Disability News

A more even playing field for disabled people

A major new University of Waikato scholarship aims to help open up sport and active recreation for disabled people regardless of their impairments.

Sport and active recreation can and regularly does marginalise disabled people. The University of Waikato’s Te Huataki Waiora School of Health, Sport and Human Performance has worked with other major national and regional organisations to come up with three areas for research. These projects are designed to help address some of the systemic problems that contribute to the exclusion of disabled people from sport and active recreation.

The scholarship will provide the opportunity for three full-time doctoral students to undertake research in the following areas:

  • Policies and practices that support inclusion in disability sport and active recreation

  • Coach development in disability sport

  • The welfare of Para athletes

The School’s Acting Dean AP Kirsten Petrie says that in essence the scholarship is about inclusiveness and equity. “Disabled communities are underserved in this country, and around the world. We want all New Zealanders to have the opportunity to engage in and enjoy active recreation and sport. This research is an important step toward supporting the incredible work our partner organisations already do in our communities”

University of Waikato Lecturer, Dr Robert Townsend says he is excited by the potential of the projects to enhance opportunities for disabled people to access and excel in sport and active recreation. “The roll-out of multiple PhD and Masters scholarships in disability sport is a world-first and further demonstrates the University of Waikato’s commitment to creating partnerships and establishing a disability sport research agenda that will make a difference to the lives of disabled people in New Zealand".

The University of Waikato developed the projects in collaboration with the Halberg Foundation, Paralympics New Zealand, Special Olympics New Zealand, Sport Waikato, and Parafed Organisations in New Zealand.

Fiona Allan (Chief Executive, Paralympics New Zealand) says research such as this is vital in continuing to evolve and grow Para sport in New Zealand. “It is great to be working across the sporting sector and with the University of Waikato to offer scholarships creating research that will benefit all disabled athletes. It will assist to make sport more accessible for disabled people and in turn support the creation of more systems and programmes to enable participation in Para sport. Within high performance Para sport our Para athletes and Paralympians work hard everyday to be the best they can be, their welfare is critical to their success and wellbeing. This research will inform further developments in Para athlete welfare support.”

The Chief Executive of The Halberg Foundation, Shelley McMeekan commends the University on the Scholarship initiative for post graduate students that has a focus on equity and inclusion within sport and active recreation.  “In particular, Project one around ‘Structural Inclusion, Equity and Access’ aligns with the Foundation’s vision of an inclusive New Zealand. We thank the University for the collaborative opportunity and look forward to seeing the research outcomes from the successful students.”

Applications for the scholarship close at the end of this month. Full details are available here

-University of Waikato


Warriors Nicholl.jpg

The Vodafone Warriors’ commitment to encouraging people with physical disabilities to get involved in rugby league has been underlined with Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad’s appointment as an ambassador for Physical Disability Rugby League New Zealand. 

The role will see Nicoll-Klokstad attend PDRLNZ team trainings to help players prepare for upcoming tournaments as well as promoting more interest in rugby league among people with physical disabilities. 

He said he was proud to be asked to be an ambassador and says encouraging people with physical disabilities to give rugby league a go is a cause that has special meaning for him. His older brother Tyson had muscular dystrophy and died from the condition in 2010 when he was only 19. 

“Because of my personal experience with supporting my brother and seeing the challenges he went through, this is something that’s really close to my heart and I guess this is my way of giving back,” said Nicoll-Klokstad. 

“I’m looking forward to encouraging people with physical disabilities that they can give anything a go, and that rugby league is such an awesome sport to be involved in. I also think I will learn so much from them, too. I just want to be able to help in whatever way I can. Physical disability doesn’t need to be something that holds you back from taking part, and I want to help spread that message across our communities.” 

PDRLNZ organiser Sandra Michelle Hickey welcomed Nicoll-Klokstad’s appointment.

“We are thrilled to bits to have Charnze join our whanau as ambassador,” she said.

“As a young man with a close relationship to disability through his brother there couldn’t be a better choice than Charnze.  

“His amazing talent and passion for the game and for the development of Physical Disability Rugby League will help us reach even more people with a physical disability and encourage them to get involved.” 

The Vodafone Warriors and Physical Disability Rugby League’s partnership began in 2017. As well as providing the organisation with the ongoing support of a player ambassador, the club has supplied kit for the national team and staged a physical disabilities match as a curtain-raiser before the Vodafone Warriors’ NRL home game against Cronulla this year. 

Nicoll-Klokstad made headlines last year when, in a random act of kindness, he purchased a pair of sneakers for a young boy - Takiri Wikitera - who has cerebral palsy.

-NZ Warriors

UC Churchill Fellow to investigate deaf education internationally

Denise Powell

Denise Powell

University of Canterbury Senior Lecturer Denise Powell has been awarded a Churchill Fellowship to research specialist education for deaf and hard of hearing students in the United States, Australia and Hong Kong.

“I will investigate the possibilities for bilingual education in co-enrolment settings for deaf and hard of hearing students in New Zealand,” Dr Powell says.

“This is important because deaf education in New Zealand is at a crossroads. There are urgent discussions about how we best support and educate deaf children, service design and roles and responsibilities of this area of specialist teaching.”

In New Zealand, most deaf and hard-of-hearing (DHH) children – about 95% – are mainstreamed at their local school, with or without specialist support. The Ministry of Education’s inclusion model and technology changes have fed this increased mainstreaming. Although many people and groups support the right of children with disabilities to attend their local school, some have mixed feelings about the success of such moves for deaf children, according to the specialist teaching academic from UC’s College of Education, Health and Human Development

“Some believe that DHH students can be socially and linguistically isolated in environments where they are the only DHH person as, even with the latest technology, deaf children can never be hearing children. We need to consider how we develop an environment that encourages the educational and social achievement of these deaf learners,” Dr Powell says.

“Achieving better outcomes for deaf students requires innovative teaching methods and interventions that are producing measurable results both academically and socially. I believe co-enrolment has the potential to do that.”

The benefits include enhancing the provision of New Zealand-based services to deaf students in order to replicate an environment which acknowledges the cultural and linguistic conditions required to create an equitable learning environment for minority children, she says.

What is co-enrolment? 

Co-enrolment can be broadly defined as educating groups of DHH students with their hearing peers in the same educational environment. Co-enrolment differs from mainstreaming in that mainstream programmes usually have a single DHH student in a general education classroom. Co-enrolment has several DHH students within a single classroom and assumes that DHH and hearing students should be equal participants with equal status in the classroom. Co-enrolment usually involves co-teaching by a regular classroom teacher and a teacher of the deaf. There are co-enrolment programmes in the United States, several European countries, Hong Kong, Japan and Australia.

About the fellowship 

Churchill Fellowships allow people to design their own research projects, travel the world and further their knowledge in a chosen field, before returning to make their knowledge available to New Zealand society. The Fellowship is made possible by the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust, founded at the request of, and as a living memorial for, Sir Winston Churchill. He believed that world peace and greater international understanding could be promoted through ordinary people travelling to other countries and experiencing other cultures.

As part of the Fellowship, Dr Powell will produce a full report of her investigation which will be made available online at the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust website. She is one of 12 Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellowship recipients for 2019.

-University of Canterbury