Today, DPA supported the Access Matters petition for a new Accessibility Bill to be drafted, as a petition with 2,187 signatures, and members of the disability community joined Access Matters campaigner, Juliana Carvalho, on a march to Parliament to hand the petition to Hon Penny Simmonds, Minister of Disability Issues.

Here is the speech delivered by DPA President, Joanne Dacombe.

Speech by Joanne Dacombe, President of DPA on 7 March 2024
In support of Access Matters march to Parliament and handing over of petition to the Minister of Disability Issues.

Kia ora, and a warm welcome to each and every one of you. Thank you for taking the time to join us today. I really the weather is not the kindness.

My name is Joanne Dacombe, and I have the privilege of serving as the National President for the Disabled Persons Assembly, or DPA. Our organization is dedicated to advocating for systemic change on behalf of disabled people across Aotearoa New Zealand.

Today we, DPA, stand before you with a sense of urgency and purpose, rallying behind Access Matters and their petition. Together, we echo the crucial call for an accessible Aotearoa New Zealand that embraces all members of our diverse community.

At DPA, we recognise the critical need for change. The current draft bill, with its structural flaws and lack of substance, fails to address the accessibility barriers faced by disabled people.

We thank the Minister for being prepared to look at a genuine redrafting of this bill to ensure tangible improvements in accessibility, fostering true inclusion, full participation in society, and a genuine sense of value for disabled individuals.

Each day, disabled people confront barriers that hinder our societal participation. Whether it's the scarcity of accessible housing, the inaccessibility of daily and event venues, or the absence of captions across media, these obstacles restrict our access to housing, employment, healthcare, and overall quality of life.

We require a bill that establishes minimum accessibility standards and regulations, one that is adaptable, enforceable, and comprehensive in its scope across all facets of community life. This cannot be achieved through a mere advisory committee, as initially proposed. Instead, we advocate for the leadership of an independent Crown Entity with the authority and capability to monitor and safeguard the rights of disabled individuals to accessibility in every form.

To the Minister and decision-makers, we implore you to continue to heed the voices of disabled people, both through past submissions on the bill and the ongoing readiness of our community to contribute to this vital work.

We thank you for your willingness to consider the redrafting of the bill and to foster a collaborative process that centres on the expertise and lived experiences of disabled people themselves.

Together, let us embark on this journey toward a more inclusive and accessible Aotearoa New Zealand, where every member of our society is empowered to thrive.

I thank you all for listening.