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New Zealand - Disability

There have been a number of initiatives in recent years by the New Zealand government which have been designed to promote awareness and understanding of disability issues. During the period 2000 to 2001 the New Zealand Disability Strategy was developed and in 2002 the Office for Disability Issues was established. The aim is to ensure that the correct focus is placed on disability issues and ensure that the Disability Strategy was correctly implemented. New Zealand became one of the first countries in 2004 to make sign language an official language of the country.

A review was carried out into how the strategy had progressed after implementation and this showed that there had been a definite improvement in attitudes towards the disabled. New Zealand has won the Franklin Delano Roosevelt International Disability Award, which is given to countries which have made a marked improvement in the lives of the disabled and the services that are available to them. The review does reveal that there are areas in which improvements can be made but the initiatives are continuing to evolve.

The Disability Strategy is intended to deal with the issues which prevent disabled people from having a full life. The strategy is required to allow people to do the things they want to do, such as gain qualifications and work in a role which appeals to them. There are fifteen main objectives of the strategy. The first is to encourage a society that is educated about disability issues. The second is to ensure that those with disabilities have rights. The third is that disabled people should have access to the best educational facilities that are available and the fourth is to ensure that employment opportunities are open to disabled as well as able-bodied people. The fifth is to encourage the disabled to take leading roles in organisations and the sixth is for the government to create a public service which is fully conversant with the issues at hand.

The seventh is to ensure that support systems that can be geared to the individual are created and the eighth is for the disabled to live in the community and have the same quality of life as an able-bodied person. The ninth is for disabled people to have access to the same cultural and leisure activities as others and the tenth is for the government to collate and use appropriately all the necessary information on disabled people. The eleventh is to have a focus on the issues of disabled Maori peoples and the twelfth is to help those from the Pacific regions with disability issues. The thirteenth is aimed at looking after the issues of disabled children and young people and the fourteenth is to focus on the needs of disabled women. Finally, the fifteenth objective is to ensure that families of the disabled have the support they need to take care of their loved ones.

Public buildings are required to have disabled access facilities although at the moment the focus is on new buildings and those that are being renovated. Those that are not new or recently renovated should be providing assistance for the disabled where possible. Those who need to travel on public transport will find that most bus and train operators provide facilities for the disabled, but it is wise to check with them before travelling to ensure that they do have facilities to help you. Buses in most areas are marked if they have disabled access facilities and most companies are gradually replacing their vehicles with those that have better disabled access.

In most areas the disabled can apply for parking badges so that they can use the designated disabled parking spaces. These can be found in most car parks and on some streets in busy areas. Expats can apply for these cards as well but will need to provide proof of disability either from their home country or from a doctor in New Zealand.

Those who need advice or information on disability issues should contact the New Zealand Office for Disability Issues. However, there are other organisations which offer support and assistance such as the DPA New Zealand.

Useful Resources

Office for Disability Issues
PO Box 1556
New Zealand
Phone: +64 (4) 916 3300
Email: odi@msd.govt.nz

DPA (New Zealand) Inc
Phone/TTY: 64 4 801 9100
Fax: 64 4 801 9565
E-Mail: gen@dpa.org.nz

Read more about this country

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