Disabled want more jobs and council action in 2013
They also intend to get Wellington City Council officers following their plan.
The group, which is part of the Wellington City Council, has its first meeting of the year this week.
Co-chairperson Kendall Akhurst says the group’s main achievement in 2012 was the approval by Wellington City Council of its draft Accessibility Action Plan.
He says in the past to get action with council, people with disabilities have had to rely on outstanding individuals all the time.
“We’ve actually got a piece of legislation within council which helps drive the right behaviours from council officers and council employees,” says Mr Akhurst.
This year, the group wants to embed the plan.
“While the plan is there and council officers are meant to follow it, the reality is that it’s hard getting that across the line within council, as far as getting people to buy into it.
“So we really want to get around the organisation, get to the different areas and really drive even some key performance measures that help entice the staff to really follow that, because it is great for Wellington, and it’s great for Wellington City Council too.”
The group’s other main event for the year is the annual Accessibility Forum in March.
The topic for this year is about employment, and how it is good for businesses to hire disabled people.
“We really want to get the point across that it’s good for business to be accessible, to hire people with disabilities.
“It’s not just about the council hiring people with disabilities, or ‘all abilities’ as I like to put it.
“It’s more about trying to get big employers within Wellington to see the benefits of hiring people with disabilities. “We strongly believe that there are real economic benefits to hiring people with disabilities.”
Mr Akhurst says international statistics show disabled people have less sick days, and are more loyal to organisations.
“A good example of that is something like call centres, where people leave every six months on average. With people with disabilities, you’ll find that they stay three or four years within an organisation, more often than not.”
Mr Akhurst says empathy with customers is important.
“I’ve got a real strong belief that to relate to your customers you have to be able to empathise with your customers.”
The group was started in 1995 as the Disability Reference Group, and mostly focused on the physical environment.
Since then, the title and the organisation have evolved to focus on people’s abilities, not their disabilities.
Support for the group has grown, as has their reputation, which Mr Akhurst says is a result of the high calibre of members.
“When they stand up and talk, people listen.”
They aim to have a variety of different ages and disabilities in the group.
“We definitely don’t claim to be experts, generally the people in the group represent different networks from around the city, and ideally we try and balance that with people of different ages and people with different disabilities.
“Obviously you don’t want to have nine wheelchairs around the table or nine blind people, we want a good mixture so that we can cover all the main needs that people with disabilities have.”
The group meets on the last Tuesday of the month, from 5.30pm to 7.30pm at the council offices, and the public are welcome.
He says about every six months they take on one or two new members, and a few spots will be coming up in May.