Disability Voices

Being disabled in New Zealand

In 2013 Statistics New Zealand compiled a report on disability. It revealed:

  • 24 percent of the New Zealand population were identified as disabled, a total of 1.1 million people.
  • The increase from the 2001 rate (20 percent) is partly explained by our ageing population.
  • People aged 65 or over were much more likely to be disabled (59 percent) than adults under 65 years (21 percent) or children under 15 years (11 percent).
  • Māori and Pacific people had higher-than-average disability rates, after adjusting for differences in ethnic population age profiles.
  • For adults, physical limitations were the most common type of impairment. Eighteen percent of people aged 15 or over, 64 percent of disabled adults, were physically impaired.
  • For children, learning difficulty was the most common impairment type. Six percent of children, 52 percent of disabled children, had difficulty learning.
  • Just over half of all disabled people (53 percent) had more than one type of impairment.
  • The most common cause of disability for adults was disease or illness (42 percent). For children, the most common cause was a condition that existed at birth (49 percent).

 

Disabled persons rights

The Human Rights Act 1993 makes it unlawful to discriminate against a person on the basis of disability, including:

  • physical disability or impairment
  • physical illness
  • psychiatric illness
  • intellectual or psychological disability or impairment
  • any other loss or abnormality of psychological, physiological or anatomical structure or function
  • reliance on a guide dog, wheelchair or other remedial means
  • the presence in the body of organisms capable of causing illness

The Human Rights Commission says:

 People with disabilities may experience unfair treatment because of things such as how they look or  think, or their reliance on a guide dogs, wheelchairs or other remedial means. Discrimination can also be subtle, creating systemic barriers that lock people out of social and economic opportunities.

 

Paul Gibson is the Disability Rights Commissioner at the Human Rights Commission. He is a former president of the Disabled People’s Assembly. Find out more about making a complaint to the Human Rights Commission here.

New Zealand ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on 26 September 2008.

The second monitoring report about New Zealand under the Convention noted:

Violence, neglect and abuse directed at disabled people are ongoing concerns. They can occur in people’s homes, places of work and education, and in residential settings. Abuse of this kind can be hard to detect and disabled persons are particularly at risk of ongoing and sustained abuse over extended periods of time. Abuse can take many different forms, including emotional, psychological, physical or sexual abuse. Financial abuse is also an emerging issue of concern, particularly for older disabled people.

 

Disabled persons organisations

Not Dead Yet Aotearoa brings together experienced New Zealand disabled persons advocates who recognise the dangers of euthanasia and assisted suicide.

The Disabled Persons Assembly is an umbrella group for disability groups.

 

Nothing about us, without us

A slogan adopted by disabled persons in the 1990s to challenge the idea that other people could or should make decisions for them.

Not Dead Yet was founded in the United States in 1996 by Diane Coleman, and is renowned for its forthright views and subversive humour (it takes its name from a scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail).

The cause has been taken up around the world, including Not Dead Yet UK founded in 2006 by Baroness Jane Campbell.