#25 Accessibility in the Asian Community

Yesterday, Be. attended the 10th annual TANI (The Asian Network Inc) Forum on Health and Wellbeing in Auckland and it provided some extremely interesting bhojan ('food' in Hindi) for thought.

Be.'s table at the TANI health and disability forumIn itself, disability can be an extremely multi-faceted topic. However layered on top of this are a multitude of different cultural perspectives about disability and accessibility. There is a large number of New Zealanders who find themselves belonging to both the Asian and disability communities, and it can be difficult to navigate the path to meaningful participation in society when you are a member of not one, but two minority groups.

The stigma around disability in the Asian community is still a very difficult thing for many families with disabled members to overcome, however organizations like TANI are working to change these attitudes and behaviors to promote a fully inclusive and accessible country for us all.

Paul Gibson speaking at the forumAt the forum today, we were lucky enough to hear presentations from Tania Thomas, Deputy Commissioner at the Health and Disability Commissioner's Office; Professor Shanthi Ameratunga from the University of Auckland, and Paul Gibson, Commissioner for Disability Rights at the Human Rights Commission. These inspiring people covered the history of disability in New Zealand, and highlighted the hope for young Asian people with disabilities in the future.


The delicious feast!After a morning of presentations followed by some amazing Asian cuisine, we worked in workshop groups to answer three key questions. These are listed below, along with some of the suggestions from the group.  We encourage you to think of your own answers to these questions!

What are the strengths of the Asian communities that will assist in changing attitudes and behavior towards people with disabilities?

  1. Their collectivist approach to life provides the basis for a great support system.
  2. Migrant families are often very resilient and determined to build a great life.
  3. Young Asian people adopt new concepts and ideas quickly.
  4. Asian families have great aspirations for their children which could be manifested into limitless possibilities for those with disabilities.

How can service providers and the community best support people with a range of disabilities from the Asian community?

  1. Disability organizations could explore the possibility of bringing on board a 'cultural advisor' who can bridge the gap between their organization and the Asian community.
  2. Translate all information into a range of languages so that it is easily accessible to all people.
  3. Provide more cultural education to service providers so that they know how to communicate with the Asian community around disability issues, while still respecting their cultural beliefs.
  4. Encourage more young Asian students to study health and disability issues at University so that we are ensuring their representation in the sector in the future.

What would New Zealand look like once disabled people in the Asian community are fully supported?

  1. Inclusive and caring.
  2. Family members with disabilities would be embraced.
  3. Asian role-models with disabilities would be profiled on mainstream media.
  4. There would be a more visible presence of people with disabilities from the Asian community.
  5. Everyone would feel a sense of belonging in New Zealand, regardless of their abilities or culture.

With 31% of the Asian community being between the ages of 15-24, they represent a large portion of New Zealand's future generation who will be parents of children with disabilities, workers in the disability sector, or access citizens themselves.

So we applaud the work that TANI is doing to ensure that New Zealand is fully accessible to all people.

Xie xie! (Thank you!)

Click here to go to the TANI Website