Making citizenship and rights real in the lives of people with intellectual disabilities

IHC will advocate for the rights, inclusion and welfare of all people with intellectual disabilities and support them to live satisfying lives in the community.

Without a doubt there have been significant advances for people with intellectual disability in New Zealand, but progress has not been good enough. We have a long way to go before we can say people with intellectual disabilities are living valued and good lives as citizens.

Too often people with disabilities are positioned as ‘other’, are seen as a ‘burden’ and experience persistent disadvantage. A lack of data recorded at a government level must be addressed. We want people with intellectual disabilities to count and be counted.

There’s much to be done. Here IHC identifies some first step indicators that would demonstrate people with intellectual disabilities are living valued and equal lives.

All New Zealanders share the responsibility to promote and protect citizenship and rights

Belonging & being connected – Community and family life

  • Individuals and families and whānau feel welcomed and connected in their communities
  • Children have the same rates of participation as non-disabled children in activities such as spending time with friends, being invited to birthday parties, joining clubs, taking part in school life, being a member of sports teams, going on family holidays
  • Adults have the same rates of participation as their non-disabled peers in social, recreational, leisure, cultural and sporting activities, in study and work, as members of community groups and in volunteering
  • Families receive necessary supports so children stay living with family and whānau.

Communicating & self-determination – Supports and safeguards

  • Everyone’s voice is heard and preferences known
  • People have necessary supports for decisionmaking in ways that work best for them
  • There is a shift from substitute to supported decision-making with a reduction in the involvement of the Family Court in people’s lives
  • New Zealand is compliant with United Nations conventions of the Rights of People with Disabilities CRPD Article 12 obligations


  • People with intellectual disabilities are identified as a priority population group, reflected in the New Zealand Health Strategy and Ministry of Health policy
  • Disparities in access to healthcare and health outcomes are reduced
  • Fewer people die from preventable causes
  • Life expectancy increases

We’ll know we are making progress towards getting it right when:

Preschool and school years

  • Children with developmental delay/intellectual disability participate at same rates as their non-disabled peers in early childhood education
  • All students with an intellectual disability have access to the curriculum and are achieving quality learning outcomes
  • All students get the support and accommodations they need
  • Stand-downs, suspensions and exclusion for disability related issues disappear
  • Schools and teachers are adequately resourced and supported

Work and having enough money to pay for things and get around

  • People have an adequate income to allow quality of life
  • Everyone gets help to find work regardless of how many hours of work they are seeking
  • The number of people in paid employment increases
  • People aren’t penalised for working (don’t lose part of their benefits or allowances)
  • Transport costs are factored in to disability support funding
  • The number of people with intellectual disability in paid employment in government agencies is proportional to general population

Embedding rights and fair systems

  • Individuals and families are able to self direct and organise supports and services in ways that work best for them
  • Funding models kick in early and are triggered by opportunities for learning, independence and participation
  • Resource allocation processes including upfront indicative budgets are transparent
  • Rights are not ignored or watered down
  • Fairness is not compromised by budgets


Starting in 2017 IHC will work with others to report annually on progress, achievements and shortfalls in making citizenship and rights real for people with intellectual disability and their families and whānau.

We will report against the Minister of Disability Issues Annual Report on the implementation of the New Zealand Disability Strategy and the monitoring framework that will be developed by the Office for Disability Issues to support the revision of the 2016 – 2026 Strategy.

You can play your part

Find out how to support people with intellectual disabilities and read the full report on Making Citizenship and Rights Real in the Lives of People with Intellectual Disabilities.

Things you might be interested in

IHC's Education Complaint

In 2008 IHC lodged a complaint with the Human Rights Commission. IHC’s complaint said that children with a range of disabilities experience discrimination at their local school.

Submissions to government

IHC makes submissions to government to make sure that the interests of people with intellectual disabilities are considered in proposed new laws/policies.


Our Library is free to use for anyone living in NZ. We have information on all aspects of intellectual disability, autism and other developmental disabilities.