New Zealand Country Report to the WBUAP Mid-Term General Assembly
- Describe one or two recent highlights (over the past 2 years).
- Blind and low vision people in New Zealand have, for the first time, been able to cast a vote at this year’s general election independently. This has been made possible by the use of Telephone Dictation Voting. It is the first major step along the way towards truly accessible independent voting in this country. The Blind Foundation and Blind Citizens NZ have been instrumental in working with government officials to achieve this outcome.
- We have also been invited to contribute to a Department of Internal Affairs initiative which is examining the pros and cons of a pilot for online voting at the 2016 Local Body Elections.
- New Zealand’s first prevalence study into blindness and low vision has been commissioned and the pilot phase has begun in collaboration with the Auckland District Health Board. This will assist blindness organisations to better advocate for improved services and facilities by having evidence-based data to support our arguments.
- Blind Citizens NZ has published three briefs. Entitled “Does your website shut the door in our face“ this brief addresses CAPTCHA and focuses on barriers to accessing web-based information for blind people. The second is called “Lost in the Urban Jungle” and highlights barriers faced by blind and vision impaired people when getting from places to spaces (the built environment). Called “How secret is your secret vote”, this brief promotes the need for blind and vision impaired people to be able to cast a truly secret, independent accessible vote, and the options through which this can be achieved.
- What challenges are being faced at present at organisational or country level?
- We see a growing issue of barriers to accessible technology for blind and low vision school students. Many schools are using online applications which provide challenges, especially to users of screen-reader and braille-based technologies.
- We have, along with other disability organisations, signalled our grave concern at moves by the Government to relegate disabled people’s access to buildings as part of legislation which is being introduced to strengthen buildings against earthquakes. Under the proposed legislation, building owners will be able to bi-pass the usual requirements around access for disabled people if improvements are being made to their buildings under the auspices of earthquake strengthening.
- Name examples of progress in your country towards ratifying, implementation and monitoring of the UNCRPD (United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities)
· The New Zealand Convention Coalition was established to monitor government’s implementation of the UNCRPD. Comprising eight Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs), Blind Citizens NZ is one of the founding members. This collective of DPOs, together with the Human Rights Commission and Ombudsman, are the three partners in the Independent Monitoring Mechanism (IMM) on the UNCRPD. All three partners have been involved in contributing content leading to the publication and launch of the IMM’s second report entitled “Making Disability Rights Real – Whakatūtur ngā tika hauātanga. In this report the IMM partners identify progress in implementing the Disability Convention from July 2012 to December 2013, and remaining challenges.
- Disabled Peoples’ Organisations (DPOs) and Government Officials have been working collaboratively since late 2013, to develop the 2014-2018 Disability Action Plan: In April 2014, the Plan was approved. This outcome recognised the collective efforts of a more inclusive and collaborative approach agreed by senior Government Officials and their Ministers, towards developing a new Disability Action Plan. Government agencies were directed to closely involve national Disabled Peoples’ Organisations (DPOs) that form the New Zealand Convention Coalition Monitoring Group. It is believed this is the first time such a collaborative approach between DPOs and Government has occurred in New Zealand.
- Three of the seven national DPOs that collaborated with Government agencies in the development of the Disability Action Plan 2014-2018 are blindness organisations i.e. Blind Citizens NZ, Deafblind (NZ) Incorporated, Ngati Kapo O Aotearoa. The importance of the Disability Action Plan is that it sets strategic priorities that advance implementation of the UNCRPD. It emphasises action across sectors that require collaboration between government agencies, DPOs and other entities and it prioritises actions that require government agencies to work together and is centred on what disabled people say matters the most to them. The four year timeframe provides greater certainty as to where Government expects to see progress happening and enables better resource prioritisation for actions. The plan’s shared vision is for disabled people to experience equal rights of citizenship.
- Seven national Disabled People’s Organisations collaborated to produce our first ever Shadow Report to the UNCRPD Committee. The report was shared widely for input and comment by disabled people living in New Zealand. During September, New Zealand’s reports (Government’s and DPOs) were reviewed by the UNCRPD Committee. Government Officials and a delegation of DPO representatives travelled to Geneva to meet with the UNCRPD Committee and speak to the respective reports.
- New Zealand has not yet adopted the Optional Protocol.
- Explain how you are supporting other neighbouring or developing countries in terms of the wellbeing and capacity building or empowerment of blind and vision impaired persons.
- New Zealand is participating in and contributing funds to the Transforming Braille initiative. The aim of this project is to bring to market an electronic braille display device by 2016 which will be priced at a few hundred US Dollars, rather than the current norm of several thousand. The project is seen as being of particular benefit to blind people in developing countries who cannot currently access electronic braille technology.
- A range of low and high tech braille and low vision / magnification equipment has been donated by Pacific Vision for use in our region. The equipment was passed on to our sub-region Chair who arranged for it to be used in Papua New Guinea Fiji, and Vanuatu.