Our 2015 DPA forum bought the disability sector together again to look at our recent progress and explore new ways of thinking using the conference theme of 'I am Able'.
Over 100 people came to the forum. They included government officials, regional and national members of DPA, representatives from service providers and reps from other disability sector groups.
Day one, looking at recent achievements (12 March)
After a welcome from Rachel Noble, DPA’s Chief Executive and a short address from the Minister of Disability Issues Nicky Wagner, participants were asked to note down progress right across the New Zealand disability sector since our last forum in 2013.
- the working partnership disabled person’s organisations (DPO’s), including DPA, now have with government
- the Government Disability Action Plan, co-written by officials and the DPO’s
- The DPO Shadow Report that was presented alongside the Government’s report to the United Nations examining committee looking at New Zealand’s progress implementing the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (Disability Convention).
Then working in groups again people looked ahead and brainstormed ways to strengthen our gains with government. (Notes from all the workshops will be written up and available on-line shortly.)
Brendan Boyle, Chief Executive of the Ministry of Social Development spoke via video about the Government partnership with the DPO’s and how much he valued the input of disabled people. His talk was followed by another workshop revisiting the priorities listed in the DPA Agenda for Change. (The DPA Agenda for Change document lists the priorities for change drawn up at our last forum in 2013).
Day two, the 'I am Able' way of looking at the world (13 March)
The second day of the conference introduced the conference theme of ‘I am Able’.
Rachel says, “We need to shift our thinking from feeling powerless to feeling ‘I am Able’ to find solutions, even as we work with government on implementing the Disability Convention to remove the barriers to our full participation. That work may take a long time and we can’t wait until then.
She says, “As a community we need social entrepreneurs - individuals with innovative solutions to society's most pressing social problems - to come up with new ideas. We hope the ‘I am Able’ concept will be embraced by the sector as a way to move forward, alongside our work with Government.
“To begin the conversation about the ‘I am Able’ concept we played the very amusing and thought provoking Ted Talk by the late Australian disability activist, Stella Young. The talk is called, I am not your inspiration thank you very much.
“Stella Young says that non-disabled people often use disabled people as a worst case scenario to feel better about their own lives. Or as she puts it, “It’s as if disability is a bad thing and all that is expected of us is to get up in the morning and remember our own name.”
“Stella says instead of being objectified disabled people need to be known as real people - your teacher, or doctor, or your manicurist.
Rachel says, “That’s a personal aspect of what the ‘I am Able’ movement is all about. It’s about us as disabled people themselves debunking the myth that disability is a bad thing by saying ‘I am Able,’ even as we acknowledge and work on the barriers to our full participation in society.
Through-out the rest of the day the “I am Able” concept was explored by looking at different perspectives, such as business enterprise and technology.
Rachel says, “It is easy for us to go back and say what was done to us and what was done for us. Our future is what is done with us. We have a partnership with Government which is great, but we also need to establish partnerships with other sectors, such as business to help us champion our rights (this is called civil action).”
Rachel concludes by saying “DPA has introduced the concept of ‘I am Able’ and we have a ‘I am Able’ website ready to launch, but as an organisation we don’t want to own the concept.
“We want to start a civil action/ social entrepreneurial movement in New Zealand involving everybody who wants to claim full citizenship for disabled people.”