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Council urges government to ‘not forget about our people living with disabilities’

Monday 20 December 2021 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Economy, National

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Council urges government to ‘not forget about our people living with disabilities’
Mataiti Mataiti, the immediate past president of the Cook Islands National Disability Council (CINDC) and executive committee member of the Global Congress Network shows his communication assistance device. 21121004.

Ahead of the border reopening on January 13, 2022, the Cook Islands National Disability Council has called on the government “to not forget about our people living with disabilities”.

One in four people in Cook Islands lives with a disability, the last census shows.

Recently people with disability organisations on Rarotonga – Te Are Pa Metua, Te Kainga, Creative Centre, Te Vaerua, the Nukutere College Inclusive Unit – along with their families and friends met to celebrate International Day for People with Disabilities.

The members of the disability organisations performed joyful songs that resonated inside the St Joseph’s Community Hall. The performances received great applause from the appreciative audience.

The chairperson of the National Disability Council, Tuki Wright said: “This year we are celebrating the challenges, barriers and opportunities for people who live with disabilities in the context of a global pandemic.”

Te Are Pa Metua celebrate International Day for People with Disabilities. 21121002. Or 03.

Since March 2020, every person on earth has been impacted by drastic social, political, and economic change as a result of domestic and international responses to Covid-19, she said.

“And this year it should be recognised that people who live with disabilities are among the most affected population amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

“For the Cook Islands, it is a call to our government as it plans our country’s recovery and living life beyond Covid, to not forget about our people living with disabilities,” Wright said.

“Our Government has to be committed to build a truly inclusive society and support disabled people to live their lives to their fullest potential if we want to be prosperous.

The Nukutere College Inclusive Unit celebrates International Day for People with Disabilities. 21121008.

She said people with disabilities in the Cook Islands continue to experience barriers, not just in access to building environments – such as the Ministry of Justice court house – but also things like public transport, education, health, information, and communication services and events.

“Often their ability to live full lives and contribute to full capacity is blocked due to inaccessibility to spaces and people,” said Wright.

“This must change if we want leadership and participation of people with disabilities towards an inclusive and accessible a sustainable post Covid world.”

Mataiti Mataiti, a former member of the New Zealand Army and a keen Outward Bound instructor, was once one of the fittest men on Rarotonga until he suffered ciguatera fish poisoning in 2007 that left him paralysed on one side of his body.

The Creative Centre of Rarotonga perform for International Day for People with Disabilities earlier this month. 21121006

He is the immediate past president of the Cook Islands National Disability Council (CINDC) and is an executive committee member of the Global Congress Network, which advocates, assists and supports persons with disabilities.

Mataiti’s disabilities include limited speech and short vision, and he uses a computer to speak via an assistance device that has enabled him to “have a voice”.

“What an awesome day for all of us,” he wrote.

Mataiti would like to bring attention to the device he uses for communication.

“I use a talking phone sponsored by the Cooks foundation and the tablet was donated to me by one of my colleagues Kyle Mines, the CEO of Motivation Australia.

Veronica George from the Cook Islands Women and Girls with Disabilities Organisation performs an item using sign language. 21121001

“On this iPad are different apps; I don’t really use all of these apps but I do use the speaking device when I attend meetings, conferences and workshops or when I’m given the time to chair or make presentations.

“And on the other hand for example, in virtual/zoom meetings I don’t use the talking device, it’s just a matter of clicking onto the link of that meeting and once I’m in I use the chat box to communicate to my fellow colleagues in that zoom meeting whether it be here, regional or internationally… and I can access Facebook/Messenger, email, YouTube and Chrome, just to name a few.

“The talking app is called Predictable and I can change from a male, female or children’s voice.”

His only real difficulty is having to remember the passwords to use the iPad, “so I need to memorise each password otherwise I have to restart all over again, but the good side is that only me, myself Mataiti can get in and no one else.”

In September 2020, the Cook Islands National Disability Council urged Members of Parliament to remove any provision in the Crimes Bill that criminalises same sex relations.

It is time to recognise the rights of all people of the Cook Islands and show support and not exclusion, expressed the Council.