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A Whole New Attitude

Aucklander Ezekiel Robson juggles a number of roles and responsibilities. He’s the Auckland Coordinator for Disabled Persons Assembly, a Be. Leadership Graduate, Auckland Programme Manager for the Kidpower Teenpower Fullpower Trust, Chairperson of Counties Manukau DHB’s Disability Advisory Group and much, much more! He explains why he’s put his name into the hat for the upcoming Local Board and DHB elections in his area and why disabled people should take the time to cast a vote.

Kia ora, I am Ezekiel.  I live in Manurewa.  I contribute my efforts to many youth, community and voluntary projects.  I have a vision impairment, and a track record as a leader and advocate in the disability sector, currently as a local co-ordinator for the Disabled Persons Assembly.

As a candidate for the Manurewa Local Board, and the Counties Manukau District Health Board in this year’s Local Government elections, I aim to deliver inclusive leadership that puts disability rights and accessibility in our communities onto the agenda.

I decided to stand because of a recent issue where my local train station was proposed to close, affecting many older and disabled people who rely on public transport.  I realised that officials need better communications with public transport users, and that marginalised communities need better representation in local government.

I believe all candidates must show how they would address the concerns of disabled people and whanau, as a significant block of citizens and ratepayers, if they were elected.  The Disabled Persons Assembly has organised a ‘meet the candidate’ forum to assist with this issue – details are below.

I am also spurred on by the fact that participation of people with disabilities in political processes and in decision-making is a cornerstone in the achievement and enjoyment of human rights by disabled people.  Being able to exercise the right to vote and the right to stand for election are vital elements in this quest.

The more disabled people who gather knowledge and experience as candidates, the more likely we will be to see those who make decisions on our behalf reflecting an understanding of our concerns.

Auckland Council and Local Boards deliver a range of services which interact with our daily lives in many ways – i.e. services such as footpaths, street lighting, public transport, libraries, swimming pools, rubbish / recycling collections, dog control, noise control, approval of food and alcohol shops, parks and walking tracks, forests, beaches and harbours.

DHBs directly provide or fund most of the hospitals and health services that we receive in our communities.  In many parts of New Zealand the local DHB is the biggest employer.  It is vital that these organisations have elected members committed to meeting the health needs of all people and overcoming inequalities, barriers to good health, and participation in society such as those faced by people with disabilities.

I’ve coined the term ‘Access Voters’ – people who prioritise their voting preferences according to candidates who strongly promote policies and actions which create truly accessible open spaces and built environments, foster positive attitudes within Council departments and CCOs, and across local business and community sectors, and invest in the leadership capability of disabled people.  Access Voters also include family and whanau of disabled people, anyone with additional access needs such as parents with pushchairs, and older people whose mobility and participation in their communities relies on ease-of-access in good urban design.

Voter participation tends to be pretty low in the general population, so we have to work extra hard to get our population to see the value in casting our vote, given the various access barriers there are to even completing a paper-only postal vote.  Blind people eagerly await the day we can independently cast a truly ‘secret ballot’.

I hope I’ve clearly outlined here that local government services should matter to us, that voting for the people who make decisions on these services should matter to us, and that you can role model great leadership for your community, by assessing which candidates will put your concerns at the forefront of their minds, and encouraging your friends and colleagues to ensure they get their voting papers returned in the mail by 9th October, or hand delivering them by final deadline of 12th October.

DPA’s Auckland Council Election Forum is on 4th October 10am-12noon, at the Community Room, Manurewa Library, 7 Hill Road, Manurewa.  For more on this event check out the CCS Disability Action Facebook page.

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