The formation of a network for disabled staff at Inland Revenue snowballed out of a desire to move beyond a “one click, one size fits all” mentality.
As the agency transformed its business systems, IR delegate Steve Bradley recognised the need to cater for disabled staff and taxpayers who use specialised technology.
“I thought but what about people that don’t use a mouse.”
The idea for a disability network grew from there and it was launched in March last year.
“I made some initial noises and then other people have come on board and contributed massively,” Steve says.
ADVOCATING FOR NEEDS
The IR network is keen to let staff know there should be “no fear factor” about having a disability, and network members will soon be able to advocate for disabled staff to ensure their needs are met.
“If you think a special keyboard or screen reader might help, you should feel comfortable to ask for one.”
Steve has been nearly blind since he was a teenager due to glaucoma, and has a guide dog to assist with his disability.
He acknowledges IR’s support of the network and its development of other initiatives such as a portal for disabled staff to apply for technology, and the allocation of funds for that technology.
“We would also like to see more promotion across the Public Service so we can bring together all the good things each department is doing,” Steve adds.
TEARING DOWN BARRIERS
Meanwhile, the PSA Deaf and Disabled Network is calling for more accessible workplaces, as statistics show disabled people earn less than half the income of the non-disabled.
The median income for disabled people is about $400 a week, compared with $900 for the non-disabled. Disabled people are also less than half as likely to be employed at all.
The PSA Deaf and Disabled Network wants to see consistent accessibility standards implemented across the public service for both staff and clients.
“Our network committee wants to see the barriers that keep disabled people out of jobs torn down,” network spokesperson Glenn Walker says.
Inaccessible workplaces make it difficult for many New Zealanders to pursue employment options or access government services.
The PSA supports calls to strengthen accessibility requirements in the Building Code.
"Our committee believes it’s more cost effective to get accessibility right from day one,” Glenn says.
"Disabilities don’t always hold people back, but badly designed cities and offices definitely do."
Almost one in four New Zealanders have a disability, and the PSA Deaf and Disabled Network currently has over 800 members.
Glenn says disabled people have knowledge and skills that can be used to help build systems that work for them.
“A great start would be for the health system to hire more deaf and disabled people. Nothing about us, without us.”
We’ll have more from the Deaf and Disability Network about how accessibility issues have affected them in future editions of Te Mahinga Ora.
Main photo caption: IR delegate Steve Bradley