Employment For Disabled New Zealanders Starts With Equal Education

Education and employment are the two biggest barriers facing disabled people in New Zealand; but they both require a change in order for the other to succeed.

It’s a case of needing to get it right in the education space first, to then raise the probability of employment for disabled people once they enter the workforce. The ever-growing exclusion of disabled people from mainstream education on has a double-ended, and very detrimental consequence.

Detrimental to right of the child to learn on an equal level to their peers, and detrimental on the economy at the other end of the line. Not to mention the only other alternatives, which are often vocational programmes and a life-long reliance on the benefit.

Employment For Disabled New Zealanders Starts With Equal Education

Like their peers, disabled people also have the capability of being future business owners and leaders of New Zealand. But it starts in school, and that’s where the big change is required.

The biggest barrier disabled people face to gain employments is the attitudes by the mainstream businesses. How do you change that? Education. If disabled people can be given equal access to education, by having an system that is equipped to deal with their diverse needs, the result has a result that is both positive and impactful. It’s positive that the person has a good education behind them, but the real impact is the message that it sends to the rest of their peers in school and tertiary.

But, is it really possible to simply make all these changes and say with certainty that disabled people will find employment, or even be able to work?

The Biggest Change Required Is In Attitude…

The disability sector talks so much about the attitudes and stigmas that exist in “mainstream society”. Not only does that conversation immediately segregate the two communities, which should be seen as equal, but it also gives an excuse to disabled people.

Words like “capability”, “cost”, and “compatibility” get thrown into the conversation. All are excuses, and all can be worked around if both the Government, the advocates, and the providers could all get around a table to have an open discussion.

It’s not about disabled people being “capable” of working at all; it’s about the changes that need to be made, in both the disability sector and the mainstream, for them to be on an equal playing field. The rest is down to ideology and excuse.

“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.

Looking at New Zealand’s Unfair and Inaccessible Special Education system

Is it really too much to ask that disabled children and teenagers have fair access to education in New Zealand?

No it’s not, or at least it shouldn’t be. But the battles that thousands of families are fighting right now suggests that parents are struggling with the education system and that disabled children are secluded from mainstream education more in 2017 than ever.

Seclusion from classrooms, issues with school principles’, bullying in the playground, or a shockingly low education on disability for mainstream school teachers.

The issues facing these parents are not limited to this – there is also the gross lack of funding for thousands of children with intellectual and physical disabilities. Those who are lucky to secure funding often find it to be inadequate. The ORS Funding system needs to be drastically changed, and fast.

It’s hard to diagnose the reason for all these problems in a single article, but as a disabled person myself, I’ve realised recently that really shocks me.

That realisation is that you could successfully the system hasn’t improved from my days in education. It’s actually gotten worse, far worse.

You don’t need to look any further than IHC’s court case surrounding the seclusion of people with learning disabilities to see that the system has had significant problems that stretch well beyond a decade.

My Personal Observations About The Education Systems’ Effect On Disabled People

I began my journey at school back in the late 90’s, ultimately finishing in the late 2000’s.

I was never secluded from any of my classes, though I did face significant barriers (and more than a few foul attitudes) from teachers in the PE department who simply couldn’t grasp that I had a significant muscle-weakening disease that meant no matter how much physical activity I did, the strength was never going to grow back by some miracle!

Back in those days, I also noticed that some of my disabled peers who had intellectual disabilities were included in the classroom as much as possible. One boy had Autism, another had what was clearly a significant speech and behavior disorder, and one girl was visually impaired.

But for as much as memory serves me, all of us in ‘the disabled clan’ were in the classroom, and included in general activity most of the time.

That doesn’t seem to be the case anymore.

I know of kids that only have physical disabilities that spend most of their school days occupying what they call “the special unit” and are actually segregated from their non-disabled peers as much as possible. Socially, kids and teenagers with disabilities are isolated and find it extremely difficult to communicate with their non-disabled peers as well.

A big reason for this is because of how the education system labels students who have disabilities. You might as well put a sticker on their foreheads that reads “I AM DISABLED AND MUST NOT BE APPROACHED”. The disabled students aren’t left to be normal students with the appropriate supports in place, they are signalled out and identified as being different and needing “special” requirements.

Young people already label themselves and put their image into certain categories enough as it is, we don’t need the system adding more of the same. But yet, it seems that it continues to do so.

It’s shocking to me that unless someone studying to become a teacher chooses to select a unit standard (as part of their study) that teaches about disability, they can go right through and complete a degree without showing any knowledge about how to teach a child with special education needs.

How this is possible is beyond me.

Many of those ‘qualified’ teachers are the ones now complaining about having to take additional time to help out students in their classrooms with learning difficulties.

So rather than change the system so it is inclusive, it seems that the easier answer is to ship disabled learners into a special curriculum of their own.

I know there are a lot of other factors at play here, not the least of which is the uniqueness of each individual situation. But surely, this is why having additional resources and more teacher aids in the classrooms is so important.

Isn’t that what the special education system has a duty to do?

Learners with disabilities, whether physical or intellectual, need to have all the resources and support available to achieve a fair education that provides opportunities to progress in life.

It’s not a matter of anything other than basic human rights – and that is the greatest crime that the current system has notched onto its belt. What’s more, this reality is another sign that New Zealand continues to fail its agreement to uphold the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.



IHC provide update on long education equality battle

IHC have provided an update to their long-standing court case surrounding the rights of people with disabilities in education.

Back in 2008 – IHC took the matter to court over the discrimination of children and young people with disabilities at school. Since then, many changes have occurred right through the education system, but IHC argues that the core problem of exclusion remains.

One change saw an update to the Learning Support system – a high point of contention in recent months.

The case has actually remained with the Human Rights Review Tribunal. However, the case is just one of many, and the particular students used in the initial case have since left the education system. This makes the battle for IHC even harder.

IHC even wrote to the Minister of Justice to ask for further resources toward the tribunal – and that request was denied.

The case is yet to go to a full hearing – but IHC say they remain confident in the likelihood of future progress.

Until then, the current Government system continues to fail a lot of disabled people in New Zealand. Additional education for teachers is needed, more data and monitoring of learning, and a greater accountability at schools is just a few of the requirements.

IHC ended by saying that they want to see the rights of learners with disabilities recognised and responded to in real terms.




MOE and Disability Groups not doing enough for Inclusive Education

A recent outcry from parents of disabled children has re-enforced the terrible reality that once school education concludes, the battle gets that much harder and that much more unfair.

The Ministry of Education may claim to have the correct systems for a successful transition out of school and into tertiary education or employment in place. The current system of transition, or lack thereof, simply isn’t working for the majority of disabled New Zealanders in education. Just giving the families information isn’t enough, it should be the job of the Ministry to ensure that outcomes are being met, because if not, how is the system truly inclusive as a whole?

Nobody should be forced to stay at school until they are 21 years old. Having to do so is disabling, and the future implications are dire. All this fails to mention that is also NOT inclusive at all.

Employers will look at the time a person spent in school, and many won’t distinguish the difference that a disability plays in that. Parents of disabled children are being forced to do a major disservice, but in a lot of cases it still remains the only viable option they have.

The choice doesn’t enable independence at all; however the alternative is just as unfair. That alternative would see the disabled person sit at home each day, or they’d attend vocational services that do nothing to enhance their future prospects for employment, or a meaningful social life for that matter.

The real problem here isn’t the Ministry, or even a lot of the schools for that matter. The issue is the same that it has always been, once the child turns 18 there is next to no support for them. There is too much focus on the child and not the adult, but it’s when someone becomes an adult that the need for equal education and fair opportunities at employment become that much greater.

This is clearly an ongoing discussion and one that isn’t new to anyone. Better systems need to be put in place and a greater amount of accountability must occur. If this doesn’t happen, disabled people will continue to fall through the cracks of the education system.