Foreword - Minister for Disability Issues

We have come a long way since the first New Zealand Disability Strategy was agreed in 2001. The aim of the strategy was to eliminate barriers to enable disabled people to reach their potential and participate fully in the community.

The progress that we have made in partnership with disabled people is something that we can all be proud of.

Our journey since 2001 has seen the development of initiatives that will oversee the transformation of the disability support system, an increased focus on supporting disabled people into employment, improvements in inclusive education opportunities for disabled children, and New Zealand Sign Language becoming one of our official languages.

There is much to celebrate.

Together, this work has helped New Zealand take a lead role in the negotiation on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Since ratifying the Convention in 2008, we have established a unique mechanism for independent monitoring, actively considered and responded to recommendations from the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and supported Robert Martin in his successful candidacy for the Committee.

We have reaffirmed our lead role internationally on the rights of disabled people.

The development of the New Zealand Disability Strategy 2016–2026 has given us an opportunity to reflect not just on our progress, but also what we are still learning as a country about disability and how we can keep improving the lives of disabled people.

We must continue to acknowledge and respect the diversity within the disability community and recognise the value it adds to the community.

People can experience disability in different ways depending upon age, gender, ethnicity, impairment and many other factors.

For example, during the consultation to develop this Strategy, disabled adults shared the importance of having a meaningful job and being able to support their families. Disabled children talked about wanting to fit in at school and get out and about with their friends.

Despite what we have learnt and the progress that has been made since 2001, many disabled children and adults still face some barriers that prevent them from reaching their full potential.

If these barriers are not dismantled and removed, then all of us miss out. We will not prosper if disabled people are not able to participate in and contribute to our communities on an equal basis with others.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has reinforced that disabled people have the same rights as others. It is about making sure everyone is treated with dignity and respect at all times, and that no one is left behind.

Our government is committed to continuing to improve the lives of disabled people and the New Zealand Disability Strategy will guide the government to achieve this over the next 10 years.

The direction and priorities outlined in the Strategy are based on what disabled people have said is most important to them.

During the two-stage consultation process, more than 1130 people attended the workshops we held throughout the country. We also received around 770 submissions from individuals and organisations via our ‘Join the Conversation’ website.

It is this strong foundation that gives us confidence in this Strategy guiding the work of government agencies for the next 10 years. After all, disabled people are experts in their own lives.

The Strategy will be critical in ensuring we are all working together towards achieving the same vision. There is much to be done and it is vital that we have a consistent framework from which to make decisions on where to focus our efforts.

We would like to acknowledge and thank members of the New Zealand Disability Strategy Reference Group. Their expertise and advice proved invaluable in shaping this Strategy into something we are very proud of.

We want to thank the disabled people who participated in and supported the consultation to develop the New Zealand Disability Strategy.

You shared your hopes and dreams through this process with honesty and integrity. Your experience matters and your voices have been heard; it has become the foundation upon which this new Strategy has been built.

Finally, thank you to all the families, whānau and others who were involved in this process, particularly when disabled children or adults were not able to speak up for themselves.

We all have roles and responsibilities for achieving the vision of a non-disabling society. The Government will lead by example and we encourage others to join us too.

Hon Nicky Wagner

Minister for Disability Issues (Oct 2014 - Oct 2017)

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