My name is Mary Fisher. I’m a blind swimmer, postgrad student and active Access Matters campaigner. I’ve been lucky enough to be part of several Access Alliance delegations to Parliament recently and wanted to update you on the positive progress toward putting accessibility law at the heart of a more inclusive Aotearoa.
In the last three weeks, representatives from the Access Alliance have been meeting with key MPs and Ministers. Meanwhile, grassroots campaigners from Warkworth to Nelson have been doing likewise with their local MPs. Everywhere we go we have been delivering our beautiful booklets full of stories from our community about the barriers we face daily and how an accessibility law can change all of our lives for the better.
Here are a few highlights from our meetings:
We now have a Parliamentary Champions for Accessibility Legislation (PCAL) Group. It contains MPs from all parties except Act. The group has met with us twice, and after attending the second meeting myself, I can confidently say this is a highly supportive team taking action to accelerate the path for accessibility legislation to become a reality in New Zealand.
There is a high degree of cross-party support for accessibility legislation, including more recent backing from National. Campaigners are reporting that their local MPs are genuinely engaging with the issue and committing to moving it forward.
I also attended the Access Alliance meeting with Minister for Employment, Hon. Willie Jackson. I shared a story about when I was losing my sight as a teenager. At the time, an older blind friend told me it was easier to become a lawyer who was blind than a shop assistant. The Minister understood that we need to proactively remove barriers to employment for young disabled people as well as educate workplaces, and he told me he supports accessibility legislation.
These conversations have all been extremely productive and we all need to continue to have them at all levels until we watch a robust and enforceable Accessibility Act pass into New Zealand law.
The stories and the booklet we have been sharing are reaching decision-makers and having an impact. Check them out here on the Access Matters website.
We have plans in the works for bringing lots more of these stories to Parliament, so keep submitting your stories here and we will let you know how you can be part of the delivery.
As you can see, we’re committed to supporting our elected representatives and holding them accountable. We will continue to do this until we have an accessibility law at the heart of a more inclusive Aotearoa. Thank you for being a part of the change.
Mary with the Access Alliance