Embargoed until 2.30pm, Thursday 7 August 2014
Media Release: Access to buildings is a human right, says monitoring group
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 second 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
“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.
The EDLG’s aim is to make Christchurch the most accessible and liveable city in the world. This is picked up as the
focus of the IMM’s report launch in Christchurch tomorrow (August 7).
However, Disability Commissioner Paul Gibson says accessibility continues to be an issue in Christchurch and across the
“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
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.