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Join the Conversation

CCS Disability Action Team Leader Sue Sherrard explains why she thinks this year’s consultation on the New Zealand’s Disability Action Strategy is worthwhile.

As many of you may know the New Zealand Disability Strategy (NZDS) of 2001 is currently being reviewed.  This needs to be seen as an opportunity for disabled people and whānau to put forward our ideas and opinions.

I also know the many of the cynics amongst us will be asking: “What’s the point?” I understand that.  When the NZDS was released many of us were hopeful that is was going to make a positive difference in our lives. We genuinely believed we would experience benefits from the document. I could be wrong, but I don’t think anyone thought a fully inclusive society was ever a realistic direct outcome – but it was and continues to be a great vision.

Unfortunately the practical benefits we hoped for following the release of NZDS haven’t occurred. Poverty rates amongst disabled people have increased, employment rates haven’t and housing, health, education and justice continue to have huge barriers for us. The Social Services Select Committee back in 2008 noted that the government had not implemented the Disability Strategy effectively.  I know many disabled people and our families are tired of fighting.  We keep saying the same things and changes are slow in coming.  Some would say we are going backwards.

In my view that is exactly why we need to make submissions (again). We need to make use of these opportunities and galvanise to action, even if that action is putting a few words in a submission.  The risk of our cynicism and apathy is the loss of these opportunities and then no one will listen and we’ve lost.

We had to fight to be recognised as a group and now we have our Human Rights guaranteed, but let’s not let go of any opportunity to tell the government our views and opinions. I encourage you to tell them what your life is like or how you would like it to be. Tell them how you want support to be provided. Tell them where changes should be made.  Highlight the barriers you experience.

Please don’t give up. Be part of the conversation.

If you’d like to learn more about the NZDS, the Office for Disability Issues has put together the Join the Conversation website. There’s a video explaining the process, a full list of events across the country and the opportunity to feedback.