Disability laws and rights

Person lobbying for equal rightsWhat are rights?

Human rights are what people need to live with dignity and enjoy freedom. All people have human rights, including all people with disabilities.

Nobody has more or less human rights than anyone else. People have human rights no matter their race, religion, gender or nationality.

People with disabilities have the right to:

  • Be treated as equals
  • Choose where to live and who to live with
  • Go to school and choose where they go to school
  • Vote
  • Have children
  • Be part of their community
  • Work and choose what work to do

Everyone is equally entitled to human rights without discrimination.

Your rights in New Zealand

There are two pieces of legislation that promote and protect your rights. One is the Human Rights Act 1993, and the other is the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990.

The Human Rights Act protects people in New Zealand from discrimination in a number of areas of life. Discrimination happens when a person is treated unfairly or less favourably than another person in the same circumstances. It also set up the Human Rights Commission.

The New Zealand Bill of Rights Act sets out a range of civil and political rights, including among other things, the right to freedom of expression, the right to religious belief, the right to freedom of movement, and the right to be free from discrimination.

There are a number of organisations who can help you understand your rights:

What about the UN Convention? What about the Disability Strategy? How do they fit in?

Great question.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is the first human rights convention of the 21st century. Read more

The New Zealand Disability Strategy provides a framework that enables the government to begin removing the barriers that prevent disabled people from participating fully in society. There are 15 Objectives, and over 100 action points. Read more

Find more information

  • Making it easy to get the right service and Tell someone! - DVDs from the Health and Disability Commissioner. One is an overview of the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers' Rights and other is about rights for people living in residential homes
  • YouthLaw Tino Rangatiratanga Taitamariki - a community law centre for children and young people throughout New Zealand. Contact the free Legal Advice Line (Monday-Friday, 10am-4pm) on 0800 884 529 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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