Thursday, September 8, 2011

In New Zealand, new campaign aims to give disabled people more access

From The Manukau Courier:

A new social enterprise is on a mission to educate and inspire Kiwis to create a more accessible future for everybody.

Be. Accessible is aiming for a totally accessible country for people with disabilities.

The Be. On The Road campaign has visited 12 cities over a month-long tour.

Chief executive Minnie Baragwanath is legally blind and launched the organisation earlier this year to change attitudes and improve accessibility in communities.

The campaign has three focuses for change – physical, social and personal.

"The physical part is building a new environment to make things easier to get to.

"The second is social attitudes. Do we expect a disabled person to have an amazing job? Or do we expect that they are unemployed because they have some impairment."

Ms Baragwanath says being a chief executive of a new organisation isn't what some of her acquaintances envisioned for her.

"On a personal level, if you're a young person with a disability for example and you face this, how do you see yourself?

"We're interesting people with a different perspective to bring to anything we do."

The campaign was given a huge boost in May thanks to a government grant of $4 million over four years.

Ms Baragwanath says the campaign is "based around a society that values people of all abilities to the highest level".

Everyone will benefit at some point in their lives, she says, because age brings "increased rates of impairment".

With the Rugby World Cup here, Be. Accessible is racing to complete more than 200 accessibility assessments nationwide.

"We saw an opportunity to launch the Be. Accessibility campaign before the Rugby World Cup so that we're ready to receive the thousands of people with different abilities who are coming from all over the world."