It was great to celebrate the International Day of Disabled People on Dec 3 with the added celebration of an event like this. Sadly, the celebrations were not as exuberant as they might have been as we remembered the life and tragic death of Emma Agnew. Instead of celebrating, the Deaf community was in mourning as they watched her broadcast funeral service around New Zealand.
Emmaâ€™s death certainly got more air time in the media than the award did. It is a terrible irony that more New Zealanders have now probably heard of NZ Sign Language, our third national language, than they would have in any other way. It is an outcome that no one would wish for.
Disability media are few and far between in New Zealand and I miss the lack of intelligent, knowledgeable and hard-edged discussion on disability issues in the mainstream media, although coverage is slowly improving in tone, if not in scope. The disability world is changing fast. I am beginning to feel like a walking historical artefact!
Some of the changes and developments have been, in no particular order or importance:
- the Disability Strategy
- inclusion of disability in the Human Rights Act
- the introduction of disability questions in the census
- the Sign Language Act and Sign Language in the curriculum
- mandatory Government web standards
- repeal of the Disabled Persons Employment Act
- captioned movies
- the Like Minds Like Mine programme
- the Disability Rights Convention
Long may the positive change continue, and I hope that change includes safer streets and communities for our sons and daughters.