Help for disabled people is out there ... but where?

By Teuila Fuatai

Bay of Plenty services assisting disabled people into work need to be better utilised, a disability support worker says.

"There's some really good services out there, it's just finding out where they are," said Mary Hack of Life Unlimited Disability Resource Centre Tauranga.

The 2012 monitoring report on disability rights in New Zealand was released earlier this week.

Findings were based on feedback from 156 disabled people and focused on six main areas - health, employment, access to services and support, awareness around disability, social inclusion and barriers to making complaints.

The report found a major lack of disability services and awareness.

In each of the six focus areas, disabled people said their human rights were not being met, creating barriers to their inclusion in the community.

Ms Hack said programmes like Workbridge, which assisted disabled people into employment, were fantastic but needed to be better utilised.

"We get people who have lost a leg or an arm and now they can no longer do what they used to but are still young enough to work."

About one in five New Zealanders are living with a disability, according to Statistics NZ.

Labour Party disability spokeswoman Clare Curran said a disproportionately high number of disabled people were unemployed because of barriers to employment.

Her Green Party counterpart, Mojo Mathers - New Zealand's first deaf MP - said the Christchurch City rebuild was an ideal opportunity for updating building codes to improve access.

"Many of the recommendations, such as updating and strengthening the building code, will make a significant outcome to the lives of many disabled people."

Red Nicholson, a 26-year-old Auckland high school teacher who has cerebral palsy, said things like access to transport often made it difficult for disabled people to find work.

"You need to have reliable transport and you need to have money for clothes to dress properly for interviews."

Mr Nicholson, who uses a wheelchair to get around, said service accessibility also caused problems.

"If you don't know the right person to call or the right thing to put in the application or that the support exists in the first place, it's hard to do anything. Half the battle is just navigating the system."

Deputy Health and Disability commissioner Tania Thomas said the report highlighted important issues facing disabled New Zealanders.

"We need to make sure everything we do about our services [and] the information we provide is highly accessible."

Key recommendations

Changing the building code to include things like hearing loops, visual alarms and ramps.

Forming a central agency to implement the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Simplifying disability funding to make it more accessible for disabled people.

Reviewing carer pay to ensure trained workers are paid more than untrained carers.

Removal of minimum wage exemptions for some workers.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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