A raft of “groundbreaking” changes to disability support systems have found overwhelming support in the community who welcome the chance to be more independent and included in society.
The government announced on Friday that it will establish of a Ministry for Disabled People, expand disability support services and introduce legislation to make New Zealand more accessible.
Ruth Jones and Gary Williams (Ngati Porou) are a couple who live in Papanui, Christchurch. They both have a disability and access government support.
Jones said the changes will allow her and her husband to have more choice and control over how they live their lives.
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“The resources will be closer to us, and there will be support for us to think about our aspirations and our needs in really positive ways,” she said.
“Practically, it means that in the past we have been assessed in terms of what we need, and now it will be us assessing ourselves.”
Williams said the changes will help disabled people become more independent.
“It’s part of an evolution, it’s moving the control and choice closer to disabled people,” he said.
Pukekohe resident Sophia Malthus, 24, is a law student and YouTuber who has a disability.
“The focus on accessibility will absolutely make it easier for people who have acquired their disability; instead of being thrown into a world where they have to accustom to inaccessibility as well as their new disability,” she said.
“They will be able to concentrate on their health without the shock of the exclusion of the disabled community.”
Malthus became tetraplegic after falling off a horse in 2017.
She said these changes would have made her life easier if they had existed at the time she had her accident.
“I was as much mourning my access to activities and the community as I was mourning the loss of my function,” she said.
Rachel Peterson is a business owner and parent living in Silverdale who has a disability.
She calls the changes “groundbreaking” and believes the new Ministry will provide leadership opportunities for disabled people.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been more filled with joy or hope about an announcement to do with the disability sector in New Zealand as I am about this one,” she said.
“We have a phenomenal amount of talented, educated people, with mana and transparency, who are ready, willing and able to step up, we just needed the platform to afford that.”
Peterson said she would have benefited from these changes while raising her children.
“There are so many complexities to parenting with a disability. We are completely overlooked, so this announcement is incredible,” she said.
“At a time where every New Zealander desperately needs hope, there couldn’t be a better time to lift the spirits of the community.”
The new Ministry for Disabled People will be established from July 1, 2022.