Report seeks action on disabled rights

BRONWYN TORRIE
Last updated 05:00 04/12/2012

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Heavy criticism has been levelled at government agencies over New Zealand's poor performance in disabled people's rights.

The health and education ministries and the Corrections Department, in particular, have been told to lift their game before representatives report back to the United Nations on progress made on the Disability Convention by the end of 2014.

The report calls for action to reverse poor health outcomes and for more schools to include disabled pupils. The lack of reasonable facilities - such as showers and doorway ramps - for disabled prisoners was also put under the spotlight in the first annual report on the Disability Convention.

It highlighted problems in accessing buildings and information, a lack of Statistics NZ data, and agencies not co-ordinating to make it easier for disabled people and their families.

The Human Rights Commission, Convention Coalition and the Office of the Ombudsman were charged with monitoring how disabled people's rights compared to others'.

The convention was ratified by New Zealand in 2008. It means all new legislation and policy has to be consistent with the internationally recognised rights of disabled people.

Disability Rights Commissioner Paul Gibson said the convention had the potential to "change the lives of some of the most forgotten, abused and poverty-stricken people in our global village".

CCS Disability Action chief executive David Matthews said adopting the convention was a step in the right direction, but "we should be further down the track than we are".

The report, published yesterday, makes 44 recommendations, including the need to involve disabled people and their families in government decisions that affect them.

The lack of action on reversing poor health outcomes for disabled people is unacceptable, it says.

"Little has been done to correct the situation that has been known about since 2003."

Disabled males were expected to live 18 fewer years than other males, and disabled females 23 fewer years than other females.

Most complaints to the Human Rights Commission about government agencies relate to the education system's treatment of pupils with a disability. The complaints included violence, abuse, bullying and teaching based on expectations of low achievement.

It recommended the implementation of anti-bullying programmes and initiatives to promote difference among pupils.

The report coincides with the release of a study funded by CCS on the experiences of 12 people living with significant disabilities, who said they were at times socially excluded, isolated or segregated from their community.

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They also faced a lack of choice in home and daily activities, Mr Matthews said. "Our findings question not just the way that funding and services are provided but also highlight the many barriers to full social participation that exist in society today."

PRIORITY RECOMMENDATIONS

All schools to prove they are inclusive by the Education Ministry's target of late 2014.

Establishing a board to align disability support services with international best practice. Members to include agents from Health, Social Development and Education ministries, disability organisations, disabled people and their families.

Statistics New Zealand to collect data that will enable comparison of key outcomes for disabled and non-disabled people.

The Corrections Department and Health Ministry to jointly ensure reasonable accommodation for prisoners with disabilities and treatment of people with an intellectual/learning disability or mental illness.

- The Dominion Post

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