Disability in Health Impact Assessment
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
People with disabilities are a ‘disadvantaged’ group, not only due to their impairment, but also due to the formal and informal institutional inertia that they contend with in Western Societies. This disadvantage has been recognised and acknowledged in the social model of disability. This model understands that disability is a social construction placed on people with impairments. The Health Impact Assessment (HIA) is a tool which identifies inequities in policy, and is potentially a useful tool to aid the response of policy makers to the needs of people with disabilities. Arguably, the New Zealand HIA guidelines reflect the underlying principles of the social model of disability. Using a mixed methods research strategy, this thesis sets out to understand in a global context using a top-down quantitative analysis, to what extent the New Zealand HIA guidelines which acknowledge the social model of disability are translated into practice. It then subsequently investigates from a bottom-up qualitative perspective, what factors influence this relationship. It is argued in this thesis that there are barriers to translating the rhetoric about people with disabilities found in the HIA guidelines into practice. Three sets of inter-related barriers identified include attitudinal barriers to people with disabilities, generic HIA barriers, and barriers related to the feminist interpretation of the construction of disability. In this thesis, the research findings conclude that it is difficult to operationalise the disability awareness present in the HIA guidelines due to barriers which are related to the ‘othering’ of people with disabilities. This is discussed in relation to feminist analyses of the construction of people with disabilities, and it needs to be addressed by wider societal reforms. The thesis makes the recommendation that a national awareness-raising campaign about people with disabilities be undertaken in New Zealand in an attempt to rectify this situation.