CCS Disability Action has a long history of providing disability services in New Zealand.

This is a very quick snapshot of some of the events that have led to the dynamic and innovative organisation we have today.

In 1916 and again in 1924/25, there were major polio epidemics in New Zealand. These epidemics had serious after effects on the health of children in New Zealand.

In 1930, Dr Alexander Gillies first spoke to the Wellington Rotary Club about the needs of the 5000 'crippled'First meeting of the NZ Crippled Children Society in 1935 children in New Zealand. In 1935, after some lobbying, Rotary launched the New Zealand Crippled Children Society.

The organisation was helped in its first year by a donation from Lord Nuffield of £60,000 and the gift of their home in Takapuna plus a £10,000 donation from Mr and Mrs Wilson. In 1935, 1069 'crippled' children were identified.

In 1936, the organisation advised that it was offering vocational training to people under the age of 21. Training for girls was given in the areas of dressmaking, millinery, shorthand and typing, domestic work and clerical work. Boys were given lathe-work, electrical work, accountancy, and wickerwork.

Wilson Home in 1943 - children in their beds outside in the sunIn 1937, it was acknowledged by the organisation tat 'native' crippled children and their families needed some assistance.

In 1941, Dr Gray of the Mental Hospitals Department outlined his views in relation to the 'problem' of children with cerebral palsy. He felt "...the problem could more or less be overcome by the provision of additional accommodation at the Templeton Farm Colony…” In other words, hiding them away!

In 1948, Dr Earl Carlson visited New Zealand and wrote a very important report for the New Zealand government about services to people with cerebral palsy. The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Rotorua was altered to make it suitable for 30 people with cerebral palsy to be 'admitted.' 

In 1954, a visiting therapist service was established. This allowed our staff to go out into their communities and visit the homes of children with physical disabilities - in remote rural areas the only access would sometimes be by bike.

Crippled children at Wanganui Hospital - taught flower work by the Wanganui Gardening Circle, 1939In 1958, the government were very proud to open the Pukeora Sanitorium "as a home for those young crippled men and women who may, in the main, be considered incurable.” At this time, throughout the country, there were over 7000 people of all ages receiving our services.

In 1962, a survey conducted by the Auckland Branch confirmed the "incidence of certain crippling conditions, particularly talipes, among the Maori race.”

In 1968, Russell Kerse was appointed as the first Services Advisor for the Society. At that time, the only people working in the community were female social workers!

Boys swimming at Invercargill Tepid Baths, 1967In 1973, the first issue of Access Magazine (this went nationwide) was produced and in 1974 the first 'Crippled Children Day' was held.

In 1976, the first accessible motel in New Zealand was opened - Huarahi in Rotorua was owned by CCS Disability Action.

Operation Mobility parking card - 1977In 1977, the mobility parking scheme was launched - it was known as Operation Mobility and in the space of two years over 3000 people had been issued with a mobility parking permit.

1981 was a huge year for disability in New Zealand. It was the International Year of Disabled Persons and  celebrations included New Zealand's first Telethon. The organisation launched some new services as well - the Kids Up the Road puppet programme did disability awareness training in schools and the Architectural Advisory Service could give advice on housing plans and accessibility.

What happened after 1981? So much we can't fit it all in!

We have only given you a quick look at some of the events and activities that have shaped our organisation.

Like to know more?

For more information about the history of CCS Disability Action contact the library - 0800 227 200 - or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The library also has a historical timeline of special education in New Zealand available.