18 November 2021 – The government recently announced the creation of a Ministry for Disabled People, along with other significant changes, including new Accessibility legislation and the rollout of Enabling Good Lives. Life Unlimited supports these changes and joins in celebrating the hard work of disabled people that have led to them.
The changes have come about in response to the hard work of disabled people and their families. Their efforts in highlighting the human costs of ableism and an inaccessible and discriminatory society, as well as the ways that the disability support system is failing, have been central to getting government attention and action.
Life Unlimited Chief Executive Officer, Megan Thomas says, “I am delighted for the disability community that their voices have been heard and that some of the changes they have been lobbying on for many years will be put into place.”
John McIntosh, a disability advocate and member of Life Unlimited’s Disability Leadership Group, echoes this view. “It is wonderful news the Government will finally establish a Ministry for Disabled People and be implementing a national approach to Enabling Good Lives for Disability Services. These changes are the ones that we, as disabled people, have been proposing for some time now. Full accessibility is important to ensure that we can participate on an equal footing and make Aotearoa New Zealand a better place to live”.
Life Unlimited also says that the challenge now is to ensure that this good work is not lost in the implementation or further delayed.
The changes have been a long time coming. Disabled people and their families have been consulted, involved in design processes, seen pilots set up and been promised a better way of doing things for well over a decade now.
We think there is a risk that the powerful calls for “nothing about us without us”, and a disability support system based on choice and control sitting with disabled people and their families, could be undermined if disability leadership is not built into every part of implementation and the new system.
We have already seen concerns that the government’s approach to the new accessibility legislation falls well short of what’s needed, with it looking like the proposed enforcement and accountability mechanisms being watered down from what disabled people and the Access Alliance are calling for.
Finally, our view is that while these changes are important, even if they are delivered successfully, they will only make a small dent in the disabling forces and obstacles faced by disabled people and their families every day. We know that the health, education, and justice systems are failing disabled people. We know that widespread ableism and discrimination are shutting disabled people out of employment, housing, transport, community connections and access to political power. Life Unlimited hopes that these critical issues remain at the fore as the government’s announced changes are implemented.