December 3 2023 was International Day of the Disabled Persons – we sat down with Council member Grant Cleland to gain some insights

International Day of the Disabled Persons  

December 3 2023 was International Day of the Disabled Persons, so we sat down with Council member Grant Cleland to gain some insights.    

Enabling Good Lives 

If we’re going to create transformational change, then it needs to start on the ground with services and their staff. Enabling Good Lives (EGL) is about transformational change of the disability support system and using those principles as a framework to review our services and practice.  

I was on the Ministerial group that came up with the principles and approach – the whole basis of those principles was always about transformational change, and ensuring disabled people receive ordinary life outcomes within a range of different roles and services. 

To get better education, employment, and health outcomes for disabled people it’s important going forward that services and their staff are using EGL principles as a framework to review their practice – both as an organisation and as an individual. 

It’s about using the EGL principles to ask ourselves whether our services or practice is mana enhancing, creating ordinary life outcomes, easy to use, assisting and allowing disabled people and their whānau to have control of their lives. 

Self Determination  

Historically, we’ve often talked to providers or whānau before we’ve talked to disabled people. One of the things we need to do when we’re reviewing or developing disability related services and qualifications is to hear their voice first. That helps to drive the rest of the process. At the very least when we are reviewing qualifications, and we are thinking about workforce issues, we need to be talking with disabled people and their whānau about whether these services and qualifications are meeting their needs.  

When we’re talking to the disability sector, we need to be careful that we don’t just talk to the services and training providers, and that we figure out a way to ensure that the voice of disabled people with different impairments and their whānau comes through. We need to demonstrate to the disability community that we want to have a conversation and we want their feedback. We also need to be prepared because sometimes that feedback can be challenging.  

We know that disabled people and their whanau are saying some of our qualifications aren’t meeting their needs. Our challenge is to figure out some ways to actively involve the voice of disabled people in the review of services or qualifications and actively involving disabled people in the development, delivery, and assessment of qualifications in the future.  

Its fundamentally about how do we do more to ensure we involve disabled people in the review and the development of qualifications and services. We need to acknowledge that at times the voice of disabled people we serve has gotten lost. 

Ordinary Life Outcomes 

Statistics NZ estimate that at least 24% of our community have an impairment of some kind. In my 30 plus years working within the sector, I think the demographics of the disability community have really changed. As well as those with obvious impairments like mine, I would say we’re now seeing probably at least a third, possibly more, have some form of hidden impairment or disability including for example neurodiversity.  

Organisations need to recognise that many of these people have knowledge, skills and experiences that can add value to their organisations and that this a huge opportunity. It’s about seeing the potential of disabled people, even when they don’t have the same experience as other people.  

Rather than just employing disabled people because it’s the socially responsible thing to do, we need to see the opportunity of employing more disabled people across the community, health, social services, and education sectors. We need to acknowledge the skills and expertise that having disabled people in our workplaces, on our leadership teams and Boards will bring to our organisations.