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Legal rights and obligations

Disability is one of the prohibited grounds of discrimination under the Human Rights Act 1993.

The New Zealand Human Rights Commission has stated that ‘[the] right to participate in political and public life [is] integral to a functioning democracy … through involvement in political activity, law and policy reform’. The Commission has emphasised that disabled people’s participation in political process is an integral part of the full realisation of their human rights. It has also noted the need to provide ‘information intended for the general public to disabled people in accessible formats and technologies appropriate to different kinds of disabilities’.

New Zealand was one of the first signatories to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 2008. The Convention aims to ‘promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity’.

The Convention does not set out any new human rights; it clarifies the government’s role to ensure that people with disabilities enjoy human rights on an equal basis with others. The Convention’s 50 articles clarify the rights of people with disabilities covering all aspects of economic, social, political, legal and cultural life. One of the core tenets of the Convention is that people with disabilities ‘should have the opportunity to be actively involved in decision-making processes about policies and programmes, including those directly concerning them’.

The Convention addresses the protection and promotion of the human rights of people with disabilities in all policies and programmes (Article 4.1c). It specifies the need for government agencies to closely consult with and actively involve people, including children, with disabilities in the development and implementation of legislation and policies, through their representative organisations (Article 4.3).

The Treaty of Waitangi (Te Tiriti o Waitangi) is both the founding document of Aotearoa New Zealand and includes the concept of partnership. The principles of the Treaty have been translated as ‘active protection, the […] right to self-regulation, the right of redress for past breaches, and the duty to consult’. The duty to consult and the right to self-regulation underpin this guide.

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