28 Feb 2017

Nearly $900m boost from proposed disability laws - advocates

4:00 pm on 28 February 2017

Disability groups are calling for new laws making it easier for disabled people to work and study, saying it would boost the economy by nearly $900 million a year.

businessman in wheelchair, man in wheelchair at work

The Access Alliance said the total economic gain of better support for people with disabilities would be $862 million. Photo: 123RF

The newly-created Access Alliance - comprised of disability service providers and advocates - said there were too many obstacles for the 1.1 million New Zealanders with physical and mental disabilities.

It has released a report on the economic and social benefits of removing the barriers.

The report, 'Valuing Access to Work' (.docx, 5.4MB) by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research, said better support of disabled people could cut welfare benefit costs by $300m a year and increase tax revenues by $387m.

It said the total economic gain would be worth $862m.

Access Alliance called on all parliamentary parties to commit to introduce accessibility legislation before the election in September.

The proposed legislation would enforce mandatory minimum accessibility standards that ensure organisations provide services and facilities that are fully inclusive and accessible, "opening the door to disabled Kiwis having the same opportunities and choices as everyone else".

Its spokesperson, Dianne Rogers, said legislation would help businesses and organisations know what they needed to do to enable people with disabilities to access their services, buildings, and products.

"It's time to look at how we can enable disabled people to participate in the community and economy, rather than focusing on the costs of managing disability issues in the traditional way; one person at a time," Ms Rogers said.

Former Ontario Minister of Children's Services Marie Bountrogianni is in New Zealand to meet with MPs and businesses and to support the campaign.

Dr Bountrogianni was responsible for introducing the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005.

"The ideal of accessibility is one in which nobody has to ask 'is it accessible?'" she said.

"Anyone with any impairment, temporary or permanent - to their mobility; their physical or mental health; their hearing or vision or speech; their ability to learn or understand information; even a pregnant woman or a parent wrangling small children has an accessibility need - can access any public service or facility."

Dr Bountrogianni said at any point, one quarter of New Zealanders were in this category and the same proportion of visitors or tourists.

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