Paralympian applauds a step towards equality on Human Rights Day

Access Matters campaigner Mary Fisher says the government’s commitment towards a more inclusive New Zealand is a huge step in the right direction.

Minister for Disability Issues Hon Carmel Sepuloni announced on 6 December that cabinet has approved a work programme to explore how full accessibility for people with disabilities and all New Zealanders can be achieved.

Today is Human Rights Day and Fisher, who is blind, says the work programme is a great first step in improving rights for people with disabilities and for everyone.

“It’s great that those with lived experience of a disability will be highly prioritised and consulted with informing this programme,” says Fisher. “Everyone has the right to access services fully and with ease.”

Fisher has recently retired from swimming competitively. The former Paralympian and gold medallist says she has had to face access barriers throughout her life, and one that she faces on an ongoing basis is technology.

“I find it irksome and tiresome when a web page isn’t set up for people who use screen readers to access information. It’s something that is totally preventable with a bit of education for developers on how to design and code with access in mind.

“It can be dangerous if people can’t access important information such as health, but it is also a matter of independence. I would love to book my own concert tickets or plane tickets, but I often have to get someone to help me.”

Fisher says the work programme is a chance to take a holistic approach and get an understanding of what a fully accessible New Zealand will look like.

The Blind Foundation is a proud member of the Access Alliance and Chief Executive Sandra Budd says this is a turning point for New Zealand.

“We know too well that people with sight loss as well as the broader disability community can face a range of barriers in their everyday life, and this work programme can give us confidence in a future that is fully inclusive and designed with access in mind.”

“This is a major milestone for the Access Matters campaign and the government’s commitment to accessibility is to be applauded. It’s a high note to end the year on and we look forward to an exciting new chapter in 2019.”