Disabled people important voting bloc, parties warned

Author
Alex Braae,
Publish Date
Fri, 14 Jul 2017, 12:09PM
Housing was a major topic, with parties asked where they stood on regulation requiring a quarter of new builds to be accessible to people with disabilities. (Getty Images)
Housing was a major topic, with parties asked where they stood on regulation requiring a quarter of new builds to be accessible to people with disabilities. (Getty Images)

Disabled people important voting bloc, parties warned

Author
Alex Braae,
Publish Date
Fri, 14 Jul 2017, 12:09PM
Disability rights are set to be an election issue, a forum has warned. 
 
The Disabled Person's Assembly grilled politicians at their Wellington election forum last night, putting questions to each party on accessibility in education, housing and income support. 
 
Doctor Esther Woodbury, the National Policy Manager of the Disabled Persons Assembly, said given people with disabilities make up 24% of the electorate, it could be an important voting bloc. 
 
She said she was "definitely hoping that disabled people and their families and communities will take policies into account when they're voting this year." 
 
Housing was a major topic, with parties asked where they stood on regulation requiring a quarter of new builds to be accessible to people with disabilities. 
 
The Green Party's Teall Crossen, standing in for MP Mojo Mathers, said her party is "committed to mandatory enforceable accessibility legislation, which would cover all areas from building code to new housing."   
 
"We expect exact targets for accessible housing to be covered in that legislation."
 
That was in contrast to National MP for Wairarapa Alistair Scott, standing in for Minister for Disabilities Nicky Wagner, who questioned whether compelling the private sector with regulation was the right approach. 
 
It was an unpopular response with the audience, both in the room and watching the live stream on facebook, who often received Mr Scott's answers with hostility. 
 
Accessibility in education was also discussed, with questions being asked by paralympic swimmer Mary Fisher. 
 
Speaking after the forum, she said accessibility in education mattered because a lack of it could shape attitudes of whole classes, not just the children with disabilities. 
 
"If their peers at school see them not getting support, or not achieving as much as they could, or not integrating or being excluded from activities, that whole attitude could have vast consequences in the future." 
 
None of the politicians on the panel were the official spokespeople on disabilities for their parties. 
 
New Zealand First MP Ria Bond was standing in for party spokesperson Barbara Stewart, and Labour's Ohariu candidate Greg O'Connor stood in for Christchurch East MP Poto Williams. 
 
The Disabled Person's Assembly did not endorse any specific party, but encouraged all of them to contact them for advice on shaping disability policy.