Junior Ministers Declan Kearney and Gary Middleton have welcomed the inaugural Disabled People's Parliament as a powerful new platform for people with disabilities.
The first sitting of the Parliament took place in the Assembly Chamber at Parliament Buildings on Friday, December 3 - International Day of People with Disabilities.
Addressing members, Junior Minister Kearney said: "Over the last two years the COVID-19 pandemic has only widened levels of inequality in our society. And this is especially true for people with disabilities, who were already living with institutional inequalities and discrimination.
"I believe that disability inclusion must be integral to a rights-based society. We must do everything we can to ensure that barriers are not perpetuated for disabled people which block their full participation in public life.
"This Parliament is a new and powerful platform for people with disabilities to promote the message that our society must not tolerate disability discrimination, exclusion or marginalisation.
"As an Executive we are committed to upholding the rights of all people. And by working together we will make sure the rights of disabled people are protected."
Junior Minister Gary Middleton said: "Almost one in five people here are living with a disability, so it is essential that disabled people have a forum to make their voices heard and contribute to the future of our society by helping to shape new legislation and policy.
"The Disabled People's Parliament is an important new platform for people living with disabilities to highlight issues around rights and well-being, and to engage with decision makers. It will be an important voice in informing the Executive's strategic work to ensure that everyone in our society is treated equally and feels included and valued."