Transcript of our Stories Presentation at Parliament

Chrissie Cowan - Access Alliance Chair

"Korihi te manu, takiri mai i te ata,
Ka ao, ka ao, ka awatea,
Tihei mauri ora.

E te Atua tēnā koe
E te Minita Sepuloni tēnā koe
E ngā manuhiri tēnā koutou
Tēnā koutou ki a koutou kua tae mai nei ki te tautoko te kaupapa o tenei rā. No reira tēnā koutou katoa

Minita Sepuloni, e te whaea Poto Williams chair of the Parliamentary Champions for Accessible Legislation (PCAL), members of PCAL, members of parliament, Paula Tesoriero, Acting Chief Commissioner and Disability Rights Commissioner, Office for disability issues representatives, other government officials, Access Matters Campaigners and Access Alliance organization representatives nau mai, haere mai, welcome.

I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge Alani Vailahi from Minister Sepuloni’s office and David Cunningham from Parliamentary Security Operations for helping our team to find a warm and dry venue here at Bowen House ngā mihi ki a korua ...

... I would also like to convey a very special thank you to all of the campaign supporters who have shared their stories, seventeen of whom are featured in this booklet. Without your stories this event would not be possible!

Now to te kaupapa o te rā, today’s event. On behalf of the Access Alliance I would like to thank you all for coming and supporting this event.

This presentation to Minister Sepuloni represents an important milestone and significant moment for the campaign. The Access Alliance would like to acknowledge the support of Minister Sepuloni and her positivity when first approached about publicly receiving the Access Matters Stories Book. The stories shared in the booklet speak about the human impact of accessibility barriers on the lives of tāngata whaikaha (people with disabilities) and highlight the systemic nature of barriers and the imperative for accessibility legislation.

Increased accessibility presents one of the largest opportunities for social and economic development for all New Zealanders. An Accessibility law can open the door so that everyone, disabled and non-disabled, benefits from the contributions of us all.

Since commencing our journey in November 2016, the Access Alliance and Access Matters Campaign have received a positive response from across parliament and we look forward to Minister Sepuloni updating us on the steps she has taken toward the introduction of an Accessibility Act.

It is with great pleasure that I now invite Juliana Carvalho to speak about her story and then formally present the booklet of stories to Minister Sepuloni.

Kāti tāku poto korero, tēnā tātou katoa.

Juliana Carvalho - Access Matters Campaigner

Tēnā koutou and thank you Chrissie. I’d also like to tautoko Chrissie’s acknowledgement to our MPs, Ministers and special guests who’ve taken the time to join us today.

Back in April this year, the Access Matters team organised a workshop in Auckland where 60 of us, people with disability, came together. We were all there because we wanted to share our stories about the access barriers that we face just trying to do ordinary things like catching the bus, attending to a doctor’s appointment, working, studying, keeping up with the media. We were all there because we wanted to share our stories about these barriers, because we know that changing the law to introduce an Accessibility Act can help remove so many of these barriers. We were all there because we firmly believe that together, our stories have the power to influence the change we need towards creating a truly accessible society.

On the day, I shared something that happened to me a couple years ago. I had been taking the ferry to work, and it’d been some time, and I have to ask for help from the passengers or staff, to help get my chair onto it. Then one day, Auckland Transport called me. They say that I should please stop taking the ferry, because the ferry wasn’t accessible. I just couldn’t believe it. Eventually we came up with a make-shift solution. But the thing is, we need a national law that says that all forms of public transport have to be accessible to everyone.

Minister Sepuloni, in this booklet that I have the privilege of presenting to you, I share my story. Inside, there are also many other stories about experiences like mine about people coming up against access barriers just trying to get on with their lives. They cover access not just to transport but employment, education, our communities, retail, Services and much more. The stories show that these barriers can be removed with an Accessibility Act.

Here’s the booklet.

[Presents booklet].

On behalf of all those who have shared their stories throughout the campaign, we ask you to accept this booklet and read our stories. Remember our stories when you consider what taking leadership to create a more accessible society looks like. Remember our stories when the idea of an Accessibility Act seems too big and overwhelming. Remember our stories when you are deliberating with your colleagues in Cabinet about introducing an accessibility law at the heart of a more inclusive Aotearoa New Zealand.

[present booklet. Photo.]

We're looking forward to hearing now about the progress you, with support from your Parliamentary staff and colleagues, are making on accessibility law. Thank you.

Hon. Carmel Sepuloni - Minister for Disability Issues

Talofa lava, mālō e lelei, fakaalofa lahi atu, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.

Can I start by thanking the Access Alliance, your supporters and all of you here today for coming here to present this book of real life stories of disabled people facing issues of accessibility in society. In particular to the Access Alliance team, thank you for the hard work you've put into this really important campaign, for bringing this issue to light, and for showing us how accessibility is affecting people's real lives.
I'd like to thank the people who've taken the time to tell their stories and share their experiences with us. For some I know, it would not have been easy, but your efforts will not be in vain. I'll read all of these personal stories, and I'll encourage my fellow MPs as well to do the same as we take this forward. I'd like to acknowledge the Parliamentary Champions for Accessibility Legislation, particularly the Chairs Poto Williams, who is also speaking today, and Dr Shane Reti. Can I also acknowledge the other members of Parliament that are in the room - there are a few missing who intended to come, they are probably just running late from their caucus meetings - but we do have Chloe Swarbrick here from the Green Party. Can I also acknowledge the Disability Rights Commissioner and Acting Human Rights Commissioner Paula Tesoriero, and also the Director of the Office of Disability Issues Brian Coffey. Can I acknowledge Brian and Paula and many of you in the room for your ongoing commitment and dedication to making a change or a positive change or positive changes for disabled New Zealanders.

As the Minister for Disability Issues, addressing barriers to accessibility is a major focus for me. Disabled people face barriers in nearly every facet of of life, be it employment, education, housing, transport, and the list goes on. That's why accessibility is a priority outcome in the New Zealand Disability Strategy, and an essential factor required for improving many of the other outcomes in the Strategy. And just as an example of that, myself and the Disability Rights Commissioner were both interviewed recently on employment prospects, employment opportunities and the employment situation for disabled people, and Paula made the point very clearly that actually if we don't sort out access to information, access to transport and access to a whole range of other things, then it's very difficult to have actually access to employment opportunities. So so many of these issues are intertwined. All New Zealanders should be able to participate fully in their communities, and improving accessibility is part of this.

And when we say we want accessibility for all, we're not just talking about someone being about to simply access a building, a service or information, but that they can do that with ease and with dignity. I want to live in a country-as I know all of you in this room do-where we are all able to enter a building by the same route, where we can all access easily the information we need, and where we can all communicate with each other. I'm working closely with my colleagues to advocate for positive changes for disabled people, to ensure we create inclusive and accessible spaces.

In my meetings that I've been having out in the regions with disabled people, issues of accessibility have been brought up frequently. Creating positive change for disabled people requires a commitment from all sectors and parts of society-government, NGOs, employers, local authorities, business owners, venue owners and communities more broadly. For disabled people to be able to enjoy all that life has to offer, they need, and have the right, to be able to access and enjoy community activities, sporting events, arts performances, public transport and the like with ease in dignity. In some countries this is mandated in law, and my officials are currently working through what role legislation could play in New Zealand in terms of providing a strong mandate for improvements to accessibility. Of course, if an accessibility law is developed, disabled people will be important partners in the process, in much the same way as they've been involved in the co-design of the transformation of the Disability Support sector, which is underway in the Mid-Central Region.

There are some good strides being taken to improve accessibility, however there is still much more to do. This Government is working to build a truly inclusive society, and supporting disabled people to live their lives to their fullest potential. I do want to note that when the petition was first brought to me a few months back, that really prompted the start of something. And so since then the Office for Disability Issues was tasked with going away to report back to me on what progress had been made across the different Government agencies, to look into, internationally, what legislation exists, and where there are examples that perhaps would be relevant or are something we could learn from in New Zealand. So that is well and truly underway and I do want to acknowledge people in this room for prompting this work to be undertaken. I really want to thank you all for coming here today and the work that you do to contribute to an accessible and inclusive New Zealand. And I look forward to reading your stories and continuing to work together toward greater accessibility across New Zealand. I want you to know that your message is being taken seriously; I wish I could here with an announcement but unfortunately cannot do that today. But this work continues, and as I said it's not just me that is taking this seriously, it is all of Government, so I look forward to be able report back to you in the near future.

Ta lava, na aupito.


Poto Williams - Co-Chair of the Parliamentary Champions for Accessibility Legislation

I want to acknowledge my Parliamentary colleagues the members of the Access Alliance, the steering group members, who are ably chaired by Chrissie Cowan. Thank you Chrissie for being here today. Access Matters Campaigners, disability advocates and supporters, and distinguished ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much. Thanks for the opportunity to talk a little bit about the Parliamentary Champions for Accessibility Legislation or PCAL. It’s a really cool name and I love the idea that we are champions in this house, for a cause that you all are very, very, much involved in.

We’re a across party group of MPs working collaboratively with the Access Alliance in support of accessibility legislation for Aotearoa New Zealand. Dr Shane Reti who gives his apologies and I co-chair The Parliamentary champions group. We advise the Access Alliance on what is needed to see accessibility legislation pass, to make New Zealand accessible for everyone.

We’re delighted to have the support of nine MPs, from four parliamentary parties, all committed to the work with the Access Alliance to codesign accessibility legislation that will create the conditions for accessibility.

We think it’s a fair thing to do, the smart thing to do and it’s the right time to design and introduce a bill for a barrier-free Aotearoa.

The PCAL group meet regularly with the Alliance and demonstrate improving accessibility, including through legislation, is a goal that MPs from across the house actively support. We are learning from other countries who already have accessibility legislation in place, recently we asked the Parliamentary Library to look in to reports on accessibility in New Zealand, and we are currently reviewing material now.

The Alliance and PCAL are also considering a roadmap to advance accessibility legislation. Our next step is to analyse how the proposed accessibility legislation would work within our statutes. We are looking forward to seeing the Access Alliance legal research and the proposal for a draft bill.

The Parliamentary Champions recognise the value of stories in ensuring people‘s lived experience is at the centre of the law change. It’s important to hear the views of everyone with a stake in making New Zealand accessible, especially people of all ages with access needs, business, and local government. And it seems not only the right thing to do, but hugely important that when we are in the process of codesign that your voices are at the very, very front of that discussion. And I can assure you that working with the Access Alliance the PCAL group has been able to experience true partnership and collaboration in delivering equity of access. PCAL are meeting with the Access Alliance tonight and looking forward to working together to progress research which can inform a draft bill and we’ll keep you up-to-date on our progress.

But thank you all for being here today. If there’s one place that should be accessible it is this place, our House. And I want to, on behalf of the Speaker and the Office of the Clerk, to welcome you here and hopefully in the future you will come to recognise this place as being a champion for accessibility.

Kia manuia, Malo aupito"

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