Aerial view of a notepad on a wooden desk, with a cup of coffee, a pen, eye-glasses and a plant beside it. Written at the top of the notebook in large handwriting is 2024. There are four items written below the heading, with check boxes. These are: Exercise etiquette, Eat better info, Invest in sharing and Increase earnings.

Four New Year’s Resolutions for 2024 – The Accessibility Version

A blog by Harriette Morgan

As we move forward into a new year, we’ve got a tradition of making resolutions with the goal of improving our lives in one way or another. The New Zealand Herald wrote in 2023 about a survey which reports that 88% of New Zealanders make New Year’s Resolutions.

Some of the most common New Year’s Resolutions for New Zealanders are exercise more, eat better, invest in shares, and increase earnings. So, let’s flip these and make them about accessibility!

1.    Exercise Etiquette

If you’ve not been around a disabled person, that you know of, you might feel awkward about what to say or do. The simple etiquette rule to exercise is act the way you always do. Disabled people are just that, people. We want you to talk to us, not our support person, not our guide, not our interpreter, and, despite this happening before, definitely not our service dog!

Another general etiquette rule is don’t touch our stuff. And by stuff, I mean our mobility aids or our body. You wouldn’t grab the arm of a non-disabled person to help the cross the street, so don’t do it to a blind or low-vision person. They know how to cross the street. Don’t try and be helpful and start pushing someone’s wheelchair without asking them, you could do more damage and injure them. Wheelchair users know how to navigate their wheelchair, so let them.

I know you mean well but leave them be. Unless they ask you for help, treat them like any other person. Exercise your awesome personality and just be you.

2.    Eat Better Information

This one is kind of self-explanatory. Everyone knows not to believe everything they read on the internet, and yet, it’s so easy to get caught up in the latest trend or the language we see on social media.

The best way to eat, or consume, better information around accessibility, disability, neurodiversity, and inclusion is to get it right from the source. People who have lived experience and people who work in this sector.

We have a page on our Member’s Area (for those of you who belong to an NZDEN Member Organisation) of Disability and Neurodiversity Influencers and Organisations. For those of you that aren’t members, here’s some key NZ companies and people to follow:

  • Whaikaha (Ministry of Disabled People) on LinkedIn
  • Disabled Persons Assembly NZ on LinkedIn
  • NZDEN on LinkedIn or Facebook
  • Julie Woods (That Blind Woman) on LinkedIn
  • Stew Sexton (Senior Accessibility Advisor, Parliamentary Services) on LinkedIn
  • Paula Tesoriero (CE of Whaikaha) on LinkedIn or X (Twitter)
  • Callum McKirdy (ADHD Speaker, Advocate, and Coach) on LinkedIn
  • Sonja Eriksen (Principal Disability Advisor for MSD) on LinkedIn
  • Prudence Walker (Kaihautū Tika Hauātanga Disability Rights Commissioner) on LinkedIn
  • Mojo Mathers (CE of Disabled Persons Assembly) on Facebook
  • Phil Turner (CE of NZDEN) on LinkedIn
  • Rachael Parkinson-Turner (Communications, Marketing, and Events Manager NZDEN) on LinkedIn

3.    Invest in Sharing

This is a deceptively easy one. It’s about sharing and opening up, which sounds so simple but it’s not.

Putting your hand up and saying, “I’m disabled” or “I have ADHD” or “I’m Dyslexic”, for example, is not easy. Sharing a part of yourself in a world that stigmatises disability and doesn’t understand invisible/hidden disabilities or neurodiversities can be disconcerting. I get it, it’s scary. Especially if your workplace isn’t a safe space for you to disclose. (That’s where we come in! The NZDEN will help your organisation become that safe accessible space).

If you can share your story, of your disability and/or neurodiversity (or that of a loved one or close friend), you can contribute to helping someone else feel safe enough to share theirs.

Humans are social creatures by nature, we like to share. It’s a way of connecting with each other and forming a bond. If I say “hey, I’m a Crusaders fan” and you’re wearing Blues shirt, we can have a conversation about rugby, and guess what? We’ve connected. It could be a brief connection, it could be that we discuss rugby whenever we see each other at work events. It doesn’t matter, what matters is that it’s sharing and it’s connection.

That’s what needs to happen with disability and neurodiversity. Sharing and connection. You share your story and I share mine, she shares hers, and he shares his, and they share their’s. Without each other we wouldn’t be such a big, beautiful, unique, diverse community. Without sharing we don’t know that we’re part of this community, and why would you want to miss out on that?

4.       Increase Earnings

Now the kind of earnings I’m going to talk about here are not monetary. Sure, everybody would like a better salary but that’s not something I can influence. What I can do is talk about earning knowledge.

Yeah, I know, nowhere near as exciting as getting more money but infinitely more beneficial. Knowledge is power, people!

By earning more knowledge around disability, neurodiversity, and accessibility you’re going to make the world a lot better for everybody. I know it sounds strange. How can catering to the 24% make life better for the 100%?

Well, it just does.

Making things accessible just makes things easier for those that don’t need the accessibility accommodations. Like, Siri or Alexa, they are virtual assistants (a fancy name for accessibility tools, in my humble opinion) and plenty of people use them disabled and non-disabled. If you really want to understand it more in depth, this blog isn’t the place for that, you should come along to our Disability Confidence for Leaders training (and no, you don’t have to be a member organisation to access this).

Earning knowledge can help you be a better co-worker, boss, friend, parent, sibling, person. I’m not saying you aren’t a good person now, but you can be better. We all can. In the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) sector things keep changing and growing. Meaning those of us who work in this space have to keep learning and growing and earning knowledge. Besides, having extra knowledge never hurt anyone, did it?

There you have it, four New Year’s Resolutions with an accessibility flip!

Diversity and inclusion are so important, we don’t want people to feel left out, isolated, or disconnected but so often disability and neurodiversity is left out of the DEI conversation.

I’d like you to think about your own New Year’s Resolutions, are you doing that? Good.

Now I’m going to ask, what’s your accessibility flip?