Calls For Life Changing Accessibility Legislation To Remove And Prevent Barriers

Access Alliance, New Zealand’s largest alliance of Disabled Persons Organisations, disability advocacy groups, and service providers, calls on the government to implement the legal framework outlined in the report released today, entitled “Making New Zealand Accessible: A Design for Effective Accessibility Legislation”, authored by Warren Forster, Tom Barraclough and Curtis Barnes.

The report sets out a vision for a new accessibility system for the one in four New Zealanders that identify as having a disability. The vision puts people at the heart of our communities and details how to create an integrated, people-centred, person-directed system that will remove barriers for disabled people.

The legislative design in the report is sophisticated and wide-ranging. It carefully balances how to remove barriers for disabled people and others with access needs, whilst ensuring that the future accessibility system is easy to use, effective and efficient.

Chrissie Cowan, Access Alliance Chair, says currently disabled people and other people with access needs are denied their rights to full and effective participation in society, but it doesn’t have to be this way.

“Previous governments have been content to merely tweak disability policy. But the legal researchers’ report makes it clear that transformative change is needed. The inequities have gone on for too long and are too widespread to address through slow change and minor tweaks to what we have now.”

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“And let’s be clear. This isn’t just about making life fair for disabled people; this is about creating a society that is better for all of us. The needs of disabled people are not special; they are not extra nor are they exceptional. The needs of disabled people are human.”

The Government has committed to introducing legislation to accelerate accessibility. New accessibility legislation is a once in a lifetime opportunity that has implications for all parts of our society, and it’s important we introduce the right kind of legislation first up.

“We hear time and time again from organisations that they want to be accessible, but they need certainty of what accessibility standards mean. We need the government to be specific and to provide a process that enables Aotearoa to systematically remove barriers that disabled people face.

“As our population grows and people live longer, the impact of accessibility barriers will only increase. We cannot afford to let barriers in the built and digital world prevent people from participating fully and equally in society,” says Ms. Cowan.

Accessibility is about navigating more than just physical environments. It’s also about access to services like public transport, entertainment, banking, information and communication. Accessibility also serves more than just disabled people. It serves people with neurodiversity (e.g. dyslexia), older people, carers, parents using strollers and prams, and people with English as a second language.

“An estimated half a million New Zealanders experience access barriers as family caregivers. So even when you just add that group to the one in four Kiwis with a disability, you get a sense of how big this opportunity is.

“Getting this legislation right has huge potential, but the consequences of getting it wrong will take decades to unwind,” warns Ms. Cowan.

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