17 March 2017 – The new Disability Strategy helps disabled New Zealanders to participate and contribute to the community. Minister for Disability Issues Hon Nicky Wagner discusses its relevance to those with autism.
In November last year, we launched the new Disability Strategy.
The vision underpinning the Strategy is a non-disabling society where we all have an equal opportunity to achieve our goals and aspirations.
The direction and priorities outlined in the new Strategy are based on what people with differences, their friends, family and whānau, including many people with autism, said was most important to them during a nationwide consultation in 2016.
The Strategy will guide the work of government agencies on how they can help those with neurodiversity for the next 10 years.
While the Strategy aims to help all people with differences, there are some areas more relevant to those with autism. For example, increasing community understanding of the diverse needs including moving the focus onto a person’s abilities rather than what is ‘wrong’ with them. This includes allowing flexibility in engagement processes, so that autistic people can participate in ways that recognise their different needs.
We know that some people with autism use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) systems to communicate. One of the priority areas for change is attitudes, which encourages acceptance of a wide range of communication strategies. We want to make sure that the Disability Strategy is put into practice and that real changes are being made. That is why we will be using the Disability Action Plan as the primary vehicle for implementing the Strategy. The Plan will be updated later this year.
A distinctive feature of the new Strategy is that, for the first time, an Outcomes Framework will be developed. This means that targets and indicators will be set to ensure that progress in implementing the Strategy is regularly measured. People with autism will have an opportunity to provide feedback on the draft Outcomes Framework during public consultation later in the year.
This article was first published in Altogether Autism Journal Issue 1, 2017 read the latest edition.