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New Zealand: Access to buildings is a human right, says monitoring group

Graphic: Skyline of Auckland, New Zeland's largest city

A key New Zealand group says proposed changes to building regulations are unnecessary and infringe disabled people’s right to access buildings.


A key group monitoring disability rights in New Zealand says proposed changes to building regulations are unnecessary and infringe disabled people's right to access buildings.

When a building is upgraded, reasonable and adequate access must be made for people with disabilities. The proposed changes to the Building Act 2004 will allow councils to issue building consents for earthquake strengthening without triggering this requirement.

In its report, launched this week, the Independent Monitoring Mechanism (IMM) of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities criticises this proposal.

Chief Ombudsman Dame Beverley Wakem says the proposal sends a clear message that the rights of disabled people are a low priority.

"Inaccessible buildings limit disabled people's opportunities for education, employment, and their ability to contribute to and participate in their community."

The IMM includes the Office of the Ombudsman, the Human Rights Commission and the New Zealand Convention Coalition made up of eight disabled people's organisations (DPOs).

In the report, the IMM has contrasted the Building Act proposals with other areas where progress has been made since July 2012. It welcomes increasing involvement by disabled people and their organisations in practical and policy decisions about their lives.

For example, the Earthquake Disability Leadership Group (EDLG), established to advocate for the rights of disabled people in Canterbury during the recovery, is making progress.

"The EDLG has been particularly successful in ensuring that disabled people have an effective and united voice in the rebuilding of Christchurch," says the IMM's report.

However, Disability Commissioner Paul Gibson says accessibility continues to be an issue in Christchurch and across the country.

"The Commission's December 2013 report Monitoring Human Rights in the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery identified two- and three-level buildings constructed without lifts or the capacity to include them at a later date," he says.

The IMM welcomes the current Government review into building access for disabled people. Its report recommends considering whether the existing accessibility standard should be mandatory and extended to cover residential housing.

Making Disability Rights Real, the IMM's report, is available on the website of the New Zealand Human Rights Commission.

Date: 7 August 2014

Source: Scoop.co.nz


Image credits

  1. Skyline of Auckland, New Zeland's largest city - Daniel Pietzsch, Flickr Creative Commons