The Disabled Persons Assembly 1983-1999 : successes, challenges and lessons for the disability movement in New Zealand : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree Master of Social Work (MSW), Massey University

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This thesis presents a case study of the development of the Disabled Persons Assembly (New Zealand) Inc. since its inception in 1983. The research methodology used was the topical life history approach. Archival research and an analysis of relevant policy documents, which contextualize this history, accompany the life history approach. Participants worked through a semi-structured interview schedule with the researcher. A range of topics was explored, including participants' views of the organisation's philosophy, goals and objectives, successful projects undertaken by the organisation, its leadership, current issues for the disability movement and future directions for the Disabled Persons Assembly. It is argued here that the Disabled Persons Assembly has been a focal point for the disability movement in New Zealand, and provided this movement with an organisational structure. An analysis of the development of the Disabled Persons Assembly is presented that incorporates reflections and interpretations from the six National Presidents (or their surviving spouses) from 1983 to the present. The participants provided personal knowledge of events that occurred at different times during the organisation's history. This thesis provides an insight into the significant contributions that these people have made to both the organisation and the wider disability movement, showing that each approached their term of presidency with a passion and strong commitment to working with others to achieve and uphold the rights of disabled people. Social Construction Theory, Social Oppression Theory and the work of Michel Foucault have guided the development of theoretical frameworks used to analyse the data. An analysis of the organisational development of the Disabled Persons Assembly identifies challenges that the organisation and its leadership addressed as it continued to grow. It is argued that from 1993 onwards the Disabled Persons Assembly leaders have focused on developing and maintaining the infrastructure in order for the organisation to survive. This coupled with a lack of ongoing debate around definitions of disability and a lack of clarity of the organisation's own analysis of disability has resulted in an overall lack of direction. In conclusion this thesis argues that the challenge for the Disabled Persons Assembly is to reposition itself in order to again take a leading role within a vibrant, challenging disability movement that is working for social change.
Disabled Persons Assembly (N.Z.), People with disabilities, Disabled persons