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Access campaigners to tell their stories to Disability Minister

News from Access Alliance
Accessibility campaigners will assemble at Bowen House in Wellington today in a public presentation of their personal stories to Minister for Disability Issues Carmel Sepuloni.

Supporters of the Access Matters campaign will present a booklet of stories of kiwis living with disabilities. These stories are representative of a range of systemic barriers, which the one in four New Zealanders living with a disability face on a daily basis and highlight the imperative for accessibility legislation.

Access Matters campaigner and wheelchair user Juliana Carvalho, who will present the giant booklet of stories to the Minister, said “We are sharing our stories because we need accessibility legislation to implement minimum standards for access to everyday things others take for granted like transport, public services, websites, buildings, workplaces, and events.

“We know that changing the law to introduce an Accessibility Act can help remove so many of these barriers. We believe that together, our stories have the power to influence and create a truly accessible society that benefits everyone” said Ms Carvalho.

The campaign is coordinated by the Access Alliance, a group of 12 organisations in the disability sector who have come together to co-design with the government an Accessibility Act that would enable people with disabilities to more actively participate in society.

Chair of the Access Alliance and CEO of Alliance member Kāpo Māori Aotearoa Chrissie Cowan said “This presentation to the Minister for Disability Issues represents an important milestone and significant moment for the campaign.

“We have received a positive response from across parliament and we look forward to Hon. Minister Sepuloni updating us on the positive steps she has taken toward the introduction of an Accessibility Act.

“An Accessibility law can open the door so that everyone, disabled and non-disabled, benefits from the contributions of us all” Ms Cowan said.

Blind Foundation Policy and Advocacy Advisor and Access Matters Community Organiser Aine Kelly-Costello said, “Advocates have received overwhelming support during meetings with their local MPs up and down the country”.

“Canada has introduced A Bill to Ensure a Barrier-Free Canada recently, and many other countries have disability legislation too. We believe the time is right for the New Zealand government to introduce an Accessibility Act for New Zealanders” said Ms Kelly-Costello.

Research commissioned by the Blind Foundation for the Access alliance last year showed that the unemployment rate for people with a disability is 50 percent higher than the unemployment rate of the total workforce. There are 14,000 New Zealanders with disabilities who are ready and able to work yet struggle to gain employment.

Ms Cowan said, “Increased accessibility presents one of the largest opportunities for social and economic development for all New Zealanders”.

When: Tuesday September 4, from 11am to 12pm
Where: Bowen House, 70-84 Lambton Quay. This area is wheelchair-accessible. The event will be NZSL-interpreted.
Who: Access Alliance organisations and supporters from across the disability sector