National inequities in housing, income, occupation and social life between disabled and non-disabled people come as no surprise to two disabled Northlanders.
In late October, Statistics New Zealand released a national report titled, "Measuring inequality for disabled New Zealanders: 2018", which drew on three separate surveys exploring the difference between the lives of disabled and non-disabled people in 2018.
The report found 31 per cent of disabled people between the ages of 15-64 lived in a mouldy home, compared to 20 per cent of non-disabled people. Ten per cent of disabled people considered their home unsuitable for their needs, compared to 4 per cent of non-disabled people.
Regarding employment, working disabled people earned a median of $901 per week, $98 less than non-disabled workers. Furthermore, 60 per cent of working disabled people were satisfied with their job, compared with 77 per cent of non-disabled workers.
For social life, the report found 37 per cent of disabled people had experienced discrimination in the past year compared to 19 per cent of non-disabled people. It also stated 9.7 per cent of disabled people found it hard to be themselves, compared with 1.6 per cent of non-disabled people.
The inequity was also reflected in the ability of disabled people to access businesses and public facilities. The report found it was three times harder for disabled people to access a supermarket, dairy, doctor or medical centre. For public parks and green spaces, it was over five times harder for disabled people.
The last national disability survey in 2013 detailed that 44,000 Northlanders, 29 per cent at the time, had disabilities - the second-highest proportion for a region nationwide behind Taranaki. About 24 per cent of New Zealanders were disabled.
Elinor Neha, a 41-year-old Whangārei woman with cerebral palsy, said the findings were of little surprise.
While she said the inequity gap was closing between disabled and non-disabled people, Neha said the report highlighted the work still needed to bridge the gap.
"It's getting better but you would have thought it would be better in the statistics, but it doesn't seem like it," she said.
Neha was very active in disability advocacy through her roles with Mahitahi Hauora, the Whangārei Accessible Housing Trust and the CCS Disability Action local advisory committee.
She believed housing for disabled people was often inappropriate and many members of the disabled community regularly battled with loneliness.
"I know that there are those that feel lonely."
While she acknowledged how some people abused the support system for disabled people, Neha said further support was required to assist New Zealand's disabled population.
Jonny Wilkinson, founder of Northland disability advocacy group Tiaho Trust, echoed Neha with his lack of surprise at the report's findings.
"People have known [these statistics] historically," he said.
"I think they are all pretty worrying because they are all inter-related if you look at wellbeing."
While he accepted the complexity of addressing discrimination at a political level, Wilkinson claimed a lack of effective policy was partly to blame for the report's findings.
"I think there's been a bit of a lack of political urgency over disability and soft policies that don't really go far enough to address those inequities.
"Also, when you're talking about discrimination, it's very hard to address that with policies apart from having that kind of a positive reinforcement such as employment quotas, which is politically unpopular."
Considering Northland had the second-highest disabled population in New Zealand, Wilkinson said it was vital local businesses and Government agencies place importance on assisting disabled people into work.
"I think we should be open-minded and be inclusive of disabled people, making our infrastructure accessible, and trying to think of ways in which to employ disabled people, particularly with the large employers such as the district health board and the local councils."