Chris Bristow is a member of the Northern Region’s disabled staff group, DAA.
As 3 December 2016 came to Northland, we celebrated the International Day of Persons with Disability, the focus will be celebrating abilities. While the day was recognised across the globe, what Whangarei showcased was a vision of what inclusive communities can look like. We extended the celebrations to Friday and Saturday and both days saw people of all identities come together with a common understanding and goal of hosting an inclusive event.
On Friday CCS Disability Action’s Disability Action Advisors, our Northern Region’s disabled staff group, joined with other disabled people to celebrate their abilities and achievements and reflect on some memorable moments in 2016. For me, the most significant of these was seeing New Zealand really get behind the Rio Paralympics.
On Saturday, all the action happened on the Canopy Bridge where we had performances from Strongbeats dance group a Kapa Haka group of people who are supported by IDEA Services. We also saw local Rock ‘n’ roll dancer Ming Ming Edgar. There was also a chance to meet local Paralympians and eye their gold, silver and bronze medals.
To make events like this happen takes planning, engagement and a willingness to achieve a goal. People will communicate, listen and take action when needed. The environment needed to be accessible to all and allow people to express themselves in the way they choose. We have also had support from a host of local businesses and government agencies including Whangarei City Council, Whangarei Police and Whangarei Fire Services.
For me the lead up to the events has seen an energy and harmony that comes when people are working together to make something exciting happen. The crucial points that stand out for me are, firstly, people with disability can lead and succeed and secondly, was the fact that people with disabilities were recognised and acknowledged in their own community.