Calls for an accessibility act

Calls for an accessibility act

Minister Carmel Sepuloni and MPs Poto Williams and Chlöe Swarbrick surrounded by Access Matters supporters PHOTO BY" VICTOR KOMAROVSKY

More than 70 disability advocates and supporters for change headed down to parliament on September 4 to campaign for the introduction of an accessibility act.

Campaigners presented MPs with a book of stories and experiences to exemplify the need for change.

Access alliance campaigner Áine Kelly-Costello said she was pleased with the presentation and that it “absolutely helped” with progressing toward an act.

Kelly-Costello said it was, good for MPs to see how much public support was behind it. “We want accessibility to be higher on the priority list.”

Kelly-Costello shared her own story in the booklet, outlining the difficulties blind or visually impaired people have when applying for or working a job.

She uses software that reads aloud what is on her screen. Problems arose when government-issued forms were not compatible with the software.

“As a result of this, I had to ask for help filling those forms in. In my particular situation, I was able to ask my mother for help. But I feel like my sense of dignity was trampled on there – to have to ask somebody else to fill in my tax and other job acceptance paperwork for me.

“If sighted people don’t have to share that information with anyone else, neither should visually impaired and blind people,” Kelly-Costello said in the booklet.

Minister for Disability Issues Carmel Sepuloni said, “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.”

Sepuloni said the message was being taken seriously but could not say what progress was being made.

“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.”

The co-chairperson of the Parliamentary Champions for Accessibility Legislation Poto Williams said the next step was to see how the proposed accessibility legislation would work within New Zealand statutes.

“We’re delighted to have the support of nine MPs, from four parliamentary parties, all committed to the work with the Access Alliance to co-design 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.”

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