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Published Friday 1 May 2020

Capital & Coast, Hutt Valley and Wairarapa DHBs have been improving access to information for people living with disabilities across the Wellington region.

While the COVID-19 outbreak has been a stressful time for everyone, many of us take for granted the ability to easily access the latest information about the pandemic and changing alert levels.

Our Disability Team has been busy working to keep communities in the Hutt Valley, Capital & Coast and Wairarapa DHB regions well-informed by ensuring information, announcements and documents about COVID-19 are accessible to people with disabilities.

“There’s nothing worse than not knowing what’s going on around you. It’s really important that everyone in the community is equally informed about what is happening,” says Rachel Noble, Disability Strategy Manager across all three DHBs.

The team have played a key role in making DHB information accessible and two people from the team were seconded to the Ministry of Health to ensure that key information about the pandemic is written in easy read visual formats, accessible to screen reader technology, and translated into sign language.

These resources are being distributed to specific communities and made available on our websites so that so people can stay informed.  They have also been working with our wider planning and clinical teams to ensure that information about processes such as COVID-19 testing is clear.

Read the latest panui from the Disabilty team

IPads in the emergency departments in our hospitals are connected to the national New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) video interpreting service. Local NZSL Interpreters are also available to interpret appointments for Deaf people via Zoom.

“We’ve seen the sign language interpreters working with PM Jacinda Ardern and Dr Ashley Bloomfield every day when they give their updates. I think that illustrates the need for all people to be able to access the information at the same time” says Rachel Noble.

The wider team has been learning a lot about the disability community during this time and the Disability team plan to use this as a springboard for more improvements.

 “We are very motivated to keep focusing on the things that have been highlighted during the COVID period.”

This includes things such as ensuring frontline medical staff have a nominated person who knows sign language or understands more about disability rights who can communicate with disabled patients.

The team is also hoping that COVID-19 has raised awareness about some of the day-to-day realities experienced by people with disabilities.

“A lot of people have struggled to adapt to the isolation during the COVID-19 period. But for disabled people, this is the norm.”

“Some elements of lockdown have actually been very beneficial for disabled people. For example, being able to do shopping online and having the flexibility to work from home”

“There is actually nervousness about going back to normal because some of the things that have made life more equitable will stop.”

  “We can’t change the world overnight but we can make small adjustments and there’s always  people who are willing to be part of creating the change.”

More information

Access documents from the all of government website

Access information from Capital and Coast DHB and Hutt Valley DHB

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