Members of the panel
Áine Kelly-Costello (they/them) is a Pākehā, multiply disabled storyteller, researcher and advocate.
They've written or podcasted on a range of kaupapa from a transnational disability perspective, including climate justice, migration, independent living, accessibility and disability pride.
They work from the basis that the personal is political and they are committed to bolstering disabled people's access to and participation in politics at a local and national level.
They are a PhD candidate at the University of Otago where they are exploring what meaningful deinstitutionalisation for disabled people looks like in Aotearoa.
Amy has a lived experience of disability and has been navigating the health system on behalf of herself and the others while working as a researcher for the Cerebral Palsy Society of New Zealand.
She has worked as a disability advocate and campaigner in a professional role since 2010.
While she is undertaking a masters in science (School of Psychology), her interest in knowledge translation, equity, and system change throughout Aotearoa New Zealand has led to contributed to the wider disability community.
Barry De Geest
With over 40 years championing disability rights and inclusion, Barry de Geest is a recognised authority in the disability sector.
He has worked in various government departments and not for profit organisations before becoming the Director and CE of Renaissance Group, one of the largest supported living providers in New Zealand.
Barry is Chairman of Taikura Trust operational board, and a member of Workbridge board.
As a thalidomide survivor he has not allowed his disability to stop him from making changes for all society.
Gerard Martin is currently Relationship Manager, External Providers with Immigration New Zealand, for the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.
He manages a portfolio of external providers supporting refugees and migrants to settle in New Zealand.
Gerard is an accredited economic development practitioner, a former board member of the Institute of Public Administration of New Zealand (IPANZ) and has served on the Committee of the Auckland/Northland Amputee Society.
His areas of interest for the Disability Advisory Panel include addressing discrimination and unconscious bias affecting those with disabilities and advocating for the Universal Design approach to infrastructure and building design.
He uses an above-knee prosthetic leg after losing his left leg to a bone tumour in his early 20s.
In 2022 Martine Abel-Williamson was the recipient of the Inner Wheel Club of Howick of the Dawn Johnston Koru Award.
This award was established in 2018 to recognise and pay tribute to a resident of Pakuranga, Howick or Botany who has displayed perseverance.
Martine was also awarded the Queen’s Service medal (QSM) in 2018 for service to disabled persons. In the same year she was the Supreme Award winner at the Attitude Awards.
In 2016 she was presented with the Beamish Memorial Medal from Blind Citizens NZ for outstanding service.
She’s the president of the World Blind Union (WBU) and she also serves on the boards of the International Disability Alliance (IDA), Disability Connect, Blind Citizens NZ and the Royal NZ Foundation of the Blind.
Her current work role is as Senior Human Rights Advisor at Te Kahui Tika Tangata/NZ Human Rights Commission. She previously served on Auckland Council’s Disability Advisory Panel.
Bonnie Robinson, MNZM, brings personal lived and professional experience of disability issues to the work of the Disability Reference panel.
Bonnie’s career has been within the not-for-profit social and health services sector, in a range of service delivery, management, leadership and governance roles.
She has worked at GM and CEO level for the past 20 years and is currently CEO at Presbyterian Support Northern.
At governance level Bonnie has been on the board of MS Auckland, Iosis, Workbridge and is currently the President of the NZ Council of Christian Social Services.
Bonnie is currently in the final stages of completing a doctorate looking at the place of values in leadership decision-making.
Chris Orr was born in Dunedin and educated at Otago Boys' High School.
Chris lost his sight as the result of an accident in 1974. In 1975 He attended a course at the Royal New Zealand foundation For the Blind (Now trading as Blind Low Vision NZ.) Rehabilitation Unit.
At the completion of his course Chris was offered and accepted a role as a staff member at the Foundation For the Blind.
Over the course of his employment at the Foundation Chris has undertaken many and varied roles. These included fundraising, public relations and Access and Awareness Advisor.
The Access and Awareness Advisor role included many guest speaker opportunities and training sessions for technical institutions and public transport providers.
Chris has advised on many local and central government standards including: Aotearoa Pedestrian Network Design guide; requirements for Urban bus Standards. (RUBS); Shared Space pedestrian standard and Shared pedestrian and cycle paths.
Over the past 20 plus years Chris has concentrated on access to the built environment for people who are blind or have low vision (including roads, footpaths, and buildings).
His access work on the built environment included public transport facilities such as bus stops and rail stations.
One of Chris’s many highlights was advising on the design of the electric trains for the Auckland rail network.
Chris has had five Guide Dogs since he graduated with his first dog Adam in 1975.
Chris’s current guide dog is Noble a 9-year-old black Labrador retriever.
Chris retired in June 2022 after 46 years working for Blind Low Vision New Zealand.
Ryan Meechan is a dedicated disability advocate with a passion for helping those in need.
With a background in speech-language therapy, he has worked in a variety of settings, including education and healthcare.
Currently, Ryan is pursuing his PhD at the University of Auckland, where he is focused on improving the assessment of language difficulties in people who have had a stroke.
Ryan's work is driven by his desire to make a positive impact in the lives of individuals with disabilities, and he is committed to advocating for their rights and wellbeing.
Sam Smith is a comedian and writer living with multiple sclerosis (MS) and low vision.
His diagnosis forced him to change his career as a dentist and make a living from his passion.
He is now one of the head writers for 7 Days, writes the tasks for Taskmaster NZ and Australia, and is the audience warmup act for many live TV show recordings.
He is an ambassador for MS Auckland, hosts the Blind Low Vision NZ podcast, and is a published children's author.
Toa Te Wheoro
As a self employed digital nomad and entrepreneur, Toa Te Wheoro, has spent many years travelling Aotearoa and the world.
He has worked with, and for a variety of organisations that aim to provide positive societal change and transformative justice.
Through his mahi he has been instrumental in the implementation of many important government projects and initiatives that strive to serve the people that he loves and supports.
Toa is grateful for his rich life experiences and now works primarily on assisting other Māori.
He especially focuses on assisting those from the LGBTQIA+, neurodivergent and disability communities, so that they too can live beyond poverty and attain prosperity for themselves.