Creating an accessible world

November 2011


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Imagine a world where every person, building and community is truly accessible. That world is what Be. Accessible has set out to create.


Be. Accessible is a social change initiative and holistic framework for accessibility with a mission to create a truly accessible country for us all. Be. Accessible is managed by the Be. Institute, a social enterprise that works across sectors and communities throughout New Zealand. 

The belief is that every person has their part to play in the creation of accessibility, regardless of how big or small the change. For change to come about, Be. Accessible believes that there is a need to educate New Zealanders about the access issues in every part of our society. In particular, this involves understanding what the “access customer” is and the value of their contribution to society.

Access customers are the largest untapped market in the world. They make up more than 20 per cent of our population. Access customers might be someone with a hearing or visual impairment, a person using a wheelchair, a person with a learning disability, a parent with a push chair or an older person. It is worth noting that as we age, our access needs increase.

There is a growing social and economic opportunity to serve this customer group well, so it’s important that we make it easier for them to get into, enjoy and connect with our cities. The work of Be. Accessible is based on three inter-connected pillars of accessibility:

  1. Physical Pillar. By creating an accessible physical environment and good access to information, we will enable each other to get in, enjoy and share in all our country has to offer.
  2. Social Pillar. By inspiring us all to think differently about access we will raise the hopes and dreams of all people.
  3. Personal Pillar. By developing disabled leaders we will create role models who will lead the way for others to follow.


Be. Accessible has created the Be. Welcome Assessment Programme, an initiative that supports businesses and organisations around New Zealand in making their premises, marketing and customer service as accessible as possible.  Assessed organisations or businesses receive a rating based on their accessibility and a report that provides them with recommendations on how they could improve. So far, more than 120 organisations around New Zealand have been assessed and given a Be. Welcome rating.

A platinum rating would go to an organisation that is a model of first class accessibility in almost all areas of its business. A gold rating would go to an organisation that has achieved excellent levels of accessibility in a number of areas. Silver to one that has achieved good levels of accessibility in a number of areas and bronze to one that has made positive steps towards being accessible. A “just starting” rating is given to an organisation that is just beginning its journey towards being accessible.

The assessment criteria focus on the social, as well as the physical environment  – how well do businesses interact with access customers? What information do they have available for them? It takes into consideration the whole customer experience.

Through the Be. Accessible campaign, Be. Accessible is also aiming to affect the attitudes and behaviours of all New Zealanders.  On its website, Be. Accessible delivers information about accessibility, interesting video stories of people leading the way in providing good access and even toolkits for organisations who are planning to begin a journey of accessibility.

Personal development and leadership are also important parts of creating true accessibility in our society. Be. Accessible has created Be. Leadership, a leadership programme that develops 20 disabled leaders a year from all over New Zealand. Be. Leadership has already proven to be an invaluable part of the accessibility mix and candidates for the 2012 programme are now being interviewed. n


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