Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Disability, leadership and social change

Generating change for disabled people is similar to change for any other group, for example women or for Maori, who have fought for and led change for themselves. In the same way disabled people can, and must be leaders and agents of our own social change as well as participating in other movements for social change. To achieve positive change for our community, the community of disabled people, we need good leaders.

To be a leader in your community beyond being a leader in your own life requires some very practical skills and attributes.

Leadership is 90% perspiration and 10% inspiration.

Leaders should not be afraid of hard work.

To be a leader you must have followers, so leadership cannot be too individualistically focused. Our community needs energetic, mature, self-disciplined young disabled people who have a sense of service, who have structural and social analysis, who understand our history They must be independent thinkers, with good judgement, beyond “It’s all about me.”

Leadership in a disability context involves a range of practical skills, in no particular order, including;

  • how to run a productive meeting
  • how to successfully facilitate group work
  • problem solving and conflict resolution
  • able to shut up and listen to others
  • how to make a submission to local or national government
  • knowledge of how the disability and other systems work
  • knowledge about rights and how to complain, and how disability rights are connected internationally through the CRPD and its monitoring framework in New Zealand
  • working with others in teams, co-operation and collaboration
  • An understanding of the wider disability community.
  • Knowledge of the legal frameworks around disability
  • Strategic, big picture thinking
  • Know how to focus on the issue and keep it separate from the personal
  • The ability to “hold your own” in the wider community
  • The courage to stand up for your convictions
  • Good communications skills. These could include Sign Language, or the ability to tell a good story simply, for example

A good dollop of passion and a healthy sense of humour are essential.

Many disabled people will find creative ways of acquiring and demonstrating these sills. One person may not have them all. That’s where working together comes in. Different people will also lead in different ways and in different situations. Some may choose to lead in teams.

Aspiring leaders also need to have the opportunities and encouragement to lead. This includes during and upon completion of leadership training. This requires community outreach so potential leaders are not isolated in a self-referential bubble.

If that sounds like a fairly tall order it is. That is the point. Leadership requires effort. But it is perfectly possible and there are people who can and will help. Some people may need more support than others to be leaders. Leadership is not always glamorous and exciting, and real leadership takes hard work and commitment. But you don’t have to wait to do leadership training to be a leader. You can start by being active and involved. Go for it!

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Filed under Disability Issues, Disability Rights, Inclusion, Miscellaneous

Reviewing 2012 and looking forward

The end of the year is always busy, but it is also a time to reflect on the year passing as well as looking ahead.

This year saw the completion of our new AccEase  web site, and the development of our Facebook page. During the latter part of the year there was a strong human rights focus in our work, with less emphasis on the web. It is interesting to note that the Convention on the Rights of Disabled People, (CRPD) monitoring report to Parliament revealed that no government web site completely met the web standards. This is rather depressing when they have been bound by the standards, including accessibility, for some time.

The same report also confirmed the reluctance of government departments to engage directly with disabled people and their representative organisations.

Our work at AccEase is becoming more diverse, while still focusing on disability of course. It is always interesting, changing and evolving. For example, our social marketing research, Mapping the Change, was published earlier in the year, we contributed to human rights monitoring, and provided strategic accessibility and human rights advice, delivered workshops as well as our usual web site auditing.  We are looking forward to updating some of our workshops in the New Year, and developing some new products as a result of the economic situation and customer demand.

For years there has been talk of the paperless office, and generally talk is all it has been! My own attempts in this direction are proving to be surprisingly successful. The only printing I have done for some time now has been pdf forms for completion and handing on. The iPad is very accessible, weighs less than my diary, and accompanies me almost everywhere. Filing is easier and my tiny office is less cluttered. I can also now read my own notes, even if unnoticed auto correct and auto complete sometimes result in puzzling meanings.

On a personal note, this year I indulged my love of music by joining a book group and singing with two small choirs. As I write this National Radio is playing the usual Christmas schmaltz, and I wonder why we don’t hear some of the really beautiful Christmas music that would uplift the spirit rather than irritate.

Wellington is always pleasantly quiet over Christmas. After our winter Christmas in the UK last year I am looking forward to some serious summer. For those readers who celebrate Christmas, merry Christmas, to those who don’t, my good wishes, and I wish everyone a safe and restful holiday break.

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Filed under Accessible Engagement, Disability Issues, Disability Rights, Inclusion, Information Accessibility, Miscellaneous, Web Accessibility

The eight-point media disability language guide

I love Radio New Zealand. I am a passionate fan of the great programmes they make and play. As a professional journalist I have contributed to several of their programmes over the years, and made an award winning documentary. But the one thing that makes me grit my teeth is the language some broadcasters use around disability. Of course they are no worse than any other media. Everyone does it.

I don’t like to whinge without offering a solution. So here is a little guide, not new I know, and I have written on the subject before in this blog Language disables us but a few simple pointers might be useful and help some people avoid annoying euphemisms such as “differently abled.” This term has never been generally used in New Zealand except by a few US inspired educators who have since learned the error of their ways.  We are not freaks with “special” powers. Using such language gets in the way of whatever else you as a journalist or broadcaster are trying to say.
In New Zealand the terms “disabled people” or “people with disabilities” are usually considered accurate and respectful for general use. Either will do. Some people want to be thought of as people first, rather than focusing on disability.

I prefer “disabled people” because it is shorter, easier to type, and reflects my identity. More importantly it explains an understanding that I have a vision impairment. Disability is what happens to me when the society I live in is designed to exclude people who have impairments, not usually intentionally. Some examples for me are the squitchy fonts people use on the essential bits of their business cards, the horrible Wellington bus signage, the paling of the Internet and the thoughtless use of language that diminishes my humanity.

There are a few points for journos and broadcasters who want to avoid the latter.

  1. “Disableist” language is like sexist and racist language and can have the same kind of negative impact on individuals and groups of people.
  2. Do use the terms disabled people or people with disabilities when talking or writing about us.
  3. Do use neutral language. A person has a condition, rather than suffering from it, they may use a wheelchair rather than being confined to it. Negatively loaded terms such as “the disabled” or “handicapped” are not neutral and are generally loathed.
  4. Do talk about a person’s impairment only if it is strictly relevant to the story.
  5. Do use language correctly – Use of the term schizophrenic when you mean you have a dilemma or feel torn about something is wrong. It means something quite different.
  6. Do use disability terminology in the right context, not as a term of abuse or insult.
  7. It is OK to refer to Deaf as Deaf, but culturally and linguistically Deaf are not hard of hearing.
  8. It is absolutely OK to ask if you are not sure, for example, I prefer, if it is necessary, to be referred to as “partially sighted” or “vision impaired” rather than “partially blind.” I am a positive person. Others may have their own preferences.

The language we use about others defines us more than them. It is not about being PC, simply about respecting the dignity of other people.


Filed under Disability Issues, Disability Rights, Media, Miscellaneous

Reflecting on Waitangi Day

Many Pakeha New Zealanders seem to feel confused about Waitangi, and that constrains our ability to wholeheartedly celebrate it as our national day. We are confused about the ‘one nation, two people’ thing, and there is maybe some misplaced guilt and anger about the past, and about Maori assertions of their rights under the Treaty.

For those Pakeha who think it is relevant only to Maori, we need to remember that it is the Treaty that gives us our place here.

Unity in diversity is healthy. It is also productive and creative. The Treaty of Waitangi, with all its flaws is our Treaty too. I, for one, enjoy exploring and learning about our history, especially as the version I was taught was neither accurate nor helpful in increasing my general understanding. The reality was much meatier and more challenging and interesting.

A visit to Waitangi, especially on Waitangi Day is one we should all make at least once in a lifetime. I treasure the visits I have made, both on Waitangi Day and on several other occasions.

On Waitangi Day I believe we should celebrate the things we have gained together, and acknowledge and explore the things we have still to do. We should treasure our uniqueness as a nation of Maori, Pakeha and everyone else who has chosen to make Aotearoa New Zealand their home.

I also think Waitangi Day should be ‘Mondayised,’ to use that ugly word. It is after all our National Day and should be accorded due respect.

It is rather ironic that Waitangi Day seems to be celebrated more wholeheartedly by our compatriots abroad than at home.

I can’t resist adding that it is shame the Waitangi Trust web site has fallen prey to the “greying of the Internet.” Perhaps trustees should remember that Waitangi Day is for all of us, and all includes disabled and older people of all ethnicities who may struggle to read grey text on an important site. After all Ink on the internet is free.

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Filed under Disability Issues, Disability Rights, Miscellaneous, Travel