Chance to be first disability convention-compliant nation

New Zealand could become the first nation to comply with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, but no country has yet made the "necessary changes".

That comment came yesterday from Dunedin lawyer and ACC researcher Warren Forster in a  talk given on the last day of a national "disability matters" conference in Dunedin. A UN committee monitoring compliance with the convention had earlier urged New Zealand to adopt a human rights approach to ACC-related access to justice issues, and recommended that we "make steps to change", Mr Forster said.

New Zealand had responded by saying: "We will look into it", but no country had yet made the necessary changes.

"The universal lack of action is a barrier but it’s also an opportunity," Mr Forster said.

"Let’s be the first," he said.

Mr Forster said  the United Nations, through the Committee for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, would early next year start the process of re-examining New Zealand’s compliance.

During a previous examination, in 2014, Mr Forster and former Acclaim Otago president Dr Denise Powell travelled to Geneva to make submissions on behalf the Otago ACC claimant support group.

Summarising conference discussions, Mr Forster said that New Zealand also did not have "effective access to justice for people with disabilities".

Conference participants had heard about "so many times that people didn’t complain" because "the burden of making a complaint" had been "just one more burden to bear".

People with disabilities needed a way to resolve disputes "that arise when we try and make decisions and people don’t let us".

"We can play a role in educating health professional and decision-makers.

"Too many of them are ignorant about the Convention", and relied on an outdated medical model, he said.

Many people had problems obtaining work "because of the inability to enforce rights against discrimination because of disability".

"We need an effective enforcement regime for students and families to do something when the right to education under the convention has been breached.

"What we have at the moment doesn’t work," he said.

About 260 people attended the conference, devoted to "making the convention real". 
Otago Daily Times