Young Leaders Champion Accessibility at Youth Parliament #NZYP16

7th August 2016

Youth MP briefing with (left to right) Vivien Huang, Youth MP, Aaron Dahman, Youth MP, and Ezekiel Robson, Jono Heaps and Aine Kelly Costello, Blind Foundation membersOn 19th and 20th of July 121 Youth MPs from across the country took over Parliament for Youth Parliament 2016. These young New Zealanders had the opportunity to sit on select committees, ask oral parliamentary questions of the Ministers and even debate and vote on mock legislation.

What is really exciting about this year’s Youth Parliament is that the mock bill that was debated on by this group of teenagers was legislation around web and app accessibility- the first time youth parliament anywhere around the world have debated on accessibility legislation!

You can read the mock bill here.

Be. Leadership Alumnus Ezekiel Robson was involved with briefing the Youth MPs on the legislation on behalf of the Blind Foundation. We asked him to tell us more about this momentous occasion.

Ezekiel told us:
Louisa Wall, Labour MP for Manurewa and Chairperson of the Multi-Party Parliamentary Steering Committee which developed the topics for Youth Parliament, invited us to meet with her and her selected Youth MP Chloe Destrieux. Dianne Rogers (Blind Foundation policy manager) and I were able to explain some of the issues surrounding the aims of the mock bill.
Louisa then asked if we would be able to attend Parliament on the morning of 20th July to speak to all 121 Youth MPs before they voted on the mock bill.
Following the briefing was the debate with speeches from 30 Youth MPs who each had 3-minutes to support or oppose the legislation.
There were lots of compelling arguments for the bill -

  • They talked about the value of equality and egalitarianism and how this has defined who we are as a country
  • Some argued that it was a human rights issue
  • Others brought up the notion of freedom -to enjoy life the same as other people
  • Others talked about freedom to access information, education and work opportunities
Those against spoke of the financial cost and unintended consequences that might come about by making higher standards mandatory.
The Youth MPs had the opportunity to make a conscience vote, which means that they could vote according to their own personal conscience rather than according to an official line set down by their political party.
The mock bill was passed 89 for 30 against.
There was lots of social media activity around it with the hashtag #NZYP16- it was even picked up on internationally which is really amazing- maybe it will have a ripple effect around the world! The Youth Press gallery really got into it, even posting videos of themselves!

For me this was an excellent opportunity to test run the conversation, to learn what some of the key challenges are going to be if and when we get a real bill like this to parliament.

What was interesting was that the Youth MPs really got the issue. Because they are digital natives themselves, they understand how we buy goods, enlist services, socialise with friends, entertain and inform ourselves- this is all through technology. This made it very relatable for them, as they know that it’s how we live nowadays. They were shocked and disappointed that barriers existed and that a significant number of people are missing out- and the overwhelming majority wanted it changed.
It was so exciting to see our future leaders debating around an accessibility issue. It really brought home that if we want to get to a point where access needs are a mainstream concern we have to speak to the leaders of tomorrow in ways they can relate to their lives.

You can read more about the discussion in this article from Youth Press Gallery member Nilam Patel

And more about the genesis of the mock legislation here: