Cindy Johns has been made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit as part of the 2023 New Year Honors.
Becoming a pioneering influence in the disability rights field began with Cindy Jones’ experience as a mother who wanted nothing but the best for her children.
Since his son Tyler, who has Down syndrome, first advocated attending a regular primary school more than 30 years ago, Johns has paved his way and made an impact on the local, national and global stages.
“His birth, unexpectedly but in a good way, really set me off on an entirely different journey.”
In recognition of her achievements, Johns will be made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her service to people with learning disabilities as part of the 2023 New Year’s Honors.
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A New Plymouth woman said of the gong:
In retrospect, Johns said that when he insisted that his son attend the same school his sister attended, it was about inclusion, not even a term that was associated with the disability rights field.
“I’ve always had a strong sense of social justice.”
She founded the Taranaki chapter of the New Zealand Down Syndrome Society in the 1980s and was previously a member of the National Committee.
After becoming a qualified social worker, Johns had a goal of working for an IHC, eventually spending nine years with the organization.
She is currently the National Manager for People First New Zealand, which provides disability information and support, along with a service called Easy Read that translates documents such as employment contracts into everyday languages.
She is Chair of Family Networks New Zealand and a member of the Disabled Persons Organization Coalition.
For the past six years, Johns has supported disability rights activist Sir Robert Martin as an independent expert on the United Nations Commission on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
One of the most memorable moments of her career came in 2001 when she organized a march involving hundreds of people to Wellington in support of a petition to close Levin’s Kimberley Center. was.
On the day the group arrived in parliament, then-Minister for Disability Affairs, Ruth Dyson, announced that the center where people with disabilities were sent to live would be closed.
While progress has been made in many areas over the past 30 years, Johns said there are still many issues to be addressed, including calling for the abolition of the minimum wage exemption.
This statutory exemption allows employees with disabilities to be paid less than the minimum wage based on their productivity.
Johns is grateful for the support of her partner Ross McCracken, her family, and everyone else who provided her with the opportunity.
But her 37-year-old son still provides her with an ongoing source of inspiration.
“Tyler teaches me a lot every day, and it influences my work.”