Submissions open on accessibility legislation
Thu 22 Sep 2022
The government is inviting public submissions on the Accessibility for New Zealanders Bill by 7 November 2022.
Submissions open on accessibility legislation
The Social Services and Community Committee is calling for public submissions on the Accessibility for New Zealanders Bill.
The closing date to make a submission is 7 November 2022.
According to the call for submission information, the purpose of the Accessibility for New Zealanders Bill is to address "...the accessibility barriers faced by disabled people, tāngata whaikaha, and others, so they can live independently and participate fully in all areas of life. The bill also aims to ensure that disability issues are front of mind in decisions by policy makers and the Government of the day."
The bill would do 3 main things:
- establish an accessibility committee to provide advice and make recommendations about accessibility to the Minister for Disability Issues
- enhance accountability and co-ordination across the Public Service and Government to progress accessibility issues by creating responsibilities for the Minister for Disability Issues, the chief executive of Whaikaha – Ministry of Disabled People, and the Accessibility Committee
- build knowledge and awareness about the importance of addressing accessibility barriers.
The select committee has made a video (available on YouTube) that explains the bill and how to make a submission:
The bill is available in different formats including large print, braille, audio and screen reader friendly. This page also has the policy statement for the bill in NZSL and Easy read in English and Te Reo Māori formats.
The committee can be contacted with questions at firstname.lastname@example.org or 04 817 9520.
"While the Bill does not have a regulatory focus, I expect that it will lead to new or amended regulations as accessibility barriers become more of a focus, with the establishment of Whaikaha - the Ministry of Disabled People, the first of its kind in any comparable jurisdiction."
The media release also noted the legislation would be reviewed every 5 years.
The government announced plans to introduce accessibility legislation in October 2021. For more information see the:
- Cabinet paper seeking agreement to introduce the Accessibility for New Zealanders Bill
- Cabinet paper that outlines the policy approach and legislative framework for accessibility legislation in Aotearoa New Zealand
- Ministry of Social Development's programme of work to ensure the public sector is accessible for everyone and inclusive of disabled people.
The recently published UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities concluding observations (CRPD/C/NZL/CO/2-3) of New Zealand's implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities stated the Committee was concerned that:
"Reports from organisations of persons with disabilities that the Accessibility for New Zealanders Bill, currently before Parliament does not contain enforcement mechanisms, may not cover private entities or local government, lacks standard-setting and decision-making bodies, and lacks obligations to make tangible changes within fixed time frames" (see 15d).
The Committee called on the government to "Establish a co-design and co-production process with organisations of persons with disabilities to address concerns about the Accessibility for New Zealanders Bill, following release of the Select Committee’s report" (see 16d).
Before the Accessibility for New Zealanders Bill was introduced, Access Matters outlined 13 principles that should be core to accessibility legislation.
Community and advocate responses
Advocates have criticised the proposed legislation.
Access Matters Aotearoa issued a media release stating the "New accessibility legislation before Parliament lacks teeth and needs to include standards, a regulator, a barrier notification system and a dispute resolution process in order to make a real difference for all New Zealanders... ." Access Matters Aotearoa has launched a petition calling on the government to strengthen the proposed legislation. Access Matters Aotearoa has information and resources to help make a submission on the bill and also has a Quick Submission Form.
Blind Low Vision NZ has published a draft Position Statement on the Accessibility for New Zealanders Bill calling for the legislation to be broadened and strengthened.
See further responses from advocates in the related media below.
Links between violence and disability
Recent research in Aotearoa New Zealand has shown that disabled people are more likely to experience intimate partner violence and/or sexual violence:
New Zealand crime and victims survey cycle 3, Ministry of Justice (2021).
The Human Rights Commission published two reports about the experiences of violence and abuse among tāngata whaikaha Māori and disabled people. The reports, Whakamanahia Te Tiriti, Whakahaumarutia te Tangata (Honour the Treaty, Protect the Person, 2021) and Whakamahia te Tūkino kore Ināianei, ā Muri Ake Nei (Acting Now for a Violence and Abuse Free Future, 2021), outline the evidence on the causes and impacts of violence including racism and colonisation, and abuse against tāngata whaikaha Māori and disabled people. The reports outline gaps in systems, knowledge and services and set out a roadmap for systemic change. Together the reports make 20 recommendations.
Te Puna Aonui (formerly the Joint Venture) published 10 analysis papers that summarised the feedback gathered from the community engagement process to develop Te Aorerekura, the National Strategy. This includes an Analysis paper about disabled people’s (2021) experience with the family violence and sexual violence systems and the opportunities for improving how to prevent, respond, heal and recover from these forms of violence.
The 7th report from the Family Violence Death Review Committee examined family violence in the context of a disability within the family and identified where systems and service providers could improve understanding, awareness and responses. The Committee also shared a video highlighting reflections on the report from representatives of the disability community. A transcript from the video is available.
The UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities concluding observations (CRPD/C/NZL/CO/2-3) of New Zealand's implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities also highlights issues related to violence and abuse experienced by disabled people in New Zealand.
The report, Making Disability Rights Real, Whakatūturu Ngā Tika Hauātanga (2020), highlighted issues faced by disabled people in Aotearoa New Zealand, including violence and abuse. The Independent Monitoring Mechanism published an updated report in August 2022, Disability Rights: How is New Zealand doing?
Not inherently vulnerable: An examination of paradigms, attitudes and systems that enable the abuse of dis/abled women (2017), a thesis by Debbie Hager describes the systems and attitudes which enable harm to occur.
Michael Roguski identified how violence and abuse impacts the lives of disabled people in The hidden abuse of disabled people residing in the community: An exploratory study (2013) based on interviews with disabled people living in the community in Tairawhiti.
Public consultation on changes to the New Zealand Sign Language Act
Disability Issues Minister Poto Williams has also announced that the government is consulting on potential changes to the New Zealand Sign Language Act 2006. She said:
"The consultation will be an NZSL-first approach, with options for people in the Deaf community to attend in-person meetings held primarily in NZSL. These will be in Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington. Information on the Office for Disability Issues website will be in NZSL, and the Deaf community will have the option to share their views in NZSL, and in English.
"For many years others have spoken for Turi Māori and I am particularly interested in learning from Turi Māori and their whānau about how the NZSL Act could better reflect Te Tiriti o Waitangi and support the leadership of Turi Māori."
The consultation has started and closes on 11 November 2022. A Bill to amend the NZSL Act is expected to be introduced in mid-2023. Find more information about participating in the consultation from the Office for Disability Issues website.
Paul Tesoriero new CEO of Whaihaka - Ministry of Disabled People
In August 2022, Minister for Disability Issues, Poto Williams announced that Te Kawa Mataaho Public Service Commission appointed Paula Tesoriero MNZM as Chief Executive of Whaikaha – Ministry of Disabled People. Paula Tesoriero has been the Disability Rights Commissioner at Te Kāhui Tika Tangata - the Human Rights Commission since 2017 and was Acting Chief Human Rights Commissioner from 2018 to 2019. She has been appointed for five years. In her previous role as Disability Rights Commissioner, Paula has raised awareness about violence and abuse experienced by disabled people including commissioning reports on tāngata whaikaha Māori and disabled peoples' experience of violence in Aotearoa.