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Government Action on Disability Policy
A Global Survey
Part II - Government Replies as Country Profiles

New Zealand

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© Dimitris Michailakis 1997

Ministry of Foreign Affairs (1 April 1996)
Compare with the following Country Report(s): WFD


General policy

The officially recognized disability policy in New Zealand is expressed in law, in guidelines adopted by the Government and in guidelines adopted by the national disability council. The accident compensation policy is expressed in the Accident Rehabilitation and Compensation Insurance Act 1992 and its associated regulations. The strongest emphasis - in descending scale - is on: individual support, rehabilitation, anti-discrimination law, accessibility measures, prevention. The Accident Rehabilitation and Compensation Insurance Act 1992 and its associated regulations explicitly specify the provision for rehabilitation, and individual support.

The Government has supported the following actions conveying the message of full participation: Health and Disability Act; Human Rights Act 1993; the development of the Disability Support Services Strategy; Health and Disability Code of Rights.

Legislation

The rights of persons with disabilities are protected by a combination of special and general legislation. The judicial mechanisms adopted to protect the rights of persons with disabilities include: due process (legal remedy through courts) and recourse procedure by a special agency dealing with anti-discrimination issues. Administrative and other non-judicial bodies include: an Ombudsman and a Governmental body (administrative).

The general legislation applies to all categories of disabled persons with respect to: education, employment, the right to marriage, the right to parenthood/family, political rights, access to court-of-law, the right to privacy, property rights. The following benefits are guaranteed by law to persons with disabilities: health and medical care, financial security, independent living, participation in decisions affecting them. The Health and Disability Act and the Human Rights Act 1993 have been enacted since the adoption of the Rules.

Accessibility

There are laws and regulations requiring that public places, the outdoor environment, land, sea and air transportation are made accessible. Accessibility in the build environment is observed by a national authority, local Governments and the constructor. The following measures have been promoted in order to facilitate accessibility in the build environment: levelling off pavements, marking parking areas, installing lifts and accessible toilets, ensuring access to public places, improving accessibility in housing, providing financial incentives for accessibility measures when building and renovating housing and providing for specially adapted motor vehicles. Special transport arrangements for persons with disabilities include a subsidized taxi scheme (up to 50% off fares). It is available for medical treatment, education, work and recreational purposes. In a note the Government explains that the Department of Social Welfare makes a disability allowance available to meet specific ongoing costs resulting from, and relating to, a disability or a personal health need. To qualify for the allowance, a person must benefit, or have an income that would not preclude him or her from receiving an invalids' benefit. When planning to build accessible environments the most difficult obstacles are: attitudinal factors, economic/budgetary factors, geographical and climatic factors. There is a disability awareness component incorporated in the training of planners, architects and construction engineers.

Sign language for deaf people has no officially recognized status. It is neither used as the first language in education of deaf people, nor recognized as the main means of communication between deaf persons and others. There are Government measures for encouraging media and other forms of public information to make their services available to persons with disabilities. The following services are provided in order to facilitate information and communication between persons with disabilities and other persons: literature in Braille/tape, news magazines on tape/Braille, sign language interpretation being available for any purpose and easy readers for persons with mental disabilities.

Organizations of persons with disabilities

There is a national umbrella organization (Assembly of People with Disabilities) which represents people with disabilities, not any particular organizations. There are no legal provisions mandating the representatives of persons with disabilities to participate in policy-making and to work with Governmental institutions. Organizations are often consulted when laws and regulations with a disability aspect are being prepared. Consultations take place at both national, regional and local level. The Government gives financial support to existing or new organizations. Persons with disabilities participate to a very limited extent in Government, legislature, judiciary, political parties and NGOs. In New Zealand disabled persons' organizations have the role to: advocate rights and improved services, identify needs and priorities, participate in the planning, implementation and evaluation of services and measures concerning the lives of persons with disabilities, contribute to public awareness, provide services and promote/organize income generating activities.

Co-ordination of work

In New Zealand there is no national co-ordinating committen to the rights and needs of people with disabilities.


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