Discrimination against disabled people in NZ is alive and kicking. It’s shocking to hear that these people often aren’t given the support and respect that they deserve – if we have the opportunity we should respect and help them, and not just leave all the education and role-modelling to the parents. I recently heard in a discussion on Radio NZ National that many disabled people earn less than the minimum wage – they are offered repetitive, boring, unchallenging and mind-numbing work for about $1 an hour. (For example, putting foam protectors on the end of headphones). At the end of the day, they have enough money to buy a pie and drink. Surely we should be challenging our fellow beings more than this? How can one improve in life with such treatment?
Cross-posted from Radio NZ News.
Disability lobby group IHC is suing the Ministry of Education Ministry over alleged breaches of the Human Rights Act.
It says lack of funding and other policies prompt schools to discriminate against children with special needs by discouraging their enrolments, refusing to take them all day or excluding them from some activities.
IHC’s director of advocacy Trish Grant says there are almost daily examples of children not getting a fair deal at their local school. “Not being allowed in the door in many cases, not getting the kind of support that they need to be taught well, being sent home at lunch time, not being able to go on school camps.”
Berhampore School principal Mark Potter supports the IHC’s action and says because of the ministry’s policies and systems some of his colleagues actively discourage disabled children from enrolling.
“They won’t say ‘you can’t come’ but they will actually, by practice, make the parents aware that that child might not be supported that well with them.”
The Wellington principal says schools know it is hard to get enough resources for special needs children and some prefer not to enrol them.
Parents spoken to by Radio New Zealand say principals have deliberately made them feel unwelcome to discourage them from enrolling their children.
They say some schools have failed to provide trained teacher aides to work with their children and put unreasonable and even illegal conditions on their children’s attendance. They say the ministry has been little help and hope the IHC’s legal action will lead to an improvement.
In a statement, the Ministry of Education said 95% of children with special education needs are enrolled in mainstream schools and are doing well. The ministry says it wants to meet with the IHC to work through the problems.
The IHC has been trying to take the case to court since it lodged a complaint with the Human Rights Commission in 2008.
In 2011, the commission’s Office of Human Rights Proceedings agreed to take the case to the Human Rights Review Tribunal but earlier this year said it would prosecute individual schools, but not the ministry. The IHC says that was not acceptable and it has decided to pay for the case itself.