“If you aren’t counted you don’t count” says the adage.
The first modern comprehensive national disability survey by the Department of Statistics was conducted in 1996. It came as the result of some hard lobbying from the disability community and supporters, and a receptive Government Statistician. Since then the survey has been conducted following each census.
Before 1996 the last collection of disability data was in 1916. The question was not about war injuries from World War One, then in full force, as you might expect, but about feeble mindedness!
Today data collection is more focused and collects the kind of data relevant for policy and planning in a range of areas affecting the lives of all kinds of disabled people.
I hope that the data collected will be used productively by government, local and national, and by disability service providers of various kinds, and even by business. Importantly it will be used by disabled people and their representative organisations to advocate for their rights, and for monitoring the progress of the implementation of the CRPD, the Convention on the Rights of Disabled people, which includes specific directions in Article 31, Statistics and data collection.
I was one of the lobbyists for the 1996 survey. Since then I have enjoyed training interviewers and other related staff. This time I have trained interviewers, and despite storm, fog and earthquake the training has successfully completed for this year’s survey.
If you are approached by interviewers, over the next month or so either by phone or in person do co-operate. Whether you are disabled or not the information you give will be vital to help describe the situation of disabled people in New Zealand today.
To return to the adage. While disabled people may be counted, it is what the data is used for, and how it is used that really counts. In the thirteenth year of the twenty first century, how far have we really progressed in nearly 100 years since people were asked about feeble mindedness? How much and for what do we really count today?