Disability Rights campaigners are angry about plans to disestablish the only Disability Advisors at Auckland Council.
“The disability community has told the Council and the Mayor that we need the Disability Advisors. We have explained the pivotal role they play in allowing disabled people to participate in decisions that affect them and we can’t believe that despite this feedback from us they are still threatening to take these vital roles away.
The disability community think Empowered Communities is a good initiative. It’s just that when 21 local boards are working through their own area issues, disability could fall off the radar. The progress we have made since having specific Disability Advisors to Council could be lost and there is fear there will be no more progress.”, said Disability Rights Campaigner Debbie Hager.
Campaigners say the Disability Advisors have played a crucial role in assisting disabled Aucklanders to engage with Auckland Council, and to assist the Council to understand how to involve disabled people in so many aspects of the Council’s work.
The work they do includes :
- making Council events accessible
- Accessible consultation with disability community on Council and CCO projects including the Long Term Plan (LTP), Unitary Plan, RTP, Solid Waste changes, Thriving Communities
- Ensuring that violence prevention work includes the voices of disabled people
- Ensuring that Council information is provided in accessible formats including NZSL and easy read
- Working with Auckland Transport to encourage accessibility of public transport systems
- Supporting the Disability Advisory Panel
However, under the proposed ‘Empowered Communities approach’ model there would be no disability specialists at Auckland Council.
What is happening?
Auckland Council is introducing a new ‘Empowered Communities Approach’
As a result, it plans to remove the two specialist Disability Advisor positions within Auckland Council.
If this happens there will be no provision of regional community development for the disability community. The only community development will be driven by individual local boards (which is a model disability organisations – who mostly work regionally – have already indicated will not work for them).
This is a concern because:
- The Disability Advisors are the only staff in the whole of Auckland Council including its CCOs who are solely dedicated to working with disability community and providing specialist disability input to council.
- Most disability organisations work regionally, not by local board, so will no longer be supported in their work.
- Most of the important projects that affect disabled people are Auckland Wide, and without the Disability Advisors or the opportunity to work regionally, there will be no way for disabled people to be involved in making sure that their needs are included in the design of new systems.
- Disabled people will not have a disability specialist within Auckland Council to contact about access issues.
- The valuable networks that the Disability Advisors have built up will be lost.