Exciting news from the beehive
No, not the beehive where bees live, but the Beehive of New Zealand government.
The Minister for Disability Issues, Hon Carmel Sepoloni, has recently announced that “cabinet has approved a work programme to thoroughly explore how we can achieve full accessibility for disabled people and all New Zealanders”
This certainly sounds like a really good initiative. The promise isn’t – as I first thought - to actually achieve full accessibility but rather to explore how to work towards this goal.
It is somewhat less exciting to be exploring how to do something instead of actually doing it, but it is prudent to do some research before diving in without a plan. To temper my impatience I am reminding myself that, like when painting a wall, preparation is an essential part of achieving a good finished product.
The Ministry of Social Development together with the Office for Disabilities Issues will lead the programme. Consultation with stakeholder groups starts early in 2019 when the programme will be engaging and collaborating with disability groups and small business. Together they will look at:
how to define “full accessibility”
the challenges and opportunities of different approaches
whether legislation is needed for mandatory codes and standards for accessibility and what domains any might cover
If you want to have your say in this matter as a business, disability group or individual, get in touch with the Ministry of Social Development or the Office for Disability Issues.
I am hoping this programme will lead to changes that result in improved accessibility in workplaces for the 1 in 4 Kiwis that currently live with an impairment. More than twice as many people living with disability are underemployed compared to those living without disability. This is often only because transport, landscapes, buildings and services have barriers preventing participation.
And for the 3 in 4 Kiwis who do not currently live with an impairment – fear not. There is a pretty good chance this programme will be directly beneficial for you too. Making work places more accessible will useful for workers as they get older, those who have English as a second language and those who experience temporary impairments such as a broken limb.
New Zealand underemployment statistics
It is exciting to see the New Zealand government taking accessibility seriously and understanding that accessible workplaces benefit everyone. I will be watching, as patiently as I can muster, the necessary prep work that will lead to better workplace access for as many people as possible.