In February 2015, pilot education workshops were held in Auckland and Wellington to teach disability support services staff and disabled people more about the human rights framework and the Disability Convention.
Using the Disability Convention for advocacy purposes
Support Worker Stephen Falloon tells the story of how he was able to put his new knowledge into practice on his return to work.
“A woman I support needed a new fridge. She had an old one but found it hard to use because of her disability. I took her to Work and Income to get a loan for a new one. Before the appointment I took her to an appliance shop to find out what kind of fridge would suit her. We found one that worked for her and went to Work and Income with a quote.
“We were told she had to have the model and size that Work and Income offered because they had a contract to buy appliances from a particular company. I explained to her case manager that because she was physically disabled she needed a bigger model with the fridge on top and draws in the freezer below, but they were inflexible with their decision that she needed to accept the model and size they offered.
“The next day I rang the branch manager and told him about the situation. I quoted from the Disability Convention, Article 20, paragraph b”.
“States Parties shall take effective measures to ensure personal mobility with the greatest possible independence for persons with disabilities, including by: facilitating access by persons with disabilities to quality mobility aids, devices, assistive technologies and forms of live assistance and intermediaries, including by making them available at affordable cost”.
“I made an appointment for my client with the branch manager. However he was adamant that we had to have a fridge from this particular company and said that he would have to contact them to see if they had something suitable. I had to supply the quote we got for the required fridge and medical confirmation of her disability even though she was obviously struggling to walk and already receiving a Disability Allowance.
“Two months later we are still waiting for an outcome. I have emailed again but still have not heard back. I have contacted the Minister’s office in the hope that progress will be made soon.
“I don’t feel these staff have any ill-intent, I just think they are unaware of their obligation to implement the Disability Convention. Getting the right appliance for the person I support is proving really difficult and she has been upset by the process.
“I’m glad I attended the pilot education programme on the Disability Convention and human rights otherwise I would have just accepted what I was told. After my experience I think this course should be compulsory for all Work and Income staff.
“If I hadn’t had this knowledge the person I support would have got a fridge she found difficult to use and she would need to pay back money for an appliance that didn’t suit her. That wouldn’t be fair”.
Helping disabled people become more informed about their rights
Kristopher Whiting says the pilot education workshop he attended has broadened the context of the work he is doing with disabled people living in the community.
Kristopher works for Community Connections. His job as support worker involves working with disabled people to help them reach their goals.
“As part of my work I always talk to clients about their rights and after doing the education programme the knowledge I have in this regard is a lot deeper. It’s great to be aware of the tools we can use to help our clients claim their rights.”