“You’re Saying A Blind Person Can’t Use The Uber App” – Nationals’ disaster at DPA Meeting

National have come away from an important meeting with members of the disability community having failed to convince in the areas of education and housing.

The DPA (Disabled Persons Assembly) held their political forum in Wellington tonight – but some notable names from Parliament were missing.

Nicky Wagner, the Minister for Disability Issues, wasn’t able to attend the event. Her big rival representing Labour, Poto Williams, also wasn’t present.

In Wagner’s place was Alastair Scott – MP for the Wairarapa electorate. But as it turns out, Wagner may now regret such a decision after Scott’s comments shocked people in the audience and watching online.

As expected, education and housing were the two big talking points at the forum.

Viewers who tuned in to the Facebook livestream aired their frustration, particularly toward the National Party, for a lack of commitment and general understanding of the issues in both key areas.

At one point, the DPA suggested that up to 25% of New Zealand housing should be accessible – a suggestion quickly shut down by National.

Concerns were also raised at the meeting about how people with visual impairments access public transport. Members of the audience asked about taxi’s having braille to make it easier for access.

Alastair Scott, the MP representing National, argued that technology on mobile devices was a suitable replacement for braille.

“Your saying a blind person can’t use the Uber app? I’m not to sure about that, I think they can, but I’ll have to look into that.”

Scott was asked about the difficulties disabled people face accessing Supported Living Payments, organisations like Workbridge, and receiving adequate supports to life an ordinary life. Concerns were also raised about the regulation of benefits, including the Supported Living Payment.

The DPA put forward the scenario of a disabled person who wishes to move into the same house as their partner. Under the current system, if a disabled person lives with a working partner, or a partner also on the benefit, both their weekly payments are significantly impacted.

National showed little, if any empathy, to the situation that many disabled people face.

“Well, when you fall in love and get into a relationship, there are consequences.”

Stats show a decline in people with disabilities accessing benefits, resulting in poverty, but National had a different answer to the questions.

“Those with significant disabilities will come with a higher cost, and that results in the benefits you are receiving.”

New Zealand’s General Election is little over two months away.

Hamilton mayor Andrew King indifferent on disabled community

Hamilton mayor Andrew King. Photo: Newsday

Hamilton mayor Andrew King hasn’t had much to do with disability over the course of his life.

Disability advocates and group organisations will have to go to the council’s Community Committee to have their voices heard by the mayor.

Elected in October last year, King himself hasn’t spoken a lot about disability until this point.

“I don’t have a lot to do with people with disabilities so I don’t know”, the mayor said.

During the campaign; candidates for Hamilton mayor spoke to the Disabled Persons Assembly (DPA) about access and disability. That night, King spoke of his first job where he was in contact with a tetraplegic man. That was on the campaign trail back in August 2016.

This week, King was asked if he would have discussions with the city’s disability community about their views on access issues and community inclusion. King’s response may alarm some in Hamilton’s disabled community; he was adamant that such conversations wouldn’t be a part of his mayoral responsibilities.

“No, I don’t need to know”, King said, “if there was a need then yes I would, but I don’t believe there is a real reason for me to get involved”, King added.

At the Hamilton City council, there are three social committees that cover community, infrastructure and growth, plus a finance committee. King believes that disability issues belong in with the community committee. King does sit on the community committee meetings but says he’d be hesitant to have a discussion with the council’s own Access Advisory Group.

The Access Advisory Group is a key part of disability advocacy at the Hamilton City Council. Together with the group, the council has a Disability Policy that promises to ensure that council services, activities, and facilities will be responsive to the needs of disabled people. King says he doesn’t have contact with the Access Advisory Group.

“The community committee is where those discussions would be appropriate” King said, “it’s not something I am prepared to take on without support from the full committee”, King added.

In June 2016, the council released its Disability Policy alongside an Action Plan that focuses on five core goals. The council also has a Disability Advisor that sits on the Community Committee.