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Government reveals new plan to help more than 1 million Kiwis with disabilities

The Government has launched a new action plan to help more than a million disabled New Zealanders.

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Among the changes, Government departments and agencies will have to include disabled people in decision making that affects them.

It will see an acceleration of 25 programmes that are still at the planning stage or have stalled, with issues of education, employment, health and accessibility all set to be addressed.

Disability Issues Minister Carmel Sepuloni said, “Not enough progress has been made in integral areas, and we're committed to making that progress”.

CCS Disability Action Board president Dairne Kirton says the plan’s overdue and she’s “excited about where the plan will take New Zealanders in the commitment for disabled people to feel included in society”.

The programmes include improving accessibility across the country’s housing system, boosting access to quality healthcare, and running disability awareness programmes for bus drivers.

“We can’t ignore that more needs to be done in this space”, said Ms Sepuloni.

The 2019-2023 Action Plan also comes with a promise that Government agencies will include disabled people in decision-making that affects them, and carry out data collection to get a more comprehensive picture of disability in New Zealand.

 “It hasn’t been prioritised in the way it should," Ms Sepuloni said. "Anecdotes tell us particular things - the reality, though, is that we don’t always have the data to back that up."

The new plan has been welcomed by the disabled community, which has played a key part in its design.

Victoria Manning of Deaf Aotearoa said, “There are a few important things from the last action plan that didn’t happen. Despite calls from the community, nothing changed.

“There’re really key issues and I'd like to see action on those. For example, access to healthcare."

And when it comes to the deaf community, she says access to information is a big focus.

“When you think about government information, much of the information is provided by websites, in English, which is not the language of the deaf community,” Ms Manning said.

“We’re calling for information to be translated,” she said.

Blind Citizens president Jonathan Godfrey said the plan is “comprehensive without being detailed or specific, because everyone's lived experience of disability is so different”.

“Generally speaking, blind people and disabled people have problems accessing information, moving around in our communities, and getting on with everyday life,” he said. 

Disability advocate Robert Martin pointing out he thinks there’s a lot of work still to be done within the education system.

“I think people are falling through the cracks,” he told 1 NEWS.

While thrilled with the new plan, CCS Disability Action has raised concerns about the collection of data.

It’s proposed an international set of questions called the Washington Questions will be used, which Ms Kirton believes are not “inclusive”.

“I think there's room for further discussion about that. It'd be lovely to see what other questions disabled people from those groups might like to be asked so we can get some really, really worthwhile data,” she said.

She hopes the plan will be a success but says it will need “good monitoring” and “continual engagement” with the disabled community.

Minister Sepuloni agrees.

“Giving voice to disabled people has to be an ongoing commitment and we need to make sure they’re at every decision making table,” she said.

She says there will be a report on the progress of the action plan every six months.