Deaf MP Mojo Mathers’ long running, high profile battle for funding to allow her to participate fully in Parliament has shown the public what she and other hearing impaired New Zealanders battle every day, she says.
Speaker of the House Lockwood Smith, who has been under fire for delays in securing long term funding for a note-taker for Ms Mathers, this morning announced permanent funding had been approved by the Parliamentary Service.
“I am issuing a direction to the Parliamentary Service which will provide the lawful authority to provide equipment and personnel services to Ms Mathers while she is a member of Parliament”, he said.
“Specifically, Ms Mathers will continue to have access to electronic note takers while she is an MP. This support will be in addition to that to which she is already entitled, to ensure she may fulfill her role as a member of Parliament.”
Dr Smith said the cost of the services would be met from the Parliamentary Service’s baseline and was additional to the funding provided to support all members.
Ms Mathers said Dr Smith’s decision was a very positive step both for herself and for the disability community.
“I want to thank the speaker for reaching this decision.”
The decision meant aspiring MPs with a disability or hearing impairment “will be able to run for Parliament confident that they will get the support that they need”.
However, it was disappointing it had taken so long for Dr Smith to reach his decision but not unexpected.
“It’s the reality of the situation for people with disabilities that it takes time to change attitudes and time to improve poeple’s understanding of what real inclusion means.
“It’s the day to day reality of what people with disability’s lives are like and its just this has been played out more in the public view.”
Meanwhile, Dr Smith also said he planned to develop a captioning service to make proceedings of the House more accessible to the hearing impaired.
“I intend working with the Office of the Clerk to develop this service and will raise this with the Standing Orders Committee which deals with such matters.”
Ms Mathers said that news particularly welcome.
“Captioning will greatly increase access to political debate and Parliament for the 700,000 New Zealanders with a hearing impairment.”