Kiwi Property Group commits to going above and beyond

An image of Sylvia ParkWe're really excited to share some of the big changes happening with Kiwi Property Group. They are one of New Zealand’s largest retail portfolios- including Sylvia Park and Lynnmall- and across their malls they annually host tens of millions of visitors. The group are working with us to enhance the accessibility of their built environments and also investing in their people, their approach to accessibility, and their culture.

Kiwi Property Group have undertaken Be. Welcome assessments of their properties, and this year continue their mission to upgrade accessibility beyond code, and to improve their ratings across all large mall environments. They are aiming high- with their goal to have at least one platinum rated retail centre. They have also committed to incorporate accessibility into their new developments. We have met with their Architectural team and Design review of Sylvia Park is already underway.

Alongside this activity they have begun putting in place a programme of training and education to improve the confidence of their teams. This month one of our Be. Coaches held two Be. Confident sessions at their Hamilton properties- Centre Place, and The Base.

We love how highly motivated they are, taking a broad approach to accessibility- by committing to truly engage with their local communities and evolving to be totally inclusive. They say "We see our role as providing places of inclusiveness; spaces where people are safe and feel they belong. It is imperative to us that everyone enjoys are assets with the same convenience as each other."

Watch this space- we'll be sharing more of their journey over the coming months.

Countdown Hawera re-imagines accessible supermarket shopping

Outside the Hawera Countdown  Ribbon cutting at Hawera Countdown

We were delighted to attend the re-opening of Countdown Hawera, officially opened by Minister Sepuloni on Wednesday 8th May.

After almost 2 years of consultation and Design Plan review, hundreds of detailed design plan changes were recommended and accepted in the new store format – from a detailed external access and wayfinding plan - to superior parking and drop-off facilities including allowance for new types of transport. The lead architect, ASC, has been completely engaged and supportive of approach and detail required to ensure delivery in the build. 

There are so many fantastic improvements, but we particularly love the big fonts on the signage (incorporating te reo Maori as well), the wider aisles and the improved lighting levels. The store provides mobility scooters for use customer use, and also an EV charging station within the supermarket. The supermarket is fitted with both audible and visible alarm systems, plus plans for introducing Quiet Hours for those who prefer a low-sensory shopping experience. The list of awesome improvements goes on!

We’ve loved working with Countdown on this project, and we’ve loved their attitude to exploring what is possible – going above and beyond code and incorporating great design along the way- in order to create an accessible and welcoming shopping environment. The outcome is an awesome shopping experience for all proving that with better design, everyone benefits.

Amazing work Woolworths NZ- we’re blown away by your commitment to continuing your accessibility journey and taking your learnings to your future store designs nationwide!

How environment affects adults on the autism spectrum

Beth Noble More and more, it is acknowledged that one of the core differences in people on the autism spectrum is how we process information from the world around us. Often this sensory information is too much – too loud, too bright, too crowded, too overstimulating. As an autistic building science student, I was interested in how the built environment was a factor in this.

For my Master’s degree, I set out to investigate how the indoor environment affected adults on the autism spectrum. 83 autistic and 134 neurotypical adults participated in an anonymous online survey, which focused on experiences of home and workplace environments, and public spaces.

Across every environment and public space type, the autistic adults reported significantly higher discomfort and distress than the neurotypical adults. Further, 90% of autistic adults reported that they had avoided a public space because of the indoor environment before, with the most common places avoided being shopping malls (73%), restaurant/bar/cafes (66%) and supermarkets (63%). As a cause of discomfort and avoidance, People and People Noise factors were rated the highest, and had the greatest difference between the groups, followed by Glare and Electric Light.

The results of this study align with existing anecdotal evidence. It is likely that the built environment is a greater factor than many realise in impeding the ability of autistic people to participate in their communities, including potentially affecting health and employment.

I’m currently working on getting my work published in an academic journal, so that this can be used as evidence and as a base for further research. I’ve also recently started a PhD continuing this line of research, focusing on the design of artificial lighting systems.

If you are interested in learning more, please feel free to contact me at or my full Master’s thesis is freely available to read at

On the path to greater access to New Zealand’s top walkways and cycleways

A photo of a hand holding a phone while on a DOC track Last year we began a fantastic partnership with Halberg Disability Sport Foundation, DOC and Fabriko, looking at New Zealand’s top walkways, cycleways and waterways with accessibility in mind. 2018 saw the mapping and reviewing phase begin, gathering all relevant information into one place.

Together we've now trialled a new mobile app on both walking and biking tracks. This entailed two big weekends, one in Dunedin and then in New Plymouth. Pinch points were measured, access to toilets described, terrain tested for travel by chair, bridge widths noted, and more. Keen volunteers tested the mobile app and a few tweaks were made. Vital information along with photos were loaded onto the app.

We're excited about the possibilities for improved access to these national taonga- this app will enable forward planning with up to date accessibility information- and we’re excited about the possibilities for greater wellbeing for all too. Watch this space!

Be. Employed Skills for Industry Programme

Be. Employed logoWe are really excited about our new employment offering developed in partnership with the Industry Partnerships team at the Ministry for Social Development and Microsoft New Zealand.

What is it and who is it for?

This programme is designed specifically for talented New Zealanders who have a long-term health condition, injury or disability. We will match skilled 21st Century savvy New Zealanders with access needs and a diverse range of employers in areas such as Design, Innovation and Technology, Tourism and Professional Services.

We also provide innovative professional development opportunities for individuals who are hitting barriers to find the career of their choosing.

What makes our programme so unique?

We will source, screen, coach and provide training opportunities for all job seekers, preparing them for interviews, including

  • Gallup branded Strengths Finder personal coaching experience for every candidate
  • Microsoft certified industry learning and development modules to empower and ensure each candidate has the relevant skills and experience needed for 21st Century jobs

Not only will we match candidates with career opportunities identified by employers, we will also provide support for the candidate throughout the search, pre-employment, interview and the first 12 months of the employment relationship.

Limited places are available- don’t miss out on this amazing opportunity.

Are you looking for great employment? Apply today

Or are you an employer looking for great talent? Partner with us today