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Party leaders fail to front at disability debate, disappointing organisers

Party leaders have shunned a major debate on disability related issues held in Wellington this afternoon.

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Organisers say it shows a lack of interest in a large sector of Kiwi society which is feeling increasingly sidelined. Source: 1 NEWS

Organisers say it shows a lack of interest in a large sector of society that's feeling increasingly sidelined.

Disability affects nearly a quarter of all New Zealanders with organisers of the debate saying the line-up was not what they had hoped for.

"Sadly only one party leader said yes but then later declined, all other party leaders said no,” IHC director of advocacy Trish Grant told 1 NEWS.

On the agenda was getting more disabled people into work and housing.

Advocate Prudence Walker says there's a housing accessibility crisis.

"We can't live in homes that meet our needs and we can't visit family and friends to visit socially," she said.

“Two per cent of New Zealand’s housing stock is accessible, that has impact such as young people who want to leave home - find they can't."

Anne Gilbert's son Edward, who has down syndrome, wants to go flatting.

"In the natural order of things I'll die first so he needs a really well established safe and happy life," she said. 

"We need affordable, accessible housing for everyone and more than just a roof over our heads."

Her son is also looking for a job but the employment rate for disabled people is just 23 per cent, compared to 70 percent for non-disabled.

Only the Greens have a dedicated disability policy, the others make scant references - National and Labour offering support into work.

"There's no party that has any kind of suite of policies that respond to the real issues," Grant said.