Hon Poto Williams' message for International Day of Persons with Disabilities
Tomorrow we're celebrating International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The observance of the Day aims to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilise support for the dignity, rights and well-being of disabled people.
Please note, Whaikaha uses ‘disabled people’ rather than ‘people with disabilities’ because disabled people are not disabled by impairments, but by society and barriers it has created.
Kia ora kia orāna. My name is Poto Williams and I'm the Minister for Disability Issues. Today I'm wearing a blue dress, a gold necklace. I've got shoulder length brown hair and I'm about average height. I'm excited to celebrate third December the international Day of Persons with Disabilities. From talking with disabled people and their families, I've heard about how important it is to be connected part of your local community, and to have the chance to live a good life.
This year we've made good progress towards making Aotearoa New Zealand a better place to live. And I have many highlights since I became the Minister for Disability Issues in June. A particular special highlight was leading New Zealand's delegation to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
The committee is a group of 18 disabled people from across the world who work for the United Nations and are disability experts. This group of disabled people checks on how well countries are doing for disabled people. They asked a lot of questions about New Zealand, about our laws and how well we think our laws and services work for disabled people. They said that we are doing some things well and gave us useful advice and ideas on how we can do better for disabled people.
I'm now working with others in government to think about what we need to do to put those ideas into practice. For many years, disabled people have spoken about the problems they experience with accessibility. Disabled people tell me they have difficulty getting about on public transport, finding information that is easy to understand and that buildings are not always designed for disabled people.
This means disabled people are unable to be included, participate and contribute in the same way as other New Zealanders. This year it's been a privilege to work with my colleagues on a law to set up a way to find out what disabled people think the biggest accessibility barriers and problems are, work out the best way to get rid of those barriers, promote accessibility and use service and infrastructure design, build knowledge and awareness about the importance of making New Zealand more accessible.
What is important is that disabled people will have an important role in leading this work alongside others. July was a very special month as we celebrated the start of Whaikaha, the Ministry of Disabled People. Many disabled people have been calling for this ministry for a long time and I acknowledge everyone who helped make this ministry happen.
It was an honour to launch Whaikaha. Whaikaha is working on making Enabling Good Lives approach to providing support for disabled people available across all New Zealand. This will give disabled people much more choice and control over the support they need. Whaikaha will also work with other government organizations to help make their policies and services effective for disabled people in areas such as employment, education, health and wellbeing.
In August we announced the new Chief Executive of Whaikaha, Paula Tesoriero. Paula, a well known and respected leader in the disability community, is disabled and has a deep knowledge of the challenges and opportunities for the disabled community. Most importantly, she's a champion for the rights of disabled people. I know that the disability community has high expectations of her and I look forward to seeing Whaikaha grow and meet those expectations.
In 2023 the Government will be developing a response to the UN committee's recommendations. We will start work on a new disability action plan and I will continue to work towards implementing the EGL (Enabling Good Lives) approach to disability support services on a national scale. This will be done in partnership with the Disability Community and tāngata whaikaha Māori. It will take time to do this effectively, to ensure results and improved outcomes for disabled people and their whānau.
These are only some of the things that are planned for next year and I'm really excited about them. I want to finish by saying that I want disabled people to have the same opportunities as all New Zealanders to achieve their goals and aspirations. New Zealand has strategies, plans and international agreements that help us to make New Zealand a country where all people are included in everyday life.
I want to continue to learn about disabled people sharing their talents through arts, cooking, baking, sport, education, employment, volunteering or other hobbies. We are on a journey and there is more work to do together with disabled people, tāngata whaikaha Māori, families, whānau, allies, disabled people’s organisations and service providers.