Disability rights report highlights systemic inequities and opportunities for real change
A report released today by the New Zealand Independent Monitoring Mechanism (IMM) highlights the need for decisive government action, including stronger laws to protect the rights of disabled people.
Making Disability Rights Real, Whakatūturu Ngā Tika Hauātanga is the third report of the IMM on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. It is published in Word, Braille, large print, audio, te reo Māori, Easy Read and NZSL.
The report says that New Zealand has a mixed record when it comes to the rights of disabled people. It notes that although some things are done well, there is still a great deal of work required to remove barriers stopping disabled people from participating equally in society.
The report also highlights the experience of disabled Māori and Pacific peoples.
It notes that disabled people remain far from enjoying the full range of human rights and fundamental freedoms included in the Disability Convention. Many disabled people are experiencing poverty, exclusion and a lack of autonomy. The report states:
Eliminating these huge disparities requires a quantum leap. We need to move from compensating for an inaccessible society—founded on notions of disability as a deficit—to recognising disabled people as equal rights holders, by actively working to create fully accessible communities. The IMM urges the Government to mandate a systemic approach to explicitly integrating the Disability Convention into domestic law, and to apply the appropriate resource in order to make this a reality.
While the report analyses all 33 Articles of the Convention, there are six key themes the IMM considers to be top priority.
The six key themes are:
- Seclusion and restraint
- Access to information and communication
Of these, education, housing and seclusion and restraint are identified as in need of immediate action.
In education, the key recommendations are the introduction of an enforceable right to inclusive education, there are resources available to achieve equitable access, and co-design (accessibility for all) is built into every stage of the education reform process.
The report also recommends that laws are created to make sure newly built houses meet universal design standards.
For seclusion and restraint, the report recommends strengthening the commitment to limiting the use of restraint on people with disabilities, and rapidly reducing and eliminating seclusion in secure health and disability facilities, through robust, achievable and timely policies.
These key themes indicate a wider disparity between disabled people and their non-disabled peers. The report notes that improvements in these areas will have significant positive effects on disabled people’s lives.
The IMM conducted a survey of disabled people and their supporters, and held public hui to inform the report. The nationwide survey was available online, in a range of accessible formats and languages, including te reo Māori, New Zealand Sign Language, Easy Read and Braille.
The report relates to the period 2014 to December 2019. The IMM will be publishing a separate report on the experiences of disabled people during lockdown later this year.
Further information about the IMM and the Disability Convention
The IMM is made up of the Disabled People’s Organisations Coalition (an alliance of seven disabled people’s organisations) the Human Rights Commission, and the Office of the Ombudsman. This provides a powerful means to combine direct lived experience, strong community engagement and statutory roles of inquiry and monitoring.
The role of the IMM is to monitor the implementation of the Disability Convention, which New Zealand ratified in 2008, including analysing legislation and policy, identifying priority areas for action, monitoring progress, and reporting to government. The IMM was established by notice in the New Zealand Gazette on 13 October 2011.
The principles of the Disability Convention are:
- respect for inherent dignity, individual autonomy, and independence of persons;
- full and effective participation and inclusion in society;
- respect for difference and acceptance of disabled people as part of human diversity and humanity;
- equality of opportunity;
- equality between men and women; and
- respect for the evolving capacities of disabled children and respect for the rights of disabled children to preserve their identities.