The creation of this guide has been led by the Inclusive Greens, the Green Party's disability network.
The Accessibility for New Zealanders Bill is open for submissions until 7 November 2022. Unfortunately, this Bill is a missed opportunity. It could have been transformational in its effects, making accessibility a guaranteed right rather than something disabled people and those closest to us are constantly advocating for. However, the Bill as drafted does not do anything meaningful to further accessibility. It may in fact slow down progress. It needs to be redrafted from the ground up with disabled people and disability-led organisations closely involved this time.
If you want to live in an accessible Aotearoa where disabled people have equitable opportunities to thrive, please read this guide and submit on this Bill.
What makes a good submission
Keep your submission clear and to-the-point.
Personalise your submission. If submitting as an individual, it's powerful to mention that you are disabled yourself, or to say how you're connected to disability and/or accessibility (via your whānau, communities, friends, colleagues…). If you are not disabled at present, you may one day be. Access is also relevant for older people, children and people learning English among others. Remember that your submission is publicly available.
This Bill does not remove any access barriers. With that in mind, make sure the Select Committee MPs understand the impact of a lack of accessibility on your life, your whānau, and perhaps that of communities you are part of. Give examples of access barriers you've faced, whether with physical access, transport, education, employment, communications, retail, healthcare and so on. Explain why it’s so important that this Bill go further and provide genuine accessibility.
Clearly state your position on the Bill. We suggest that you
- Oppose the Bill as it's currently drafted.
- Call for the Bill to be redrafted but this time involving a genuine co-design and co-production process with the disabled community.
- Explain how important it is to have a right to accessibility without further delay.
Your submission could cover some of the following points:
1. Why oppose the Bill as currently drafted
Disabled people and allies, including in the Green Party, have called for accessibility legislation for years. We want a law which would help to ensure that we can live our lives on an equal basis with others. Currently, we constantly advocate for access, for ourselves, for our loved ones and for our communities, but that should not be our job. Under international law, access is our right. The burden of advocating for it should not fall on us; access should instead be the default expectation we have. A meaningful accessibility act would go a long way towards making that happen, but this bill does not come close to doing that.
This Bill's only guarantee is that it establishes a non-independent ministerial advisory committee which is responsible for setting up work programmes on accessibility. A Bill is not needed to set up such a committee. That essentially makes the current Bill redundant. It’s a symbolic gesture instead of real action. Disabled people deserve better.
However, this Bill may even make things worse than the status quo, by delaying real action towards accessibility. That's because the new committee may lead to a bottleneck of accessibility issues, meaning that access barriers take even longer than they currently do to get addressed. Government departments may also be less willing to progress work on issues they are currently progressing, giving the excuse that this committee hasn't specifically required them to do so.
In short, the Bill as drafted cannot deliver meaningful or useful accessibility measures for disabled people.
2. What's needed for a meaningful accessibility law?
In order to be beneficial to our community, the Bill needs to be rewritten, from the ground up, but this time with the meaningful input of disabled people and disability-led organisations. International disability experts who reviewed New Zealand's progress against the UN Convention on the rights of Persons with Disabilities agree this needs to happen.
Accessibility is a right - and our law needs to recognise it
We've signed up to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. That means that under international law, New Zealand has accessibility obligations which the country is falling short of. This Bill will do nothing to address them, but meaningful accessibility legislation would substantially help to.
Under Article 9 of the Convention, the Government needs to ensure disabled people can access the physical environment, transport, information and communications, and other facilities and services open or provided to the public. The Government also needs to set and monitor accessibility standards for such facilities and services, and to make sure private entities offering those services account for all aspects of accessibility. Article 4 of the Convention also makes it clear that countries need to "closely consult with and actively involve" disabled people via their representative organisations when making laws and policies affecting our community. In this case, that hasn't happened.
3. How the Bill needs to change
In a rewritten accessibility Bill, we would call for a Disability Commission to be established and to be led by disabled people. Specifically, the commission would be an Independent Crown Entity with responsibility and powers to develop, review and enforce accessibility standards. If disabled people experienced access barriers which the standards were supposed to address, there would be an accessible and just system in place for disabled people and others to make complaints and have them resolved.
A meaningful Bill would establish comprehensive accessibility standards. These would cover all central and local Government facilities and services, as well as setting out the obligations on private entities and how these would need to be met.
Establishing accessibility standards also aligns with the action set out under Te Pae Tata | Interim New Zealand Health Plan to: "create accessibility standards for new buildings, contracts, services, and systems, including transport and mobility options".
In addition to guaranteeing rights directly associated with accessibility, we also call for the Government, in line with its obligations under the disability Convention, to work closely with disabled people and disability-led organisations to co-design and implement legislation ensuring access to all of the human rights disabled people have under the disability Convention.
How to submit
Here are your options for how to submit:
- Submit through the Parliament website
- For a quick version, submit through this form from Access Matters
- For this Bill, you can choose to make a oral (spoken) or NZSL submission only. Email [email protected] to tell them your preference and arrange an interpreter if needed.