Monthly Archives: March 2008

Disability Rights convention One Year On

Today is the first anniversary of the signing of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. New Zealand, along with 80 or so other nations signed the Convention in New York one year ago.

Signing the Convention indicates an intention to ratify only, but already there are seventeen ratifications. There needs to be twenty before the Convention becomes international law. Predictions are that the magic number will be reached some time in May.

New Zealand, like many other western democracies does not ratify Conventions until it has scrutinised legislation, policy and practice to ensure we can meet our international obligations once we have ratified. A parliamentary process including select committee must also take place.

This means New Zealand probably won’t be among the first twenty to ratify as so far we are only part way through what will be a thorough process.

It is important that disabled people understand what the Convention can mean for us. Apart from giving us and our issues voice, visibility and legitimacy, it clearly spells out our human rights in a way that moves from a medical, charity and/or welfare way of thinking to a clear human rights approach on the same basis as non-disabled people.

Ratifying countries, (and the Government has indicated it will ratify by the end of this year,) are bound by the provisions of the Convention. They are open to international scrutiny because countries must regularly report to an international committee. More importantly, disabled people and our organisations will play a critical part in national monitoring of the Convention.

There are plenty of ways of finding out about the Convention. The Office for Disability Issues, is a good place to start, the Human Rights Commission has a growing Convention section on its web site. UNESCO New Zealand will be publishing material soon. More resources are becoming available all the time plus a whole raft of international resources including the Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions Human Rights YES is an education resource freely available to download and use.

Many disability NGOs are also focusing on the Convention. Ask yours or join up to find out how you can be part of the action.

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Filed under Disability Issues, Disability Rights

Reflections on specs

Optometrists sell glasses to people who can’t see. Well duh! Yet in checking them out on the Internet I am interested to see how little account their web sites often take of that.

Their web sites exhibit all the usual failings, poor colour contrast, failure to enlarge text and images, the ubiquitous grey text, and no decent pictures of the merchandise. Even wearing my specs I had a headache in the end.

But it goes deeper than that. In all the many years that I have worn specs, (and I have worn them since I was two, longer than I can remember,) I have never been sent one of those cheerful reminder postcards that dentists send to remind you a check up is due from any optometrist. Nor have I had the friendly call the day before an appointment that I get from both my dentist and my hairdresser to make sure I actually turn up.

I have never been informed about special offers, like a second pair of specs for $99.99! Since my first pair cost around $600 I would jump at that, but I only found out about that one by chance. Sadly it wasn’t anywhere close by.

To be fair, when checking with some of my specs-wearing friends I have discovered that some optometrists do those things, but not all by any means. Capturing my custom for a lifetime would be a real goldmine. I have to wear them. I am so addicted that if I leave them behind or lose them I panic, even if I don’t have to read anything. I am developing a stress headache even thinking about it!

For years and years growing up I lamented the lack of fashionable specs available. Even in the sixties there were limits on the trendy frames I could find, or afford for that matter. Now there are designer labels littered all over the Internet. Ironically now designer frames are everywhere all the models are about half my age! You can’t win!

In case any optometrists or opticians read this I am on your side. I couldn’t function without you. I just think you are selling yourselves short.

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Filed under Web Accessibility

In praise of pragmatism

I was talking to a customer the other day and thinking to myself how much I enjoy working with customers like her. Why? Because she is a sensible pragmatist with a ‘can do’ approach.

When faced with a web site which she knows presents real difficulties around accessibility she didn’t miss a beat when a user came to her with a problem.

The user was Deaf and was struggling with the particular specialist and abstract vocabulary of the site. For someone with New Zealand Sign as a first language and English their second the information needed was hard to access and understand. My customer did not turn her away or refuse to help. She concluded that such requests would be quite rare, and found a simple, individual face-to-face solution, where the user got the information and some top-shelf service. It was a one off cost and worth it she felt.

Who said public service was dead!

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Filed under Information Accessibility, Web Accessibility

Honour Disabled Women on International Women’s Day

March 8th is International Women’s Day.

It was originally International Working Women’s Day, first celebrated in 1909, but has been widened to celebrate many of women’s political, social and economic achievements over the years.

In NZ it usually results in rather smug lists of significant dates and women at the top, PMs, Governors-General, the occasional CEO, Chief Justice and the like. Sometimes we see groundbreaking women scientists or educators mentioned. Then the world goes on its merry way, conveniently forgetting that equal pay for work of equal value has yet to be achieved, there are still few directors on boards, senior managers in tertiary institutions and so on and women are still the main targets of high levels of domestic violence.

Disabled women are rarely if ever mentioned. They are still in workshops being paid third world rates, struggling to acquire a good education, to bring up their children, forge a career and make ends meet. They are even more subject to domestic and related violence

I am really tired of feeling embarrassed attending international gatherings where projects to improve the lot of disabled women are underway in poorer countries than NZ. The plight of disabled women internationally has been recognised in the Disability Rights Convention. Yet here our issues are subsumed by general disability or general women’s issues. I guess we will have to start the ball rolling ourselves, as women have always done.

Before I am accused of being a whinger and moaner let me bring disabled women into the list of those we celebrate on International Women’s Day.

Who are our heroines, both living and dead? There are many and these are just a few I can think of and in no particular order. They include: Anne Hawker, next World President of Rehabilitation International,
The late Dame Anne Ballin, disability pioneer
Vi Hepburn, marine engineer,
Victoria Manning, Deaf human rights activist
Trish Harris, poet
Wendi Wicks, pest about town,
Alexia Pickering, accessibility pioneer,
Ruth Jones, disability strategist,
Karen Butterworth, poet
Mary O’Hagan, mental health consumer activist and former Commissioner,
Judy Small, blind activist and public servant,
Alison Riseborough, accessible transport activist and public servant,
Linda Beck, researcher, and lawyer
Verona Moynihan, tireless community worker,
Val Smith, former social welfare commissioner and then some, Marion Wellington, tireless community worker
Josie Khoury, Video presenter,
Minnie Baragwanath, media star and then some
The late June Opie, author and disability pioneer
Pam Cook, former National Education Advocate and mentor
Marilyn Baikie, disability activist and past DPA president
Grace Wheeler, blind activist and mentor
Vicki Terrel, disability activist within the churches
Bronwyn Hayward, dancer

and all the others, too many to name, all of you, disabled women, celebrate, this is your day too!

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Filed under Disability Rights, Women