Rights and Protections

Rights and Protections

This section provides links to services, resources and information about rights and protections for disabled people. For localised information please contact your nearest Disability Information Centre.

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Your Rights

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This is about the laws, policies and actions that protect the rights of disabled persons. There are many ways to ensure rights are protected and we will focus on some of the main ones here.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

The United Nations Convention is about the human rights of disabled people. You may also hear it referred to as the UNCRPD.

What are human rights?

These are the basic rights and freedoms belonging to all people — to be treated fairly and equally, with respect and dignity. Human rights are also about how a government ought to treat its people. Such rights ensure that all people can:

  • be safe and protected from hurt
  • make their own decisions
  • have a good life
  • be involved in their community and society

What is the UNCRPD?

All over the world, disabled people do not have the same access to human rights that other people do. The UN Convention is a worldwide human-rights agreement. It makes the human rights of disabled people clearer. The convention does not give disabled people new human rights. It makes clear that they have the same rights as everyone else. It tells governments how to remove barriers and make sure disabled people have access to their rights.


What does the UNCRPD mean for New Zealand?

New Zealand signed the Convention in 2007 and adopted it in September 2008. New Zealand also agreed to the Optional Protocol (additional agreement) to the UN Convention which ensures people are able to make a complaint if their rights are not upheld.


What does the UNCRPD say?

The Convention aims to protect the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of disabled people. The Convention gives governments practical information on how to ensure rights for disabled people. This includes guidance on making health, education, and other services accessible, such as by providing mobility aids, helpful technologies and ‘easy read’ information.


Who checks that New Zealand is protecting the rights of disabled persons?

The UN Convention says any country that ratifies it must set up an independent checking process. In New Zealand, this involves the Human Rights Commission, the Office of the Ombudsmen, and disabled peoples’ organisations through the Disabled Persons Organisations (DPO) Coalition. The DPO Coalition comprises eight DPOs and provides an important voice for disabled people.


The DPOs who make up the coalition are:

  • Blind Citizens New Zealand
  • Balance Aotearoa
  • Deaf Aotearoa New Zealand
  • Deafblind (NZ) Incorporated
  • Disabled Persons Assembly (New Zealand) Inc
  • Muscular Dystrophy Association of New Zealand
  • Ngäti Käpo o Aotearoa Inc
  • People First New Zealand Inc.


How can I get a copy of the UN Convention?

The full Convention and some summaries of the Convention are available on audiotape and in Braille, full English, plain English, Easy Read, Te Reo Māori, Māori Easy Read, New Zealand Sign Language and a range of Pacific languages. A summary for children is also available.

You can find all of these on the Human Rights Commission’s website:

Information is also available on ODI website: and the United Nations website:

The Health & Disability Services Code of Consumer Rights

The Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers' Rights (the Code) establishes the rights of people using health and disability services, and the obligations and duties of providers to comply with the Code. It is a regulation under the Health and Disability Commissioner Act which became law on 1 July 1996.

Who is covered by the Code?

The Code applies to health and disability service providers who are providing health and disability services to people, regardless of whether or not those services are paid for.

The Code also applies to hospitals and other health and disability institutions, and allows the Commissioner to enquire into system issues.

"Disability services" includes goods, services, and facilities provided to people with disabilities for:

  • their care or support; or
  • to promote their independence; or
  • for related or incidental purposes.

A disability service provider is any individual or organisation who provides, or holds themselves out as providing, disability services.

"Health services" are defined in the Act, and health service providers include all registered health professionals, such as doctors, nurses, and dentists. Providers also include people who hold themselves up as providing health services that may be considered outside the mainstream of medical practice, such as naturopaths, homeopaths, and acupuncturists.

What are my rights as a health and disability service user?

The Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers' Rights provides the following10 rights:

Right 1

The right to be treated with respect

Right 2

The right to freedom from discrimination, coercion, harassment, and exploitation. 

Right 3

The right to dignity and independence.

Right 4

The right to services of an appropriate standard.

Right 5

The right to effective communication.

Right 6

The right to be fully informed.

Right 7

The right to make an informed choice and give informed consent.

Right 8

The right to support.

Right 9

Rights in respect of teaching or research.

Right 10

The right to complain.


How do I make a complaint about a breach of my Rights?

The Health & Disability Commission investigates complaints under the Code. Every complaint is unique and is assessed very carefully, considering the issues you raise and the evidence available.

You can find out about the Complaint Process on the HDC website


The ACC Code of Claimants Rights

The Code of Claimants Rights outlines what your rights are when you are dealing with ACC (but does not cover issues relating to entitlement).

As an ACC claimant you have the right to be treated fairly and with dignity and respect. You have the right to have a support person with you (eg, if you need to meet with ACC over a complaint) and to be fully informed about what is happening with your claim.


What are the ACC Claimants Rights?

The Code explains your right to: 

  • be treated with dignity and respect
  • be treated fairly and have your views considered
  • have your culture, values and beliefs respected
  • a support person or persons
  • effective communication
  • be fully informed
  • have your privacy respected
  • make a complaint.


ACC also have a responsibility to make sure you know about your right to:

  • be involved in any decisions made about your recovery
  • ask for more information about the Accident Compensation Act 2001 and the Code of ACC Claimants’ Rights.

A full copy of the Code can be found here


How can I make a complaint under the Code?

If you feel your rights under the Code have been breached, you can:

  • raise the problem at a local level with the person you have been dealing with at ACC, or with that person’s manager, or
  • lodge a complaint with ACC‘s complaints service, the Office of the Complaints Investigator. This must be done using the ACC‘s own ACC Code Complaint Form. It does not cost anything to make a complaint.


Where can I get help with ACC queries?

Community Law Centres throughout New Zealand can assist you. They have a wealth of information on their website:

Wayfinders is a navigation service that can assist people making ACC claims.


Other Rights Protection

There are a number of rights and protections for New Zealanders. For example, if you feel your Privacy has been breached you can complain to the Privacy Commissioner.

If you believe you have been discriminated against because of your ethnicity or a wide range of things such as religion, age, gender etc. you can contact the Human Rights Commission.

Children’s rights are defined and protected by the Children’s Commissioner

If you are renting the place you live in you have rights as a tenant under the Residential Tenancies Act 1986

If you are employed you have rights which you can read about here:

If you need further information or support please contact your nearest Disability Information Centre or Citizens Advice Bureau  or Community Law Centre

Decision Making

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This is about the rights people have to make their own decisions and the ways they can be supported to explore, discover and choose what makes a good life for them.

Supported decision making

Let’s look at how those with complex disabilities, who are non-verbal or who have severe cognitive impairment, are able to make choices about what is important to them. We will also look at the role parents/family/whanau have in providing a 'voice' for their disabled loved one.


What is supported decision making?

“Supported Decision Making” is when family, friends or other people help a person with a disability think more about small and big decisions and their consequences. When people think more about a decision they can make a choice, which will either give them what they want, or they can avoid situations they don’t want.


Article 12 UN Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

The United Nations Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities aims to protect and uphold the rights of disabled persons. Article 12 of the Convention says that all people, no matter what their disability is, have full legal rights, just like non-disabled people do. As a state party to the Convention, Aotearoa New Zealand has to make sure people have this right.  


How can Article 12 be actioned?

  • Making sure that people are assisted to make their own decisions using supported decision making;
  • Changing laws so that people with disabilities can make their own decisions;
  • Making sure that people are not stopped from making their own decisions because of their disability;
  • Making sure that decisions are based on what people want (their will and preference) and not what other people think is best for them (best interests).


Does it apply to everyone with a disability?

The people who have most often been stopped from making their own decisions are people with developmental and learning disabilities, dementia, acquired brain injuries, and mental distress. Most people agree that the UNCRPD is a good thing but some think that we still need laws that allow decisions to be made for people with disabilities by other people, whether or not the person agrees with the decisions. This is called substitute decision-making. New Zealand has laws that allow substitute decision-making. The UNCRPD is making us look at those laws to see if they should stay the same or be changed.


Who decides if I am capable of making my own decisions?

There are a number of different ways in which you might lose your legal ability to make decisions for yourself. You might, for example, develop a mental illness, which affects your ability to make decisions while you are unwell. Or you might have a serious car accident and suffer a brain injury, with permanent or temporary effects.

It could also be that you have had a learning disability since birth, and that you’re now approaching your 18th birthday. Your parents’ powers, as your legal guardians, to make decisions on your behalf will come to an end when you turn18 – if they want to continue to have that legal power, they will need to apply to the Family Court for it to appoint them to be your “welfare guardian” under the Protection of Personal and Property Rights Act.

In all these different cases, the approach of New Zealand law is to first establish whether you are or are not considered “mentally capable”.

If, in your particular case, it’s established that you’re not mentally capable then your powers to make decisions for yourself will be transferred to some other person. The PPPR Act does contain some requirement for the disabled person to participate in decision making as far as practicable and to the greatest extent possible.

When and how could your decision-making powers get transferred to someone else?

If your ability to make decisions for yourself is in doubt, then there are two main ways that someone else could legally have the power to make decisions on your behalf:

If you have previously made a special legal document called an “enduring power of attorney” (EPA), and an event occurs then the person you have chosen to make decisions for you, your “attorney” can step in to make decisions. If you haven’t made an EPA, meaning that no-one has been given the legal power to make decisions for you, people close to you can get the courts involved. They can apply to the Family Court for the court to make decisions for you, or for the judge to appoint someone else to make decisions on your behalf.


Enduring Power of Attorney

An Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA) is a legal way to transfer your decision making powers to someone else in the event that you are unable to make decisions yourself.


Types of EPA

You can have an EPA for your personal care and welfare and/or one for your property. You can appoint one person to be your personal care and welfare attorney but you can have two attorneys for your property EPA. The person, or persons, you appoint as your attorneys must act in your best interests and ensure you are as involved in decision making as you can be.


EPAs for personal care and welfare

The person you appoint as your personal care and welfare attorney will be able to decide things like where you live, and whether you’ll have a medical procedure that’s been recommended by your doctor.

Your attorney can start making small decisions for you when, in their opinion, you’re no longer capable of making them yourself. For bigger decisions – like whether you should go into residential care, or have a major medical operation– a professional person needs to assess you and decide you are “incapable”.

There are some extreme things an attorney is never allowed to do, like adopt out your children, or refuse medical treatment on your behalf.


Property EPAs

You can say in the EPA when your attorney will start making decisions for you. It might be right away, when you’re still “capable” but would rather not do things for yourself, or it might be only when you become “incapable”.

You can appoint a trustee company (like Public Trust) as your attorney if you want, rather than an individual. You can also appoint more than one person as property attorneys.

You can decide what kinds of things your property attorney will be able to do for you. It might be quite a small number of things or just one thing, such as managing a rental property for you – or it might be everything, including potentially selling your house or investing your money.

If you are the parent of a disabled child, you will need to apply to the court if you believe you should continue to make decisions for your child after they turn 18. The court will need to be satisfied that your child is totally unable to make or communicate decisions about how they should be looked after.

Your EPA doesn’t carry on after you die. So that means your property attorney doesn’t automatically become the executor of your will.

You can find out more about Enduring Power of Attorney by contacting your nearest Disability Information Centre or through the Public Trust  

Assistance and Advocacy

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Assistance and advocacy

There are several organisations that can assist disabled people to ensure their rights are met. In this section we will look at some of them.

Auckland Disability Law (ADL)

Provides free legal services to disabled people for legal issues associated with their disability and is the only specialist disability law community law centre in Aotearoa New Zealand.

ADL provides legal education on disability law in the community and within disability and legal organisations. They work with the Disability and Deaf communities through community engagement and law reform activities. http://aucklanddisabilitylaw.org.nz/

Community Law Centres

Specialise in helping people who can’t afford legal advice, and who are vulnerable in some way. They run workshops, provide easy-read information and offer free, individual legal advice.

They can help with things like tenancy disputes, employment disputes, human rights issues and health-related issues. https://communitylaw.org.nz/

The Personal Advocacy and Safeguarding Adults Trust

Provides a range of safeguarding services and supports for Adults with care and support needs in New Zealand.

These include Supported Decision Making support and training, short term advocacy and life-long advocacy, and a coordinated inter-agency response for Adults at Risk.

The Trust offers parents and other interested persons an opportunity to invest in peace of mind for the future through membership and enrolment. The Trust also extends support to people not enrolled in the Trust. http://www.patrust.net.nz/home-page/

Health and Disability Advocacy Service

Offers free, independent, and confidential advice and support to help you resolve issues with health and disability services.

Advocates are available to let you know about your rights, answer your questions and talk through your options for making a complaint. They will support you through the whole process. https://advocacy.org.nz/

Other Services

There are many localised services that can assist with advocacy for rights issues. Contact your nearest Disability Information Centre to find out about these.