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Disability Strategy Launched

Editor's Note: Editor's Note: The following article is re-printed from Disability World, Issue no. 8 May-June 2001.

New Zealand's Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Helen Clarke, launched the first Disability Strategy - Making a World of Difference Whakanui Oranga, in early May.

"With the New Zealand Disability Strategy we have, for the first time ever, a national framework which will enable us to address disability issues across agencies, policies, services and legislation," said Ms Clark.

"Within that framework, we will be able to address issues before decisions are made which affect disabled people, rather than as an afterthought, as happens so often at the moment," she said.

The Disability Strategy presents for the first time in a government policy document, a new approach to disability. This approach says that people have impairments; it is barriers existing in the social and physical environment that cause disability. The biggest barrier presenting the biggest challenge is attitude.

The Prime Minister acknowledged this new approach. "Those barriers are socially constructed - and they can be removed. That, in a nutshell, is the aim of the New Zealand Disability Strategy."

While congratulating the Government on recognizing the difference between "disability" and "impairment" chief executive of DPA Gary Williams said "The actions in the strategy are a compromise between what's really required and what society believes it can do." He challenged the government to provide leadership, and involve disabled people in a meaningful way in implementation

The strategy includes fifteen objectives covering areas such as human rights, social attitudes, education and employment, recreation and lifestyle, information, public services and support systems, and fostering leadership among disabled people. Actions support each of these objectives.

Almost a year in development, the strategy has involved a large proportion of the disability community either in consultation meetings or contributing to the 700 submissions. Development of the strategy also involved a sixteen-member Disability Strategy Sector Reference Group, including disabled and non-disabled representatives from the disability community.

The large number of people who attended the launches at Parliament and around the country, as well as those who joined in online, indicate the importance the disability community attaches to the strategy.

Implementation across government and beyond is the next challenge. Eleven government departments and ministries must develop work plans for the 2001-2002 year. All departments must have work plans for the following year. Local government will also have a part to play as its activities impact on the lives of disabled people. Other organisations may choose to be guided by the strategy.

This is the beginning of a process. The disability community will be watching carefully to see that momentum is maintained. It expects results.

For further information contact

New Zealand Disability Strategy

Ministry of Health 133 Molesworth Street

P O Box 5013

Wellington, New Zealand

Email: nzds@moh.govt.nz

Visit the website: http://www.nzds.govt.nz/nzdsdoc/new_zealand_disability_strategy.htm

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