A Campaign Update from Mary Fisher

Kia Ora, 

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:

Cover of the Access Matters booklet is pink and has white text that says \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.

In the meantime, check out a video story from fellow campaigner Juliana about the barriers she has faced with an inaccessible work commute.

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

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Just Announced: "An Act to Ensure a Barrier-Free Canada"

Canadian Parliament today made history by holding the first reading of an Act to ensure a Barrier-Free Canada!
This is an accessibility act that many Canadians with disabilities campaigned for in the lead-up to the 2015 Federal election, and inputted on in earlier consultation stages. Disability advocates Canada-wide are now scrutinising it to see if they believe it is up to the task of playing the role it can in making Canada truly accessible.
In the meantime, disabled and deaf New Zealanders and supporters are watching with great interest. We’re urging our own Minister of Disability Issues Hon. Carmel Sepuloni to take the important step of committing the introduce an Accessibility Act for our country.
You can take action to encourage her by sharing a story of an access barrier you face and how a law change could help to remove it. We’re bringing your stories to MPs around the country so they can support Minister Sepuloni in her decision. Add your voice: https://www.accessalliance.org.nz/share_a_story

The media release from Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance follows:

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Edinburgh's choice - improve or exclude

As our city streets become more crowded and businesses increasingly compete to attract the attention of the passer-by, our footpaths are increasingly becoming an obstacle course to be negotiated. As temporary signage and outdoor seating encroach more and more into pedestrian thoroughfares we are excluding more and more of the very people that businesses are trying to attract. 

The Scottish city of Edinburgh has taken the leap and is working with business owners and disability advocates to ensure it's city streets are kept clear of clutter and open an accessible to everyone.

The city council's transport and environment committee have unanimously agreed to a city-wide ban on street clutter as an "equalities issue".

In an article by the BBC, equalities champion, Derek Howie, spoke about his experience with his guide dog.

`"We are facing a situation where the streets are immensely crowded. We have to be inclusive. It's not a city just for the fit and able, it's a city for everyone.

"If we don't improve the situation, we will be excluding people from the city centre."`

An Accessibility law here in New Zealand could provide national standards for public access, ensuring that we don't exclude people with disabilities, injuries, and parents with pushchairs from our city centres. Such a move is not only the right thing to do, it is also good for business as our city centres become a more open and inclusive place for shopping, dining, and recreating. 

You can read the full story about Edinburgh's law change on the BBC website here



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Harnessing Digital Accessibility

The digital world is an increasingly vital part of our lives. Here we are, right now. You, me, and your device. You, me, your device, and millions of other kiwis perusing online spheres for information, love, consumer items, friendship, or education.

Perhaps today in the digital world you’ll get a job, pay a bill, or express yourself through an emoji. Maybe you’ll order groceries, find out how to get somewhere, or post a selfie. Whatever you do, there’s no denying that accessing the digital world is not just an add on anymore, for convenience. It’s now a basic human right, and it’s something that most of us find we need access to in order to be active and included members of society.

But is the digital world built for everyone? At the moment it isn’t, but it could be.

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Podcast - Dianne Rogers interviews David Lepofsky

Dianne Rogers, Advocacy and Policy Manager at The Blind Foundation and Access Alliance Project Coordinator interviews visiting Accessibility Advocate David Lepofsky. 


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David Lepofsky and Amy Hogan interview on Radio New Zealand

Four in five NZers want accessibility standards - study.   5 September 2017 - Emma Hatton RNZ.

You can listen to the full interview (25 min) interview with David and Amy here.

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Prominent international disability advocate David Lepofsky to visit New Zealand

The Blind Foundation is proud to bring renowned disability rights campaigner David Lepofsky to New Zealand to speak on behalf of The Access Alliance Access Matters campaign on the need for Parliament to pass accessibility legislation. 

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