All about attitudes
31 August 2016
Making New Zealand a country where disabled people have the same opportunities as everyone else and their aspirations can become a reality is the aim of the draft New Zealand Disability Strategy.
But it will come to nothing without significant shifts in public attitude, say people living with disability in a feature article, A Matter of Attitude, written by Bruce Munro in the Otago Daily Times.
Kiringaua Cassidy, 12, is a member of He Waka Kotuia, a kapa haka group based at Queen’s and King’s High Schools in South Dunedin.
He loves performing. But sometimes, Kiri thinks he gets too much attention for the wrong reason.
"I think I get too much attention being in a wheelchair doing this," he says. "I want others to just normalise me as an ordinary person doing kapa haka."
Breaking down barriers
Robbie Francis was a member of the expert reference group who worked on the draft strategy. The PhD student at the University of Otago uses a prosthetic leg. She says she has had plenty of opportunities in her life, as well as barriers.
"But there are still New Zealanders who are segregated, isolated, who, in their words, are living the life of a second-class citizen. Who feel unsafe in their own communities, who cannot be part of the community because of the barriers.
"Until these things are acknowledged and addressed we can’t give up this fight. So, yes, it is important ... When the Government makes any decisions that affect people with disabilities, this is the document they should be referring to."
Chris Ford, a kaituitui (community development worker) for the Disabled Persons Assembly Dunedin, thinks there has been a change in people’s attitudes during the past 30 years, but there is still “a fair amount of discrimination in our society”.
He concludes: "I want to live in a world where no longer am I defined by what my impairment is, but by how I can contribute as a citizen. And that’s what this Disability Strategy is all about. It’s a vehicle to achieve that."
Overseen by the Office for Disability Issues, the draft strategy has gone through two rounds of nationwide public consultation and is due to be finalised by Christmas.
The Disability Strategy is the most significant initiative since the first strategy, developed in 2001.
It aims to consider the changes in society, technology and research in the past 15 years in New Zealand and also takes account of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Written in the first person, it seeks to speak for the aspirations of the one in four New Zealanders who identify as having a disability.
It has been described as a new vision for New Zealand, as a country where disabled people have the same opportunities to achieve their aspirations as everyone else.