Wellington Scoop

Kāpiti Chamber Co-Chair advocates for accessibility access

Press Release – Kapiti Coast Chamber Of Commerce
Kāpiti Chamber Co-chair Monique Leith has met Carmel Sepuloni, Minister for Disability Issues, to advocate for much-needed accessibility legislation, drawing on her lived experiences as a business owner and industry leader.

Accessibility is not just about creating equity for people with disabilities. Over half a million New Zealanders encounter access barriers in their role as family caregivers of young children, elderly, or disabled family members. The Government and all the Parliamentary parties are committed to accelerate accessibility through new legislation and regulations in the next two years. Currently, no laws or framework exists. Monique met with the Minister as part of Access Alliance to feed into the new law framework.

Monique Leith says accessibility legislation will make a real difference. She spoke to Minister Sepuloni about her experience as a Deaf business owner and resource management planner, potential hurdles to the uptake of new legislation, and how the Government could engage with business.

“I visited Washington DC a few years ago and had a taste of how great accessibility can be with clear visual signs, sign language interpreters and live captioning services readily accessible amongst other services. It was liberating but highlighted to me that New Zealand does have some way to go. Like many Kiwis with access needs, I have developed strategies to overcome the barriers I face daily, but this can be exhausting.

“25% percent of business customers are likely to have accessibility needs, and 15 to 20% of employees are likely to be neurodiverse. My fellow Board and Chamber Members have been supportive in learning of my access needs and what hinders me during my business day. For example, I don’t use the phone, and I need to use an online meeting platform with a captioning feature. This makes people aware of potential customers who can’t call or participate in a Zoom session and how they make themselves accessible to those customers.

“My experiences have shown me that the business community really do want to be inclusive and accessible. There are simple things people can do to reach a new loyal customer base and expand their business potential,” says Monique Leith.

Chrissie Cowan, Chief Executive, Kāpō Māori Aotearoa, and Chair of the Access Alliance, says they know from their engagement that businesses want to do the right thing for their customers and employees, but they’re not sure how to be accessible.

“Accessibility legislation will be realised over time. The Access Alliance has made it clear that you can’t have legislation without awareness, education, and support for organisations. Our priority is to work with the disability sector to ensure that people with disabilities get access to goods, products, services, and facilities like everyone else. We continue to advise the Government that business has to be at the table early to design effective accessibility legislation,” says Chrissie Cowan.

More information about the framework to accelerate progress towards accessibility in Aotearoa New Zealand, is available here.

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