Around 17 percent of all New Zealanders have a disability. Many of these people are unable to participate fully in the community because of barriers they face on a daily basis. These barriers range from physical barriers, such as the ability to access a building or cross a road with ease, to attitudinal barriers imposed by others. In 2001 the New Zealand Government adopted a New Zealand Disability Strategy to guide government action and to promote a more inclusive society. Whilst there is no legal requirement for local authorities to give effect to the New Zealand Disability Strategy, the Strategy does acknowledge that local authorities have a significant impact on the lives of disabled people by the decisions they make. We agree with this view and for that reason, in 2012 the Thames-Coromandel District Council decided to develop a Disability Strategy for our District. Although we recognise that as Council we have a significant impact on the lives of disabled people, we also acknowledge that there are many positive and meaningful services being provided already by community and social organisations within the local disability sector. We would like to work alongside existing service and support providers to improve accessibility for disabled people in our District and better enable their full participation in society by addressing barriers where they exist. Disabled people have the same basic rights and freedoms belonging to all people - to be treated fairly and equally, with respect and dignity. Everyone has a right to: Be safe and protected from hurt Make their own decisions Have a good life Be involved in their community and society. This is clarified in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (Disability Convention) which guides governments on how to remove barriers and make sure disabled people have "full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms". The New Zealand Government (along with the governments of many other countries) has agreed to follow the Disability Convention. We recognise that as a local governing body, we have a part to play in upholding the rights of disabled people in our communities. This strategy has been developed collaboratively with a wide range of individuals, groups and organisations in the local disability sector, including individuals whom have lived experience of disability. We value and consider this input essential to the development, implementation and monitoring of our Disability Strategy to ensure it is relevant and will make a meaningful difference for disabled people in the Thames-Coromandel District.