Disability Discourse: NZ Minister Nicky Wagner’s comments & where do we go from here?


Hey guys! Firstly let me apologise for…well, looking
like this. In case you couldn’t tell, I wasn’t actually
planning on making this video, I was actually just getting ready for bed, but I’ve been
thinking about this for a couple of days now and it is really important to me to talk about
it. So let’s talk about it. As you can tell from the title of this video,
this is going to be about the Minister for Disability Issues, Nicky Wagner, in New Zealand,
and her recent Twitter comments about the disabled community. Um, I’m going to try really hard not to spend
too long talking about the initial comment and my feelings on it, because I feel like
that’s been done to death, and I’m going to try and focus more on what we can take from
this and, um, some of the good that I hope comes out of this. So, in case you haven’t seen it, I will put
the original Tweet by Nicky somewhere over here, just, you know, the usual, complaining
about having to spend time with the people that she is paid to spend time with, um, and
in case you weren’t aware, this Tweet was actually about meetings with disabled people
who took time out of their day to meet with her and talk with her about the future of
disability rights in New Zealand. So that’s a nice little tidbit there. Yeah, so obviously not a great comment. Really really insensitive, really disrespectful,
I’m sure that you all know the drill if you’re watching this video. So after that the Prime Minister of New Zealand,
Bill English made a comment – I won’t say apology, because it was definitely not an
apology – where he defended her, and here is that comment. Speaking for the disabled community, always
a good start. I actually didn’t know Bill English was disabled,
or that he could speak for all of us, so really surprised to find that out! Fantastic to have a disabled Prime Minister. Oh, no, wait. No, he’s not disabled, he just thinks that
he can speak for all of us, despite the fact that we were quite vocal about being offended
and thinking that what Nicky said was offensive, so…interesting. Anyway, after that Nicky made an apology on
Twitter, um, which…well, an “apology”, and here is the apology. Yeah, as I’m sure you can all recognise, this
is not actually an apology, this is a “I’m sorry if you were offended, and anyone would
have said the same thing, and like I guess I’m sorry if anyone’s feelings got hurt or
like anything? I didn’t mean it.” Um, so not an apology at all, not really appropriate
for the level of disrespect that the initial comment had in it. Okay, so that’s the saga to where we are now. So, um, obviously…I feel like my feelings
are pretty obvious on this, I think it was a really really terrible comment that she
made initially, and despite the fact that I do not think that she intended it maliciously,
I personally don’t think that that makes a difference. I think it’s almost worse that she was ignorant
rather than malicious, because it’s her job. She’s paid a lot of taxpayer money to be aware
of disability issues and to advocate for disabled people. She’s paid a lot. So the fact that she would just nonchalantly
throw this out there and not think anything of it really speaks volumes to her mindset
and how much she really understands and cares about disabled issues. There were so so many ways that she could
have worded this Tweet better and had it not be offensive at all. For example, “I wish we could have our meetings
out on the harbour today” or “wow, the harbour looks beautiful today”, you know, anything
that wasn’t specifically “I wish I wasn’t in these disability meetings right now”, you
know? Pretty easy. So my basic thought is: it’s your damn job. Like, come on, it’s your job. Please, it’s your job to care about us, please
just think. Think! God! Okay, I’m sorry. I said I wouldn’t talk too much about my feelings
on this, so that’s all, I just wanted to catch you up on the saga in case you hadn’t seen
some of it or all of it, so that’s what she said initially, and that’s been the response
from people. Uh, now I wanted to talk about some of the
things that have come out of this and some of the things that I hope will come out of
this. First of all, I am so so proud of New Zealand
for the way that people have been reacting to this. When I first saw this news article I was really
concerned to scroll down to the comments, I was very nervous, I thought I would see
a lot of negativity towards disabled people, I thought I would see a lot of people saying
that we were overreacting or that it wasn’t meant in any bad way, um, and I was just so
pleasantly surprised and really proud of the way that people reacted. So I wanted to say thank you, if anyone who
left a supportive comment or sent a supportive Tweet to people who were bringing this up
or like Stuff articles that were talking about this, just thank you so much. It meant the world to me to see all of those
supportive comments, and I’m sure there are a lot of other disabled people out there who
are very used to seeing negative comments on articles like this. It was just such a nice surprise and I’m really
really proud of the way that New Zealand has been handling this. Especially on Twitter, I feel like 100% of
the comments that I saw were really supportive and calling out this bullshit, I’m gonna call
it what it is, it was bullshit, it was a bullshit comment, it was a bullshit apology, and you
guys called that out and I couldn’t be prouder to be a New Zealander and to be a part of
people who are willing to call people out like that. So thank you. I was just so so happy to read that and it’s
often hard to read comments online for things like that. I’m sure that people have had experiences
similar to this, especially if you’re part of a minority or a disenfranchised group of
people, often the comments will be like “oh, harden up” or whatever, and there was really
so little of that. So something really positive that has come
out of this for me is seeing that people do understand disabled issues and disabled rights
and the need for a Disability Issues Minister to advocate for those rights, so thank you
from the bottom of my little disabled spoonie heart, thank you so so much for your support
and kindness and your lack of kindness towards Nicky Wagner, because it’s things like that
that really help to make change. It’s things like that that say that we won’t
put up with treatment like this, and we won’t put up with our government acting like this. So that’s the first really positive thing
that I think comes out of this, and if you were part of that, even if you just like shared
a post, like shared an article that was criticising Nicky’s comments, just thank you. You guys are freaking awesome and I’m so so
happy. Okay, so that’s the first positive thing. The second thing is not something that has
come out of this yet, but something that I hope could come out of this, and that is a
discussion about who represents who. I hope that makes sense, I’m gonna explain
it a little bit more, of course. So it’s pretty clear that we shouldn’t have
a non-Maori person for Minister for Maori Affairs, right? And we’re coming to the realisation now that
men shouldn’t be leading the discussion on women’s rights. So I think, by the same token, it’s not appropriate
for an abled person to be the Disability Issues Minister. It has become very clear, glaringly obvious
from this little exchange on Twitter that Nicky Wagner does not inherently understand
what it is like to be disabled and the issues that having a disability causes. It is very clear that while she might try
to understand, she might do her best, when she’s not thinking about it she doesn’t have
to think about it, and it slips her mind and she makes mistakes like this. When you’re disabled, it doesn’t slip your
mind. It’s always on your mind, you know? So why is an abled person representing disabled
people for all of New Zealand? So what I really hope comes out of this is
some sort of discussion about representation and why it’s really important to be represented
by people who are part of your community. An abled person should not be speaking for
disabled people. Just like Bill English had no right to say
that no one in the disability sector thought that Nicky Wagner was being offensive. He had no right to say that, and Nicky has
no right to speak for disabled people either. Of course no one disabled person has the right
to speak for all of us, but I myself would be much happier if someone with an actual
disability was representing us in parliament. So I think that’s something really important
to think about, and I really hope that this fairly egregious, uh, slip of the tongue,
or slip of the fingers I suppose, because she was typing, brings about some sort of
discussion on this, because as I mentioned, for other types of representation in parliament,
we wouldn’t allow this to happen, we wouldn’t let a member not from that group of people
represent that group of people, so I don’t really understand why disability is any different. So that’s my two cents. I’m sorry, I feel like I rambled a lot in
this video and I’m not gonna edit it because I’m tired, and, I don’t know, I feel like
it’s more genuine and authentic if I just talk to you guys like this. This is something that’s really close to my
heart, obviously, I’m a New Zealander and I’m disabled and this really struck close
to home because it just reiterated that, like I said before, when you’re an abled person,
you can just forget disabled issues. When you’re not actively thinking about them,
you can just forget about them, and I appreciate that abled people do try really hard to understand
and to keep it in their minds, but the thing is that it’ll never be as natural as it would
be for a disabled person who has to think about it all the time. So just some things to think about. Once again, I am so impressed by New Zealand’s
reaction to this whole thing, and I’m so so grateful for it, just…really overwhelmed
by all the positivity that is coming out of this, and yeah. Very very proud to be a New Zealander at the
moment. So, I hope to see some change in the near
future, I really hope that if we keep talking about this and keep saying that we’re not
happy with the “apology” or the excuses that we’re being given, I hope that we’ll see something
come out of this. And even if not, at least we know in future
that we don’t stand for things like this, and when – unfortunately, not if but when
– this happens again in the future, we’ll all be there and we’ll all be speaking out
about it. Once again, thank you so so much. I hope that this rambling has had some kind
of point, and yeah. I hope it’s been vaguely informative or interesting
to you. Thank you so much, I will talk to you guys
next time. Bye.