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Disability advocate honoured for services2 min read

Jul 8, 2024 2 min

Disability advocate honoured for services2 min read

Reading Time: 2 minutes
Vivian Naylor.

A life changing car accident in 1969, while working for the British Government in Bolivia, set Vivian Naylor on a new vocation. This journey led her to being made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the King’s Birthday Honours.

Thrown from the passenger seat of a Landrover that lacked seatbelts, as a trained zoologist, she knew immediately her injuries were severe. She insisted that the first responders not move her until a doctor arrived, but the damage had been done, leaving her in a wheelchair ever since.

Back in Britain in 1973, Vivian started helping women with Multiple Sclerosis, who were being denied support from the government, due to their marital status. At the time, the attitude towards women with disabilities did not allow them to qualify for welfare if their husbands were working.

Fortunately, she was a government employee at the time of her accident, and was covered by insurance.

Working for the campaign launched her into a new career as a disability advocate. With a Churchill Fellowship, Vivian studied disability access initiatives in the United States and Britain. As her studies ended, she looked for a new opportunity and moved to New Zealand in 1979. The Crippled Children Society (now CCS Disability Action) needed someone to establish an information centre at their Erson Avenue office in Royal Oak. With her librarian’s qualifications, she was offered the job and has been there ever since.

Vivian’s arrival in New Zealand was timely for all people with disabilities. The charities supporting disabled people had realised they had shared objectives, and needed to form a united voice. She played a vital role in establishing the Independent Living Centre at Erson Avenue, which provides support and advice to individuals with disabilities. Vivian has also advised the local government on access to public amenities and transport.

Her work has led her and her husband, John Cavanaugh, on unique trips, with some assessing the accessibility of public toilets from Pukekohe to Albany, and the trip to Government House will make a nice change. As Vivian’s chief cheerleader, John says she has worked “bloody hard” over the years and wholeheartedly deserves her honour.