In Gear | Rotary in Southern New Zealand In Gear - Issue 3 - Page 15

Around that time, the latest census information was released, and the stats came as a shock. Nearly one-in-four New Zealanders identified as disabled. Her lens instantly broadened even further, and her mission became fighting for the rights of all, whatever the disability, whatever the hurdle, to enjoy the access to education, and wider opportunities, she has had. “If something prevents you from engaging fully in society, for me, that means we’re in a community that’s facing barriers, and we need to remove those barriers,” Robbie says. “It doesn’t matter whether it’s psychological, psycho-social, mental health, physical, sensory – whatever it is, there are barriers. “There can be more stigma around mental health – my leg you can see. It’s anxiety, it’s depression – these things are affecting New Zealand communities on a huge scale. “What’s considered ‘normal state of mind’ and ‘normal state of body’ has essentially shut out an entire sector of society – if, for example, anxiety is not considered normal, if you have anxiety, you don’t fit into society’s box anymore. “There’s a word for it – ‘ableism’. We recognise racism, sexism, but ‘ableism’ is prioritising a certain ability; so, a sound state of mind, a normal body. That’s ‘ableism’. ‘Disablism’ is the discrimination against those who don’t fit those terms.” And, Robbie’s in no doubt about where the responsibility lies in shifting the balance. “It’s about society changing its perceptions rather than trying to change the individual to suit something that society considers normal.” We will have a crisis on our hands if we don’t change our attitudes.” In this toget