17 Sep 2014

UN hears from NZ disability groups

8:09 am on 17 September 2014

For the first time the United Nations has heard from disability groups in New Zealand about how their members are treated by the government.

Wheelchair sign

Photo: PHOTO NZ

One in four New Zealanders identifies as having a disability, and a number of government ministry staff are appearing in front a committee of experts in Geneva.

In 2008, New Zealand ratified the United Nations convention on the rights of persons with disabilities, a human rights convention that seeks to protect and enhance the rights of all disabled people.

The UN's 18-member committee of experts is quizzing the official New Zealand delegation on what progress has been made to implement the convention. It has also been talking to disabled persons' organisations.

Head of the disabled persons' organisations delegation, Victoria Manning, who is part of the deaf community, wrote a report including over 50 recommendations for change.

She said the main priorities are ensuring all laws are equal, making the education system inclusive for all disabled children, and improving the representation of people with disabilities in the workforce.

Ms Manning also said it's important to "make sure there's no discrimination of disabled people in our laws and the associated regulations. There are still some statutes out there which treat us differently and we want that to be changed."

Earlier she questioned the government's commitment to implementing the convention and said New Zealand may be found wanting in relation to it.

The UN committee's observations about New Zealand, and its recommendations, are due out at the beginning of next month.

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