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Ātea - Disability 101

What is Ātea - Disability 101?

Tāngata whaikaha (disabled people) report that the way they are treated in the wider community indicates there is a lack of awareness, appropriate response, and barriers for inclusion (Disability Workforce Development Grant Evaluation Report, 2022).  This evidence demonstrates the ongoing need for a basic level of understanding of disability, and tāngata whaikaha across Aotearoa.

To address this need, Te Pou has implemented Ātea - Disability 101.

Ātea is an exciting training programme led by disabled people that aims to raise the knowledge and confidence of the non-disabled population so that they can provide a better service/experience and remove barriers for disabled people.

Developed by the Te Pou Disability Workforce Development Team, and using the social model of disability, the workshop is relevant to anyone who interacts with disabled people in their work or personal life. The workshops help participants be aware of their own attitudes towards disabled people, what contributes to ableism and ways that people can minimise ableism. The goal is for non-disabled people to actively include disabled people wherever they might be.

What does Ātea mean?

The name Ātea can be understood as a place, space, or time. In this context, Ātea is the space and place to exist with freedom for wairua, hinengaro, tinana and whānau to be expressed shared and explored. It is a place where participants can bring their authentic selves, hosts bring their knowledge and skills and for us to collectively engage, explore and depart with a greater understanding of how we can change the physical, psychological, and spiritual space, around us, for all people.

Learning objectives

Ātea has five main learning objectives.

  1. Enabling participants to reflect on their understanding of disability (including language, stereotypes, and respectful engagement) in a safe environment.
  2. Presenting disability from a human rights and social model context – focussing on barriers to inclusion.
  3. Providing information on various cultural understandings of disability and tāngata whaikaha.
  4. Providing participants opportunity to consider their role in creating a non-disabling society.
  5. Developing strategies (skills) based on participants roles/lives related to how they can be inclusive of disabled people.


The workshop is free for Disability Support Services which hold a contract with Whaikaha - Ministry of Disabled People, disabled people, and their whānau. Other individuals and organisations who are interested in attending are welcome to get in touch as we also offer Ātea on a cost-recovery basis

This interactive education programme can be delivered in one six-hour, in-person session, or over two three-hour online modules (via Zoom). It is facilitated by people with experience of disability, and is interactive, with most topics involving small group activities and discussions. Given the nature of the workshop, participants will be limited to 16 people.

Keep an eye out for Ātea workshop dates at the bottom of this page. If you would like for us to run a workshop specifically for your organisation, please get in touch.

What past learners have said about the workshop

“I liked the fact that they were open to talking about their own personal experiences, and how they have overcome barriers. So, I think the way it was designed, the interactivity, the different modalities, the choice of facilitators were very well done.”
“The people who led the training highlighted [to] me a lot of things I had never thought of because it wasn't my personal experience. So, it's not something I had been made aware of, it made me open my eyes to start being a lot more aware of what's going on around me. I think it would be valuable for all our staff and we've got like 1000s, I think it's huge value”.
“I think that social model really was one of the things that brought things home for me a lot. I had not really thought about it in that context before because I have an invisible disability, I manage it myself, I do not think of how society has put that on me. I have never thought about it in that context before.”
“I have been very proactive in making sure that our work is accessible to everybody. So, for me, when I go out, and I talk to people, I always have that accessibility lens.”

Workshop evaluations

Evaluation 1 – Evaluation of the Pilot against it’s learning objectives

Te Pou held four pilots between March and June 2022, delivered through three-hour two-day online workshops. An evaluation of Ātea - Disability 101 was carried out in July 2022 which found that:

  • 92 per cent of participants rated the usefulness of the workshops as ‘good’ or ‘very good’
  • participants were 1.8 times better in terms of their understanding of disability, barriers, and inclusion after the training, and 2.3 times more knowledgeable of ways to include disabled people after the training.

Post workshop evaluation

Evaluation 2 – Evaluation of the value of Ātea to organistaions

During July to December 2022 Te Pou continued to deliver Ātea workshops. Data was also gathered through individual and group interviews approximately four months after trainees attended the workshops. This evaluation, carried out in early 2023, found that:

  • All respondents (100 percent) agreed or strongly agreed the workshop met their learning needs in terms of understanding disability, barriers, and inclusion.
  • Almost all respondents (95 percent) said the workshop helped them identify ways to include disabled people, as well as provided a supportive environment to fully participate.
  • Respondents said the workshop was “a huge value, an eye opener”, and made them more mindful of disabled people both in the community and the workplace.
  • The workshop made people more interested in the subject of disability and wanting to learn more.
  • Trainees reported they have become more intentional about including the voice of disabled people in their work since attending the workshop. Another had visited a school to encourage the school to be more inclusive of disabled people. One organisation changed their online training materials to be accessible to screen readers.

Ally Steenhuis


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