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Why Accessibility Matters

Why Accessibility Matters

The first Blind Foundation Why Accessibility Matters research forum was held on 9 June, 2016. It was attended on behalf of BPW NZ by Faye Gardiner and Melissa Jones.

The forum brought together researchers, advisors, planners, officials and advocates working in the field of inclusion and accessibility, or with an interest in the issue, to hear about a quantitative analysis on disability, education and the labour market to create an index to measure New Zealand’s progress towards becoming accessible to all.

The objectives of the forum were to:

  1. Highlight research that the Blind Foundation, CCS Disability Action and Be Accessible have carried out or are planning.
  2. Explore areas for future research collaborations to improve data and evidence about progress in regard to accessibility
  3. Discover gaps in current accessibility research.
  4. Agree on what research is needed to make a case for accessibility legislation in New Zealand.
  5. Meet researchers we want to involve in future research or campaigns.

The challenge for the day was to explore how we might link data and evidence with real stories from people with access needs, to explain why accessibility matters and what solutions are needed, and how to bring this to the public’s attention.

The feedback from the forum will be important to informing two government consultations: Review of the New Zealand Disability Strategy and the Review of the National Research Strategy.

Sandra Budd, Chief Executive of the Blind Foundation, set the tone for the forum – “We have wide public acceptance of environment protection, and of the importance of being smoke free, but we still have some way to go to have an accessible nation.”

The first presentation was a study commissioned by the Blind Foundation and undertaken by Dr Gail Pacheco from the New Zealand Work Research Institute. This was the first study to examine the findings from the New Zealand Disability Survey over a 13-year period and shows that while disability has been growing to 20% of the NZ population, there is still a significant gap in education and employment between people with a disability and those without a disability.

CCS Disability Action and the Transport Development Group presented their work on Journeying Together, The team are comparing how accessible different locations are and then give this data to local councils and transport professionals to suggest areas to improve.

Bridget Burdett, a traffic engineer working with the Journeying Together Group, talked about the conflict between the government’s priorities of making transportation safe and efficient, rather than inclusive.

Be. Accessible and AUT presented their proposal to create New Zealand’s first index on how accessible a nation we are when compared to similar countries using a scorecard that would provide an ongoing qualitative and quantitative picture of accessibility in New Zealand.

The Kiwi Transport Survey (December 2015) of both transport professionals and people with disabilities indicated that

  • People with disabilities expressed great frustration with the construction of footpaths and the barriers to mobility this involves
  • The majority of people using mobility parking spaces find parking difficult
  • The majority of people felt that public transport was poor, not accessible and lacked audible announcements for people with a visual disability
  • All of these frustrations are compounded for people who live in rural areas
  • The net result is often social isolation.

The presentations generated excellent questions and good comments from participants which stimulated debate and good discussion throughout the day.


The key outcomes from the day were:

  • Agreement on the priority topics for research on accessibility to fill the data and evidence gap which will feed into the sector’s research agenda
  • Recognition that evidence-based advocacy complements human rights advocacy
  • Understanding that evidence combined with people power will be important in building the case for legislative change
  • Recognition of the importance of collaboration and building a collective sector voice to increase understanding of why accessibility matters and to persuade decision makers of what is needed to create the conditions to make New Zealand accessible.

 Next Steps

The Blind Foundation will scope a study on the costs and benefits of accessibility to the economy. Please contact Dianne Rogers at drogers@blindfoundation.org.nz if you would like to contribute or if you would like to be kept informed of progress.

The Blind Foundation will continue to work through partnerships to host Why Accessibility Matters forums on research, planning and policy advocacy in the future.

The outcomes from the forum will inform the Blind Foundation’s submissions on the government’s new Draft New Zealand Disability Strategy and the next Health Research Strategy.  Please contact Dianne Rogers at drogers@blindfoundation.org.nz if you would like to contribute to joint or multi-agency submissions.

This report is summarised from a longer report by Synthia Dash of Te Pou.    

The full report can be found on the BPW NZ web site at www.bpwnz.org.nz under http://bpwnz.org.nz/index.php/our-work/health-disability/why-accessibility-matters/                                             or here>>WAM Wrap Up Report Final_jtc

Further information: