One weekend. Two conferences.

One weekend in Christchurch.  Two education conferences.  Two excellent events, yet so different.  For us, the drive from one to the other (and return) involved, flipping our minds 180 degrees in order to slide into the next session.

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The Australia New Zealand Congress for Educators of the Deaf (ANZCED) takes place every four years, while the Inclusive Education Summit (TIES) is an annual event.  Both conferences take place on each side of the Tasman periodically.

anzced16-logo-v2TIES logo

We saw commonalities – committed people, dedicated to the educational success of children and young people.  Participants from New Zealand, Australia and further afield sharing their knowledge and experiences.   ANZCED had Deaf people present and TIES included disabled people too. 


We also saw differences – the best way to describe these is to say that one was aimed at the teachers who will be working with the child (and their family), supporting these teachers as experts providing guidance.  The other was more about creating an educational environment so all children are recognised and included (and belong).   Another way to describe the difference is that one reinforced the unique nature of the impairment, whereas the other seemed to forget it!

One important observation is that, every child benefits from what is being discussed at each conference, whether they be deaf, disabled, hearing or able bodied. 

Putting inclusivity into action is demonstrated by how participants with impairments are valued.    Sign Language interpreters were present at both, ANZCED included live transcription.  TIES had a blind participant who was orientated at the venue, which he said, it was the first conference he had attended where this happened.  There were challenges for those using wheelchairs at both venues.  One organising committee included two disabled people.  One did not, and this was evident through the use of bells to signal when it was time to move to the next session.  Bells at a conference about Deaf education??  

We didn’t see a lot of references to the rights of the child, the rights of the child with an impairment in either conference.  When there are Deaf/Disabled presenters present it is highly likely that ‘rights’ would have woven itself into the kōrero.  It did at one conference.  Parents, present at both, yes but in low numbers.  Interesting to observe how many parents have become educators and/or researchers.

Neither conference included a guest speaker who was deaf/disabled, although TIES opened with a fantastic presentation from Prof Mere Berryman who spoke about Maori young people accessing schools from a Maori perspective (a minority perspective).   The elements raised were easily transferred to other communities of children.  Whether the child can be who they are or if they must leave their cultural identity at the gate before they go in resonated.   This presentation was equally relevant for both conferences.  

The question is, is our work in education about getting the child ready for school or is it about the school getting ready for the child.  We like to think both.

Ally Attwell QSM

Rachel Noble MNZM


The debate. Is over.

The debate is between me and myself.  It has been going on for years and years without resolution. 

Myself knows listening to music is therapeutic.  Myself also enjoys music.  In the right place, the right time and I guess the right music I certainly feel it’s soothing effects.   Myself would constantly think that I needed to organise music on my iphone to tap into from time to time.


Me, however, prefers to go hearing aid less.  That is to take off my hearing aids which means I don’t hear anything.  Definitely not music (maybe really loud heavy metal music??).   I wouldn’t say it means being silent.  Perhaps more natural?  Me would absent mindedly reach up to remove my hearing aids from my ears and set them aside without distracting from my train of thought or activity.

So with so much tooing and froing an experiment was necessary.  The iphone was set to what I assumed is known as good music.  With that playing it was time to settle and relax while focusing on what I was doing.  Repeat experiments took place.

It happened Every. Time.  Me would reach up and take my hearing aids off.   The. Debate. Is. Over.

Day Time TV

Parliament TV is trialling captions 2.30 to 3.30 this week.  Yesterday it didn’t work, today it took a while to start then boom!

When I told hearing people about this they look at me with a ‘duh’ expression, why, would anyone want to watch Parliament TV in the middle of the day??  This is what I learnt:

  • the language used ranges from very formal to very informal
  • when someone needs an answer to a question there are numerous loops to go through to maybe get a snippet of an answer
  • who speaks with passion and what it was that they were saying that made them so passionate, and who was less passionate (do they care??)
  • how involved the Speaker is
  • confirmation that they play games too

I didn’t get half a message, nor did I have to make any assumptions on the rest (rightly or wrongly).  The full message came through.

One important point of difference for me as a viewer lay in the way the text presented itself.  Usually on a television programme the captions appear in blocks, that is all the words appear at once.  With this Parliament TV trial, a different approach was used, the words came through one by one as soon as the stenographer typed them – like it is in the US.   The brain has to rejig to comprehend this then hey presto! It rolls.

So, thanks to Mojo Mathers and others for making this happen.

This is citizenship.

Captions on Parliament TV.jpg

Access and Empowerment: a reality case

Yesterday was the International Disability Day following the theme Inclusion matters: access and empowerment of people of all abilitiesWhat kind of stories would present through the day?   The tragic story of course was in America with 14 people at a Social Service Centre for people with disabilities killed in a seemingly pointless shooting.   The other story rolling in through the day was seeing people getting dressed up and making their way to the Attitude Awards evening in Auckland tonight.  Congratulations to all the worthy nominees and winners.

‘I wanted to ask the council so many questions but I had no idea how… am frustrated here’ a surprise message from a Deaf friend I had not talked to for a while.  Asked which council she was referring to, her next response revealed more – ‘not sure, (family member) did all the talking for us but I felt left out somehow. (family member) tries his best for us but I wanted to have a ‘say’.  Also at the bank too’.  Soon it was about the building company and the lawyer too.

So the family were building new houses.  As with any new build there’s also a building company, numerous trades people and so on.  One family member took on the role as the Project Manager and endeavoured to ensure everyone was in the know.

Hindsight is always a wonderful thing.  Up go the walls and lo and behold a window isn’t right.  Can’t be corrected.  Hence a very frustrated friend who wished she understood when decisions were being made.   It wasn’t that she was intentionally left out, nor did anyone refuse to book a sign language interpreter.   She was sensitive about putting too much pressure on the family member.  It just didn’t happen.

It was a classic example of underestimating the power of full access to information, the power of making informed decisions and the power of feeling in control over one’s own affairs.

Inclusion matters: access and empowerment of people of all abilities is therefore a very appropriate theme.  With our commitment we can empower all people through effective access.  This is what makes us citizens.



Education Goals – for all to be citizens of course!

So Tuesday last week, education became the overriding theme of the day.  A new thought piece article came under my radar first thing in the morning: the value of inclusive education.

It’s the experience that occurs when different and diverse students learn side by side in the same classroom. This includes going on school trips and doing all things that makes kids grow into citizens. It recognises ‘uniqueness’ and accommodates them naturally.

More importantly for me, the article affirmed the approach the Education for All group has taken with its four priorities for Inclusive Education to become reality in New Zealand.  These are:

  1. Well adjusted schools and communities,
  2. Confident and capable education settings,
  3. Strong leadership for inclusive education and
  4. Accountability, monitoring and enforcement.

It was good to share the article with the group that morning.  Gave us all a nice buzz.

Then the contradiction

Same morning, on national radio, talking about NZ Education Goals (the lack of them rather) Kim Campbell as the head of the Employers and Manufacturing Association talked about wanting good citizens who can do basic things and went on to say ‘and you want an education system that fairly enables pretty much everyone, apart from people who are disabled in some way, to do that’.  Ouch.

It would have been good if Guyon Espiner had been able to draw more from Campbell to clarify what he meant by that comment.

Our task

We have work to do.   Within education and within the employment sphere.  Hoorah to those who are bravely pushing conversations.  Hoorah to those who are willing to engage too.   We have knowledge, we have willingness, we have drive and we’re expanding our networks widely.   We will keep doing this so next time Kim Campbell talks about the goal for education he will say:

‘we want an education system which enables everyone to be good citizens’

Accessibility logo – a new way of viewing accessibility?

The blue square with a white figure in a wheelchair is a familiar image to all of us.  gi

Symbolizing accessibility for disabled people. Initially designed in 1968 (47 years ago) it has over the years been adapted for multiple impairments, modernized and plastered internationally.  Am surprised it doesn’t come up as one of the top symbols in the world on Google.

A new symbol of accessibility came about earlier in 2015 from the UN.

un-accessibility-logoA circle with a symmetrical figure in the middle.  The four blue dots represent the feet and hands of the person on the circle itself so it appears that the person is standing with their arms stretched out.  A larger blue dot provides the head itself within the circle.  It looks a bit like a person standing or rolling in a hoola hoop ready to roll! Interestingly, the blue matches the blue used in UN logo.

The image is to symbolize a ‘harmony between humans in society’ with the ‘universal human figure with open arms symbolizing inclusion for people of all abilities, everywhere’.  Incorporating ‘hope and equal access for all’ It is intended to show accessibility of services, information, communication technology as well as physical access.   Much broader than the original symbol which focused on physical access with the wheelchair.

I guess it sets a challenge for all of us in all areas of our work.  Are we incorporating the principles of inclusion in all our work?  For all people?  When we seek equal access for all do we recognise which ‘hopes’ are being realized?  That’s the really exciting part!   I like to think that the disability community, through a new way of viewing accessibility will actually be the ones leading the way on creating harmony between humans in society.  Equal access for all means just that, all of us throughout our lives!

Created by the Graphic Design Unit in the UN Department of Public Information from the UN specifically in relation to Accessibility Guidelines for United Nations websites.  It’s important to note that civil society including organisations of persons with disabilities were included in the process of developing this logo.

New Zealand as a village of 100 people – the missing villagers

‘New Zealand as a village of 100 people’ is a fascinating poster produced by Statistics NZ.   It shows the breakdown of New Zealand’s society as if we are a village of 100 people using information about our population as gathered for the 2013 Census.   The quirky pictures certainly makes this an eye-catching must read poster.

I am one of the 51% female villagers, one of the 70 born in New Zealand, again one of the 70 of European descent. My point of difference is that I am amongst the 7 people who use another language – this includes using New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL). Fabulous to have NZSL recognised here as a language after all it is one of NZ’s official languages.

Something was missing. A feeling of discomfort came over me. That something was me and the other 24% of all New Zealanders who experience disability – important data collected in the very same census.

Yet we were not included in the village of 100 people.

In a village of 100 people 24 will experience disability.   A large minority group in NZ yet not acknowledged as members of the village.

Let’s recognise these 24 citizens in New Zealand’s village. This is what ENNOBLE intends to do.