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Making New Zealand 100% accessible is every business person’s responsibility

by Minnie Baragwanath

Business plays a critical role in the shaping of our society. There is a network of businesses around the country committed to accessibility and BNI is joining this movement. BNI has just had an accessibility report conducted on the organisation and they are walking the talk in terms of greater access. It’s something all businesses need to consider.

1 in 4 New Zealanders and 25% of world’s population has some kind of access need. That’s close to 2 billion people internationally – a huge market segment. Attracting the access economy and the access (yellow) dollar presents an incredible opportunity for businesses.

New Zealand – an innovative country with strong social ethos – should make it a priority to attract this growing market. We can become the most accessible nation in the world and generate income as businesses while doing it.

What is an access need?

An access need can be anything that inhibits people’s access to services. Access needs can be temporary or permanent. Often, when we think of access needs we think of people with permanent physical or cognitive disabilities. But illness, injury, age-related mobility needs, and mental health challenges are all access needs too! Creating an accessible environment means designing things to support the true diversity of people. And we can’t assume who has access needs and who doesn’t. I am partially blind, but people don’t usually realise that when they meet me. Unless you ask me to drive a car or read something then you wouldn’t know.

With an ageing population and changing demographics, more and more people have an access need. We need to respond to this by creating a world that considers all humans at the centre of the design process; people in all their magnificent diversity. We need better accessibility and that’s what Be Accessible is all about. Since 2011 we have been moving businesses, public spaces, infrastructure, workers and employers closer to the goal of 100% accessibility.

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What are the benefits of accessibility?

The case for maximum accessibility is strong. The potential returns are social, political, cultural and economic. A New Zealand that is accessible to every citizen and tourist is a richer Aotearoa, in every sense. We need to reframe the thinking away from disability, cost and burden to possibility, investment and opportunity.

We need to bring different parts of the economy and society together to learn from each other. This means corporates, SMEs, community organisations and others need to get together and make an investment that will benefit everyone. Together we can make 100% accessible New Zealand not just a slogan but a global example of how it’s done. BNI has a similar thinking in terms of creating a network of different businesses; working together to improve their own businesses and the wider community. So, ask yourself this question:

Is your workplace 100% accessible?

If 25% of our population are already Access Citizens – and this figure is set to rise dramatically as our population ages – smart businesses must be thinking about this market. How are you creating fantastic experiences for your customers with access needs? How are you going to attract, employ, and retain top Access Citizen talent? To make the most of the opportunities accessibility presents, we need to move from the idea of disability to possibility.

Here are some initial questions which can kick start your business’ journey towards accessibility:

  1. How are you welcoming people? Does your business’ environment offer your customers a fantastic initial experience? Is your front door accessible for everyone? Or, if you are providing an alternative entrance for wheelchair users, is this beautifully welcoming, easy to navigate, and free of clutter?
  2. How accessible is your digital presence? Does your web design accommodate low-vision users or Access Citizens using screen-readers? Do your videos have captions? Is your online information in an accessible format? Does it utilise customer-centric plain language? Are your forms and booking systems truly accessible?
  3. Are you offering accessible means of payment? Is your eftpos machine’s audio turned on? Do you have Paywave?
  4. Are you innovating? Are you reimagining your products and services to ensure you remain relevant and desirable to a growing access market?
  5. But, most importantly, do you and your team feel comfortable and confident supporting customers who are Access Citizens? Are you offering all people respect, and hospitality?

Our Be. Confident workshop is a fantastic place to start your accessibility journey. It will develop your team’s level of comfort and understanding around accessibility – and help you explore the economic, environmental, social, and cultural opportunities that emerge when the world is viewed through a lens of possibility. It’s the perfect way to ensure you are offering Access Citizens a fantastic customer experience!

In partnership with BNI NZ and their business networks, we are offering Be. Confident workshops across Aotearoa – starting with Wellington. Details will be coming soon! If you would like to register your interest, please email Neville Pulman at neville@beaccessible.org.nz

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Minnie Baragwanath CEO for Be Accessible

About Minnie Baragwanath

Minnie Baragwanath is the CEO and founder of Be. Accessible – a social change agency shifting Aotearoa from disability to possibility. Minnie believes New Zealand can become a thought-leader, a visionary, and a global powerhouse in access innovation. She envisions a thriving nation whose leaders, thinkers, and makers are embracing the opportunities accessibility presents.

Minnie was a recipient of the Sir Peter Blake Leadership award in 2013, became a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2014, and was placed as a top 10 finalist for the 2017 Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year Award. She is a finalist for the 2017 Women of Influence Awards.

Article written by, Minnie Baragwanath CEO for Be Accessible www.beaccessible.org.nz

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