News and opinions on disability
and inclusion

80 years on

In this week’s blog David Matthews, Chief Executive of CCS Disability Action, takes a look at our 80 year history. There is a lot to celebrate, but there is still plenty of work ahead of us to ensure the future is even more inclusive.

This year CCS Disability Action celebrates 80 years of working in the community to support disabled people, their families and whanau to live a “good life”. Over this time we have changed as an organisation not just by name (Crippled Children’s Society to CCS to CCS Disability Action), but also in the way that we work. We use to be a narrow organisation focused just on the needs of young people who experienced impairment and disability from contracting poliomyelitis, as well as some other specific named conditions. We are now a pan-disability organisation delivering services to people of all ages and working with communities to remove barriers to participation.

We have moved from “caring for” to “supporting” and “working alongside”. Some see this as a play on words, but it is more than that. It recognises that we see the disabled person as being clearly in the driver’s seat, taking charge of their life and seeking support from us where and when they see a need. It is a move from dependency to inter-dependency and a clear partnership between the disabled person, their family, the community and agencies like ours.

This journey has not always been easy. Even today, we still receive comments about these changes and how they mean that we are “not like we used to be”. I understand that not everyone is supportive of our moves to exit residential care and day centre programmes. People sometimes cite examples of people becoming isolated in their community. Yet I can quote many examples of people whose lives have opened up and become just so different and positive once they were able (with support) to move away from residential care into the home setting of their choice. They have become part of their community, not just in their community.

At the end of the day, disabled people tell us that they want the same things as everyone else. They want:

  • To have friends and relationships, something some of us take for granted.
  • To be able to go to their local school, university or polytechnic without hindrance and with the support that they need to access the curriculum.
  • To be able to find a real job with the same conditions of work that everyone enjoys
  • To live where they want to rather than a place chosen by others and with people they have not chosen to live with
  • To be able to access all the leisure and recreation opportunities in the community they live in.

So 2015 is a year not just for CCS Disability Action to celebrate, but it should also be a time for disabled people and their families to celebrate living in a more inclusive Aotearoa New Zealand. Some people will join this celebration, some will be cautious about this and others will no doubt say “we still have a long way to go” – and I am with the last group. There have been gains and our world is more accessible, but our real challenge is with changing the negative attitudes that rest with too many people, whose thinking limits the opportunities that are available to disabled people today.

I hope the person who writes the 100th Celebratory blog is also able to look back on the previous 20 years and truly celebrate some great progress with New Zealand in 2035 being an even better place for disabled people.  For this to happen, we will all need to work hard to bring about further change.

David

8th January 2015