My Voice Matters has been busy endeavouring to provide comprehensive, non-partisan information for all disabled people and our allies, on enrolment, voting, and the policies of parties seeking our vote.
We have just released our policy scorecard, which may be of interest.
Some of the source material is here for people with the time and inclination. :-)
The passage of the 2008 Disability Act to ensure New Zealand law was compliant with CRPD, and New Zealand’s ratification of the Convention in September 2008, were two of the last actions of the Labour-led government.
Given my recent pondering of the very informative Fault lines: human rights in New Zealand report, my thoughts are perhaps best expressed by just quoting from some of the bits that really stuck out for me:
"After signing the CRPD the Government carried out a National Interest Analysis (‘NIA’). The NIA was relatively superficial as there was a push for New Zealand to ratify as soon as possible given its role in promoting the Convention. A cabinet paper on the NIA prepared by the ODI in 2008 suggests there was no real attempt to address the more subtle implications of the Convention. Issues such as access to buildings or reasonable accommodation in education were considered to be adequately addressed by existing legislation such as the Building Act 2004 and the Education Act 1989 – despite the fact that there had been, and continue to be, ongoing issues with both."
...and fast forward seven years...
A Disability Action Plan 2014-2018 has been developed and a new Independent Monitoring Mechanism comprising the Human Rights Commission, the Office of the Ombudsman and the Convention Coalition (made up of Disabled People’s Organisations) now monitors the CRPD.
...again from the report...
"The Indepdent Monitoring Mechanism asked “that the Government provide the IMM with a progress report, as at the end of 2014, on implementing the recommendations of the IMM’s 2011/12 report.” To date there has been no official government response to either of the IMM reports, other than carefully considering the “suggestions” of the first report.
The absence of an official response suggests that while the IMM is a unique monitoring mechanism, the Government can treat it as a discretionary internal mechanism choosing when and if it wishes to respond. It both funds the monitoring mechanism, appoints and constitutes it, and can equally disregard it if it so wishes."
The one-off Making Honey seminar we organised during my time with DPA Auckland was about showing our community a range of options for involvement... I wanted to take groups of disabled people to public committee meetings of Councils and District Health Boards, with discussion before and after about the process
I agree it's important to guide people through what participation and leadership means in the context of their lives. The need is still there to pick up and follow on with fantastic ideas such as these again.
Thanks to everyone for sharing your thoughts. Practical accessibility and inclusive processes within parties are broadly neglected, or an after thought at best, with the odd random exception. Internal party communications, draft policy documents, websites/forums, physical meetings, and voting mechanisms only systemically suit a narrow definition of functional ability, just as in wider society.
You might say the barriers highlighted in this recent report on party websites indicates how pro-active party officials actually are in seeking votes from people with information access challenges. I’ve raised these findings with the parties studied, and have so far heard back from just one group, that they are “looking to make some changes after the election”. (!!)
At least basic enrolment and voting info has been produced in NZSL, large print and plain language formats. Voting procedures for events like a general election have come a long way. We can now vote in advance at designated voting places or arrange for advance voting teams to visit rest homes or hospitals, people can request postal voting papers be mailed to them, or can register for Telephone Dictation voting. On Election Day you can even authorise someone to go and collect a ‘takeaway vote’ for you to complete and have returned to any voting place by 7pm.
The Electoral Commission may have taken a while to get on board, but at least they recognise the moral imperative at stake here. (alas, accessible online voting, aka a secret ballot, is still some way away according to their disability action plan)
I’m not sure it is feasible to require unified, common messages about disability. Our lives are as diverse as all New Zealand citizens. There’s no one policy approach or action which will address all our messy rights or needs. Systems have to respond to individual circumstances. Tough.
Managerialism, bureaucracy and divide and conquer thinking has been deployed to confuse us, dilute our collaborative strengths, and pit advocacy groups against each other for legitimacy, influence, progress, funding, or glory.
Given a historical perspective, groups putting forward our collective voices will tend to bring the balance back towards emphasis of disabled people’s rights, rather than the view of providers or families, within a common framework such as the UN CRPD, and recognising that there is no single message that encompasses us all.
There have been some good efforts made to get parties to take a position on disability issues in lead up to the election, and thereby educate and inform voters. For those in Auckland, I encourage you to check out some work I and others have been involved in, including this upcoming event on 30th August.