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The New Zealand Disability Strategy

September 1, 2016


As providers of accessibility products, we are deeply aware of the importance of the New Zealand Disability Strategy and appreciate the positive impact it has had on disabled people living in New Zealand. The creation of this important Strategy in 2001 positioned New Zealand as a world leader in the area of disability. Since its rollout, many positive changes have occurred in our society, moving us closer to the goal of full inclusion of disabled people in our society. In order to continue on this path, the Office for Disability Issues is currently working on a revision to the Strategy, which will be released later this year.

Overview of the New Zealand Disability Strategy

 The goal of The New Zealand Disability Strategy is to ensure that disabled people are able to fully participate in society and enjoy a lifestyle of their choosing. In addition, the Strategy aims to change the attitudes and behaviour of our society so that New Zealand can become an inclusive society where each person’s contributions are meaningful and valued.

The Strategy, which was first drafted in 2001, is currently undergoing an update that will address major changes that have occurred in the way we look at disability. Disability Issues Minister Nicky Wagner explains that ‘one in four New Zealanders have a physical, sensory, learning, mental health or other impairment.’ When thinking about disabilities, it’s important to remember that “disability” does not pertain only to physical limitations, but extends also to sensory, learning, mental health, and other impairments. Regardless of the severity of the disability, our government is committed to ensuring that all people can fully participate in New Zealand society.


The process of creating the New Zealand Disability Strategy began in April 2000 with the creation of a Sector Reference Group made of 15 individuals with unique and diverse perspectives on disability issues. This group guided the creation of the first draft of the Strategy, which was then shared with various groups around the country to gather feedback. Over 68 feedback sessions were held with members of the Disabled Persons Assembly and regional officials. Additional meetings were held to ensure that disabled people, including Maori and Pacific peoples, had direct input on the Strategy’s content. Using feedback from these sessions, the Sector Reference Group finalised the New Zealand Disability Strategy and presented it to the Minister for Disability Issues. On 30 April 2001, just one year after the process began, the Strategy was approved and launched.

Objectives of the Strategy

According to the Office for Disability Issues, the Strategy ‘provides a clear vision for a society where people with impairments can say that they live in a society that highly values their lives and continually enhances their full participation.’ To achieve this vision, 15 objectives and 113 actions were established. Taken from the easy-to-read version of the Strategy provided by the Office of Disabilities, the objectives are as follows:

  1. Encourage and educate the community and society to understand, respect and support disabled people.
  2. Ensure disabled people’s rights are understood and promoted.
  3. Provide the best education for disabled people.
  4. Provide opportunities in employment and make sure disabled people have an adequate income.
  5. Strengthen the leadership of disabled people.
  6. Make sure that government organisations, and organisations that get money from the Government, know about and respond to disabled people.
  7. Have services for disabled people that work for disabled people and are easy to get.
  8. Support disabled people to have a good life in the community and to have the opportunity to live in their own homes.
  9. Support disabled people to have choices and help them to have access to recreation and cultural opportunities.
  10. Collect information about disabled people to help with planning and understanding what disabled people want and need.
  11. Promote the involvement of disabled Maori so their culture is understood and recognised.
  12. Promote the involvement of disabled Pacific peoples so their cultures are understood and recognised.
  13. Helps disabled children and young people to have good lives that prepare them to be adults.
  14. Assist disabled women to improve their lives and be a part of their communities.
  15. Recognise the importance of families, whanau and people who provide support for disable people.

Since the publication of the Strategy in 2001, The Minister for Disability Issues has been required to report annually on the progress of implementing these objectives.  

2016 revision of the New Zealand Disability Strategy

The Strategy has not undergone a major update since its initial publication. With the understanding that ‘there have been fundamental shifts in the way the world looks at disability,’ the Office for Disability Issues determined that a revision of the initial strategy was needed. The new Strategy will incorporate advances in thinking across a number of sectors with the goal of continuing to improve the lives of disabled people in New Zealand.

As with the initial Strategy, a Sector Reference Group has been created to inform the revision and gather feedback from the public. The project began in February 2016 and the updated version of the Strategy should be released by December of this year. We at Vestner NZ are looking forward to learning more about the new objectives and actions contained in the Strategy.



Disabled worker from New Zealand by ILO in Asia and the Pacific, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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