An interesting end to the week last week…

I’ve been keeping a pretty low profile this week as I’m still getting my health sorted out.

I did however have an appointment on Friday to meet with our electorate MP, Iain Lees-Galloway to have a bit of a chat about tertiary level education for students with impairments. I was supporting a friend as she met with his PA last week to address an issue my friend was having, I got a little cheeky and asked for some time with Iain.

I had been thinking about the System Transformation and had serious concerns; if we were wanting to get people to follow their aspirations, some people will want further training; one of our major tertiary providers has no disability or inclusive practice policy. I had pointed this out when I studied there in 2016, I was assured it would be developed and that they would appreciate me feeding into this process. Well I haven’t heard from them and a look at their “Policy and Procedure” section on the web still shows no such policy has been developed.

Now I know that this isn’t just this institute, in my opinion it is a direct result of Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) having no mandatory obligation for institutes to enact disability policy, they just have to report numbers of students that need extra support.

Another issue for students (particularly with learning disabilities) is the the funding model, it’s purely based on pass/fail rates which leaves no room for assessing personal achievement. When I had when studying I had an problems with the way some units are written, they leave little room for reasonable accommodations; for instance when I did my Diploma of Adventure-Eco Tourism the “Guiding” paper, we had to guide an excursion. Sounded fine until I asked if I could guide a sea kayak excursion, the unit had been written in such a way that we had to guide a tramp. To give my lecturer credit he did try with the academic board to get a sea kayak trip approved, to no avail.
We also spoke about the lack of “disability” related training staff recieve, while doing my Cert in Exercise and Sports Performance part of our course requirements was to do fitness testing. Now needless to say standard fitness tests were not going to give an accurate gague of my “fitness”. Yes, we could use the data as a personal “baseline”, however I managed to track down some adapted fitness tests. Which leads me to my last point; Why is there no “disability awareness” type training built into many many courses that teach people to work with people. For instance, at this institute on the Bachelor of Sport Science the students do a paper on “Specialist Populations” where they cover many medical conditions but no adaptive component. I did try to point this out to the Program Director by asking “How many diabetics are getting feet lopped off these days?”, as of yet I have not heard of any adaptive component introduced to the program.
Yes, this is a very brief overview of the conversation I had with Iain, but it was a productive meeting and it was good to have a conversation with him on System Transformation as well as did not have a lot of knowledge about it, in fact he was not aware that the prototype was happening in his own electorate.
Before I met with Iain I made a “quick trip” to Warehouse Stationary to pick up a dairy and wall-planner so I can organise my year. Yeah I know that’s “old school” but it works for me! I pulled into the remaining Mobility Park and as I was unloading my chair and ADNZ Ben I noticed a guy carrying a printer to the very nice Mercedes parked in the other Mobility Park. Now I know that many people with invisible disabilities use mobility parks so gave the guy I “vaguely recognised” the benefit of the doubt.


Picture credit: Auckland Transport

I rolled down between our vehicles headed towards the store and noticed there was no Mobility Parking card displayed. I knocked on his window, he made breif eye-contact so I pointed towards the ground. He looked away and started reversing out.

Now idiots parking in Mobilty Parks in nothing new, and I’ve had altercations in the past. Granted my tapping on his window could have been considered confrontational, but I had a smile on my face and I’m not exactly an imposing person. I headed into the “week before school starts” craziness. As I left the store I mentioned to the staff member that they needed to monitor the carparks more because “the guy that just bought a printer was in one without a card”, her response was “Oh you mean Joe Karam?”. It hit me, that’s why I recognized him!

Picture credit: The National Business Review
Now for those who don’t recognize the name, this is David Bain’s “lawyer” (and funder), although it says he’s a solicitor on a lot of publications a lot of people will know him as I did. He is also a former All Black. I did try and track him down prior to writing this so he could comment but I simply could not track him down unless it was through a third party such as Speakers NZ. I could put him personally on blast but I wanted to use this moment to highlight a bigger issue.
For me this highlighted the place in the “totem pole” of Human Rights that the disabled community has. For someone who “… has integrity… (Speaker NZ website) and fought so long for one person’s human rights he clearly had no regard for the right of people to access their community. This attitude has to change, we as a wider community need to realise that things like Mobility Parks and accessible toilets are there for a reason, so people can access their community and be full participants within society.
I want to see a fully inclusive society that recognises that we all have a right to access our community. Disability is the one “minority” that crosses all genders, faiths, ethnicities, socio-economic background, sexuality, political stance and any other marginalized group you can think of, yet even within those communities people with disability can’t access a full range of events, places and are often essentially shut out of participating.

I’m going to leave this here as something to think on. How are you going to help people participate this week?

Have a great week people! Stay safe and remember to #thrivenotsurvive!

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