We hope this message finds you well and in high spirits. We have very recently had reason to celebrate a significant milestone in our efforts to champion accessibility rights for the disabled community.
Thanks to our united efforts, unwavering determination, and wonderfully creative advocacy (we've been lovingly cc'd in the Digital Storm letters sent to the Minister!) we are absolutely thrilled to share some fantastic news about the Accessibility for New Zealanders Bill.
In a statement through the Press Secretary of the Office of the Minister for Disability Issues, the Minister Hon Priyanca Radhakrishnan, announced:
“I recognise the [Accessibility for New Zealanders] Bill does not necessarily reflect what many disabled people asked for, but I believe it represents a positive step forward that will make a real difference for disabled people and their whānau.
The Accessibility Bill has always been intended as enabling legislation. This means the legislation will not immediately solve the broad range of accessibility issues experienced by disabled New Zealanders, but it does establish ongoing mechanisms to respond over time to accessibility barriers.
It would also increase public accountability on accessibility through the establishment of an Accessibility Committee. The Committee will be able to make recommendations to Government to improve accessibility, drawing on a range of options such as increased training and education, increased funding and information provision, and the development of standards and regulations.
I see the Bill as an opportunity to cement a commitment to improve accessibility and ensure disabled people and tāngata whaikaha Māori are involved in and guiding key advice on accessibility at the highest level.
However, given the level of opposition to the Bill in its current form, I am seeking advice on what the next steps could be. Following Select Committee, responsibility for the Bill has transferred from the Ministry of Social Development to Whaikaha.
I don’t intend to progress the Bill before the upcoming election.”
Why is this good news?
- Because the Labour Government won’t be simply checking off this Bill on their pre-election to-do list.
- Going forward, we will engage with Whaikaha - Ministry of Disabled People rather than dealing with Ministry of Social Development officials, who gave poor advice to MPs during the Select Committee process.
- This gives us hope to make significant improvements to the Bill, ensuring it has the necessary authority and effectiveness.
Please keep up with the great work with the Digital Storm. Let's maintain our momentum!
Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi engari he toa takitini.
It is not my strength alone, but the strength of many that contributes to my success.
Ngā mihi nui
Juliana Carvalho for the Access Matters Campaign Team
Head of Advocacy - Blind Low Vision NZ