Proposed law seeks to increase accessibility for persons with disabilities

The bill is expected to be passed next year and will come into effect by July 2024

Proposed law seeks to increase accessibility for persons with disabilities

Parliament has passed on first reading a proposed law that seeks to improve the lives of persons with disabilities across New Zealand, Minister for Disability Issues Poto Williams announced.

The Accessibility for New Zealanders Bill (Bill 153−1) aims to increase accessibility by identifying, preventing and removing barriers that prevent persons with disabilities, tāngata whaikaha Māori, and others with accessibility needs from living independently and fully participating in society. The bill comes shortly after the establishment of the new Whaikaha – Ministry of Disabled People last month.

“This legislation means that accessibility will be at the forefront of future government decisions and policies,” Williams said.

In particular, the bill establishes an “accessibility committee” which will be primarily responsible for advising and making recommendations to the disability issues minister in relation to addressing accessibility barriers and growing accessibility practices.

The bill also builds on government accountability by creating strong, clear responsibilities for the disability issues minister, the chief executive of Whaikaha – Ministry of Disabled People, and the accessibility committee. In addition, it “lifts the profile” of accessibility issues across government agencies.

“While the bill does not have a regulatory focus, I expect that it will lead to new or amended regulations as accessibility barriers become more of a focus, with the establishment of Whaikaha - the Ministry of Disabled People, the first of its kind in any comparable jurisdiction,” Williams said.

The timeframe for the select committee process has been extended by three months to ensure that widespread feedback can be provided on the bill. The deadline for public submissions will be set by the select committee in the coming weeks.

The bill is expected to be passed next year and will come into effect by July 2024.

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