Making water play accessible to everyone

Children playing in the new splash pad at Llyod Elsmore Park Pool Splashing about in the summer was that much easier these holidays thanks to Lloyd Elsmore Park Pool and Leisure Centre. The center rolled out a free wheelchair accessible splash pad at the end of 2017, just in time for every child to cool off in the scorching heat. From the pathways to the surfaces, to the equipment - there is fun to be had by everyone!

The splash pad at the East Auckland location was specifically designed to be accessible-friendly, enabling children and families of all ages and abilities to come together, get active and enjoy fun and safe water play.

The accessible journey starts at the entrance, with the splash pad being accessed through the accessible entrance of the leisure center. The surfaces of the pathway and splash pad are a mixture of concrete and rubber, making it easy for people in wheelchairs to maneuver around. Even the picnic tables are on artificial turf, which is also wheelchair-friendly.

Of course, since there is water involved, it goes without saying that there would also be waterproof equipment to make it a truly wheelchair accessible experience. As well as accessible bathrooms and changing rooms, they also have water wheelchairs, pool hoists in the leisure and lap pools, and ramp access to the learner’s pool.

Auckland Council's Head of Active Recreation says that the three months has seen a hugely positive response, with the hope that this will only increase with time.

"The reception to the new splash pad at the Lloyd Elsmore Park Pool and Leisure Centre has been really positive and since December there's been over 6000 visits. So far, the team has seen a variety of people with different access requirements enjoying the facility. We hope to see more people of all abilities come down to the splash pad in the future."

Auckland's Accessible Art

An image of the access and inclusion information availablefor the Auckland Arts Festival This year's Auckland Arts Festival is doing all they can to make the event as accessible as possible. 15 of their events are being offered in accessible ways – a significant increase from last year.

Relaxed performances are available for people with autism or other sensory disorders; touch tours for those who are blind or have limited vision; and NZSL translated

performances for people who are Deaf. And to top it off, the have also introduced a discounted Accessible Programme ticket of $20 each for a patron with an access need and a companion.

The idea to create an accessible programme came from Programme Administrator Helen Winskill and Creative Learning and Community Engagement Manager Marama Lloydd.

"Being more inclusive is a sign of the times and it feels like we’re part of something global. This year, we’ve made a significant investment in time, energy and passion, so we would love to see all the events really well-attended," says Marama.

Helen and Marama prepared for this by engaging with various community groups to fully understand exactly what they wanted to experience. They presented the festival programme to the blind and Deaf communities to find out which shows they wanted audio described and sign interpreted. They even made sure they used appropriate language and accessible formats of communication, such as large print documents and NZSL videos.

People with access needs can also book their tickets in-house, so they can speak face-to-face with a staff member and properly communicate their needs. This also eliminates booking fees.

The Accessible Programme was driven by the Festival Chief Executive David Inns and Artistic Director Jonathan Bielski. This will be Jonathan’s inaugural Auckland Arts Festival, and he has high hopes for the event.

"I want it to be as diverse and dynamic as what I see on the streets of Auckland. We will celebrate contemporary, cosmopolitan Auckland and its many communities, and we invite everyone to come along and be entertained, inspired, provoked and – most importantly – included".

"My philosophy about the role of the arts is simple: they make our lives better. I believe everyone should have access to the arts and I believe this festival is providing something for everyone."

The incredible potential of International Women's day

Viva high tea International Women’s Day is just around the corner and there are events all over the globe to celebrate the incredible achievements by women. Our CEO Minnie Baragwanath will be joining globally-acclaimed designer Collette Dinnigan and Dr Hinemoa Elder to share their journeys and stories.

As we celebrate diversity, it is important to remember that the concept of diversity crosses all aspects of society and identity.

While the equal opportunities and recognitions of women is important, it is crucial to have a discussion about diversity in a holistic sense, one that recognises Aotearoa’s beautiful richness and complexity. This includes gender, sexual identities, ages, ethnicities, and of course access needs. Accessibility is an umbrella identity that cultivates all identities. We know that with 25% of New Zealand living with a type of access need, it is a given that there are people from all communities within the access community.

It is crucial that we recognise and cultivate the diversity within our communities to understand the rapidly changing world that we are living in. Let’s make sure all minority groups are represented at all levels of our society to truly capture the wisdom of divergent and unique experiences. Let’s stretch our thinking about the world we are operating in. Let’s ensure that what we offer the world are serving the one million New Zealanders with access needs. Let’s imagine beyond the status quo.

Wellington Zoo’s journey to Gold

Be. Coach Sandie Waddell presenting a Be. Welcome certificate to two staff members from Wellington New Zealand's oldest zoo has also become our most accessible after upgrading from a Silver to Gold rating in 2017. They formally received their gold certificate from Be. Coach Sandie Waddell at an event that coincided with the opening of the upgraded learning space The Living Room.

Wellington Deputy Mayor Paul Eagle attended the event. "Wellington City Council is a strong supporter of the great work Be. Accessible does with organisations like Wellington Zoo. Improvements to accessibility help to achieve a Wellington in which everyone, regardless of their needs, can enjoy all the fantastic things our city has to offer."

Be. Accessible has been working closely with the zoo to achieve the gold certification following their silver award back in 2015. "The team at Wellington Zoo were great to work with and listened to our feedback, resulting in several improvements to accessibility at the Zoo," Sandie said.

The improvements that saw them achieve their well-deserved upgrade included a new accessibility map showing a gentler route around the Zoo, new ramps over gutters, and workshops for staff to brush up on their New Zealand Sign Language.

This means that visitors with access needs can plan they journey within the attraction with more ease, and allows for more safer navigation with the new ramps over the gutters for people with mobility needs, parents, children and the elderly. The New Zealand Sign Language workshops also create a more inclusive work culture for Wellingtonians with hearing impairments seeking employment.

"We're delighted that our hard work has paid off, resulting in a more accessible Zoo that allows more people to enjoy Wellington Zoo and connect with our animals and our conservation messages," Karen Fifield MNZM, Chief Executive of Wellington Zoo said.

The upgraded learning space The Living Room was also officially opened at the event, where Be. also hosted our launch of Be. Wellington. "The work we have done on The Living Room shows our commitment to providing inspiring spaces for learning programmes and striving to always keep improving the Wellington Zoo experience," Ms Fifield said.

This new learning space is more engaging and has more usable space which is especially useful for learners with accessibility needs.

Wellington hotel’s ambitious accessibility goals

An image of a picture containing the NZ sign alphabet on the wall of the CQ Hotel If any business exemplifies and embodies the spirit of accessibility, it is CQ Hotels Wellington.

The popular hotel first made its commitment to accessibility known in 2011 during the Rugby World Cup through Be. Accessible’s assessment programme, Be. Welcome.

After initially receiving a Silver rating, they swiftly claimed a Gold rating after introducing numerous access features such as a lowered reception desk, trained their staff in New Zealand Sign Language, offered menus in Braille, and having blankets and food bowls available for assistance dogs.

But as Fab50er and former CQ Hotel general manager Olivier Lacoua explains, it is not just the customer-facing side of the business receiving all the attention; CQ Hotels Wellington's commitment to accessibility reaches deep into their workplace culture.

"As well as our employees, we had our intern Olivia involved in the marketing and events side of things, so she is doing SWOT analysis and market research at the moment to see how we can improve our business plan."

Olivia, who was also a 2015 Be. Leadership participant, was put in touch with Olivier through the Be. Employed Internship programme, which aims to match up outstanding university students with access needs to an employer for a fully-paid meaningful work placement.

Olivier says one of the most crucial and exciting aspects of their accessibility journey has been the total buy-in from staff.

"We're developing a different culture in our team. In our latest staff survey, it was encouraging to see that 98 per cent of our team support what we’re doing and understand the direction we're taking. It gives us an edge over our competitors and from a workplace culture point of view, people are proud to work here."

The team also makes sure they keep their NZSL skills polished, with a half hour "coffee catch up" every month to refresh, and a full-on two-hour session once per quarter.

The CQ Hotels Wellington team show no signs of stopping there, either. The next challenge is to look into improving accessibility to the hotel pool with a wheelchair hoist. The hotel is always looking for what can be done next to bring more people along the accessible journey with them.