The Attitude Awards, which started out as a way of showcasing disabled Kiwis’ employability, have become a global online hit.
That’s according to Attitude CEO Robyn Scott-Vincent anyway. International viewing goes gangbusters online, and “the Canadians have bought us before”, she says. “It’s like, why would they be interested? But there’s no celebration that we know of anywhere else.”
This is the awards’ 11th year and, from the get-go, Scott-Vincent wanted it to be a fancy black-tie event.
“When we began, someone said we should do it as a nice little afternoon tea. But we said, ‘Why does everything for disabilities have to be somehow low grade?’ So we said, ‘No, it’s going to be fabulous,’ and it has been.” A decade later, however, the awards come with great expectations.
“People expect us to up the ante every year. It’s pretty funny. One year we said, ‘Right, we’re going to have a mobility dog carry the envelopes onto the stage,’ and another year we had a parade of children.”
But the awards have serious intent. They not only recognise Kiwis living with disability, but also employers who support and integrate them. This year, the Employer Award finalists include a Whanganui horticulturist and Greymouth’s BP service station.
“Employment was the main reason we started the awards,” says Scott-Vincent. “Employers have a perception that people with disabilities are somehow not capable. So the more we could showcase high levels of achievement, the more that would help to create a culture where it would be natural that people with disabilities should be in employment.
“All an employer has to do is shift their thinking no more than 10 degrees.”
Talent will out, however, and differently abled Kiwis are achieving despite the odds. Finalists in the Attitude Leadership Award include Alex Snedden, a disability advocate who attended the World Down Syndrome Congress in Scotland this year, and autistic man William Luskie, who advises a number of agencies in Dunedin.
Young deaf fashion designer Cruze Kapa is a finalist in the Attitude Entrepreneur Award, along with candle-maker Emma Sykes and educational video-game designer Tim Young.
“Every year we’re amazed that the nomination process uncovers new people,” says Scott-Vincent. “You forget that if one million Kiwis have a disability, there are amazing stories out there.”
This article was first published in the December 1, 2018 issue of the New Zealand Listener.