Principles and Approaches

The principles and approaches that will be used to implement the Strategy are outlined in this section; they are the ‘how’ to complement the outcomes (which are the ‘what’).

The principles and approaches will help make sure all of our community is visible, acknowledged and respected on an equal basis with others, and that we can live a life with dignity and feel valued.

This section has three sets of principles:

  1. Principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi 
  2. Principles of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 
  3. Ensuring disabled people are involved in decision-making that impacts them.

It also has two approaches:

  1. Investing in our whole lives – a long-term approach
  2. Specific and mainstream services – a twin-track approach.

Figure 2 (below) illustrates the connection between the principles and approaches. (Read a text description of Figure 2 Principles and approaches here.)

Figure 2 Principles and Approaches 
Figure 2 Principles and Approaches


The principles of both Te Tiriti o Waitangi and the Convention will be reflected in the way this Strategy is implemented; they are for everyone and apply to Māori and non-Māori, disabled people and non-disabled people. The principles are a framework for building a positive relationship between disabled people and the Government.

1. Principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi

The Strategy will be guided by the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi as the founding document of our country.

The principles of the Treaty are:

  • Partnership: Māori and the Crown have a relationship of good faith, mutual respect and understanding, and shared decision-making.
  • Participation: the Crown and Māori will work together to ensure Māori (including whānau, hapū, iwi and communities) participate at all levels of decision-making. This includes the right to seek opportunities for self-determination and self-management.
  • Protection: the Crown actively contributes to improving the wellbeing of Māori, including support for independent living and the protection of Māori property and identity, in accordance with Māori values. Māori have the same rights and privileges as other citizens.

2. Principles of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

The principles of the Convention are:

  • Respect for inherent dignity, individual autonomy including the freedom to make one’s own choices, and independence of persons
  • Non-discrimination
  • Full and effective participation and inclusion in society
  • Respect for difference and acceptance of disabled people as part of human diversity and humanity
  • Equality of opportunity
  • Accessibility
  • Equality between men and women
  • Respect for the evolving capacities of disabled children and respect for the right of disabled children to preserve their identities.

3. Ensuring disabled people are involved in decision-making that impacts them

We are experts in our own lives and making sure we are involved in decision-making on issues that impact us leads to better quality results. The Convention also has a specific obligation on this (Article 4.3):

“In the development and implementation of legislation and policies to implement the present Convention, and in other decision-making processes concerning issues relating to persons with disabilities, States Parties shall closely consult with and actively involve persons with disabilities, including children with disabilities, through their representative organisations”.


1. A whole-of-life and long-term approach to social investment

It is important that both whole-of-life and long-term approaches are considered when social investment decisions are being made by the Government on things that impact on us. This will help ensure that we are more independent, are able to participate as much as we choose to, and that we are able to contribute to our communities and reach our potential.

Such an approach will help ensure that:

  • the silos between different supports and services are removed to provide a coordinated approach to enable us to achieve our potential
  • we receive the right supports and services throughout our lives. Early and proactive support, particularly after an impairment has been diagnosed or it changes, will help set us up for a better future
  • the contribution we make to our families, whānau and communities is recognised across a broad range of areas including economic, community and social participation
  • our families, whānau and carers are also able to access the right supports and services in order to help us reach our potential.

Making sure there is the right evidence at the right time to inform investment decisions is critical. All too often we have been invisible because disability has not been counted, recognised or understood, and therefore our needs have not been considered.

Evidence is both quantitative (data) and qualitative (lived experience, or stories, directly from us and those who care for us). We know that both are equally important and need to be valued alike to ensure there is a good understanding of the problem (before deciding on solutions); what interventions work best for us; and to be able to measure results against the outcomes we are seeking.  

2. Specific and mainstream supports and services – a twin-track approach

A twin-track approach is about making sure mainstream services and supports are inclusive of, and accessible to, us and that services and supports that are specific to us as disabled people are also available. This approach is not about having to choose between the specific or mainstream option; rather it is about having the right access to the right high quality support or service, at the right time and in the right place.

Some of us do not need any specialised supports or services, whereas some of us do so that we can access mainstream opportunities. Our needs for either or both can change over time too.

Ensuring that mainstream services and supports are inclusive of us requires the provision of reasonable accommodation and incorporation of universal design.

  • Reasonable accommodation is defined in the Convention as:
    • “…necessary and appropriate modification and adjustments not imposing a disproportionate or undue burden, where needed in a particular case, to ensure to persons with disabilities the enjoyment or exercise on an equal basis with others of all human rights and fundamental freedoms” (Article 2).
    • Reasonable accommodation can often cost very little or nothing at all. Because it is specific to a situation, what it looks like in practice can vary significantly.
  • Universal design is good design that works for everyone.
    • It is about making sure everything is accessible to, understood by and used to the greatest extent possible by everyone, without adaptation or requiring little adaptation. Incorporating universal design early on is cost-effective.
    • Universal design is often referred to in relation to the built environment, but it applies to services, supports, the curriculum and technologies as well.  
    • Universal design is distinct from accessible design. Accessible design represents the minimum accessibility requirements in built design, whereas universal design seeks accessible design outcomes that work for everyone.

A note on terms:

Mainstream refers to services or supports that are not designed to be specific to or only for disabled people. It includes things that are open for everyone to use or participate in (such as public transport) and also things that may still be targeted towards a particular group (such as maternal health services).

Read our outcomes - priorities for change

Tell us what you think

Page last updated: