An exciting announcement from Minnie

Profile image of Minnie Baragwanath

To our dearest Be. Community!

It is with great joy that I want to let you know that last night, we announced that Be. Accessible is transforming into the Be. Lab! We hosted a small gathering, a soft launch if you like, at our offices in Auckland in order to celebrate this evolution of our work and our vision for New Zealand.

I am sure this will raise some very key questions for you and over the next few weeks and months it will become clear why we have decided to make this important shift.

What is the Be. Lab?

Well the Be. Lab is the New Zealand-based, globally-networked centre for access innovation for the 21st century.

Our aim is for New Zealand to become the centre of access innovation, of accessible design and of accessible products and services in the world.

We believe by harnessing the social frameworks of equity and fairness that underpin our society, as well as our unique entrepreneurial spirit, Aotearoa is uniquely poised to play this role globally!

All the Be. Accessible services that you know and love are still a part of the new Be. Lab, but you will notice them evolving and iterating over the next few months as we incubate them to come into line with the new Be. Lab ethos.

And yes, we have a very full pipeline of incredible and exciting Be. Lab news and activity that we will share with you over the coming months. Alongside this, we'll be launching a brand-new website in a few weeks.

As the CEO and founder of Be. Accessible, and now the Be. Lab, I believe passionately in this shift in our focus. The world around us is changing at an unprecedented rate and it is my feeling that we are now at a critical point in terms of accessibility both locally and globally!

With the rise of new technologies such as AI, block chain and digital currencies, with climate change, bio security and changing population trends that see the rise of millennials and an ageing population all impacting the world around us… we need to have the means to be able to respond to these uniquely 21st century disruptions and opportunities in a 21st century way.

That is what the Be. Lab will enable us to do, explore possibilities using our new future-focused systems-changing, design philosophy. It's called the Possibility Lens and we'll be sharing more about that in the near future!

We have spent the last 3 years developing and co-designing this new approach with our local and international community, identifying how and where we believe we can be of most value as a 21st century access innovation lab. And, in the true spirit of a lab we will be trying out a range of new approaches… some of which will work, some of which may not but all of which will help us to learn and take some risks in what is increasingly becoming a rather risk-averse world.

So, we openly invite each and every one of you to join us on this exciting new stage of the Be. story! Come with us and know that we will be learning together. We will not get things perfectly right. We will need to try, to test and to learn. And we will need to iterate constantly as is the way with any true design and innovation process!

However, just imagine what we might be able to create together if we start to look at the world through a future focused lens of Possibility.

It is time to let go of deficit thinking, of tick boxes, and of low expectations for the 1 in 4 of us with access needs…and start to harness the incredible creative energy and true diversity that lies within our amazing community instead.

A truly heart felt thank you to every single person who has played a part in making this vision a reality, you are all remarkable!

We can't wait for you to join the Be. Lab!!

Wellington International Airport flying towards great heights

Inside the Wellington AirportA big congratulations to Wellington International Airport, for achieving a Gold Be. Welcome rating last month. Wellington Airport began their accessibility journey with us in 2015, when they commissioned an assessment and received a Bronze rating. After four years of major airport upgrades, and lots of fantastic improvements, we are delighted to announce that they have moved first to Silver and now to a Gold Be. Welcome assessment rating- reflecting an excellent level of accessibility.

We’re really proud of the work they’ve been doing and are excited to share some of the fantastic things that they have been up to- including infrastructure upgrades and also newly introduced initiatives which improve the accessibility of the airport experience.

We love the way Wellington Airport have ensured that the entire user experience is accessible, from the very first contact with the airport- with a well laid out website, with good contrast and accessibility features, incorporating a special assistance page and plenty of maps of the airport; through to the infrastructure and facilities within the airport itself- with clear and easy to follow wayfinding signage, and accessible toilets (including allgender accessible toilets); all the way through to understanding that accessibility is also about great customer service. The airport has introduced both a volunteer ambassador programme and paid customer experience agents to ensure that all visitors and passengers can find their way seamlessly around the airport.

In seeking a better experience for blind or low vision passengers the airport has become the first in New Zealand to offer the use of the AIRA app for free. This app employs the camera on a smartphone to connect with a trained visual assistant, who provides information for the user describing where they are and where they’re going.

The Airport has also introduced a hidden disabilities programme, which has already been used successfully at Brisbane airport. This allows customers to opt to wear a lanyard, to alert staff discretely that they might need extra assistance or support during their trip.

And the team at Wellington International Airport aren’t stopping there- they’re continuing to make plans to implement new improvements in the future- and are committed to achieving Platinum accessibility status.

We spoke with Be. Coach Genevieve McLachlan who completed the assessment, and she said “It was so refreshing to do this assessment with a team who are so on board- it wasn’t just about ticking a box for them, they really believe in what they’re doing and are wanting support around that”.

Airport Head of Operations, Matthew Palliser, told us “At Wellington Airport we are proud of the environment we have created for the many passengers that pass through our facilities. Going through the Be. Welcome programme was hugely beneficial, with informing what type of facilities and technology solutions we provide now and should consider looking forward towards the future.”

We’re blown away by their positive attitude and commitment to making Wellington Airport the most accessible little international airport in the world!

Be. Employed Industry Training Day

Several tables of people listening to a presenter at the Be. Employed Industry training dayThe latest Be. Employed pilot with Microsoft and the Industry Partnerships team at MSD, is underway and we have a fantastic selection of candidates from Wellington and Auckland.

This is an outstanding group with an enormous diversity of areas of interest, tertiary and work experience. But what they all have in common is a real desire to be in meaningful employment, and for the value that they bring to be recognised.

This is a massive, untapped talent pool of people who already have the skills that workplaces in the 21st century need- and leading employers are recognizing this. Research shows that access citizens have to be creative to adapt to the world around them, developing skills such as problem-solving, agility, persistence, forethought and a willingness to experiment—all of which are essential for innovation and the 21st century workplace*.

Research also confirms that despite this experience and valuable skillset, what this group may not have is great workplace experience or confidence. The unique component of our programme is the upfront investment in the candidate, and this month all 30 candidates were invited to attend a day long Industry training day in Auckland. (Wellington candidates were flown to Auckland). It was wonderful to have so many talented people in the room together.

The training day included professional development sessions aimed at strengthening self-awareness, confidence and preparedness for the workplace, and a session with senior Microsoft professionals who focused on skills for the future, the power of a mentor relationship and technical skills must-haves. We’ve had feedback from several candidates who attended the industry training day all of whom identified sessions that were useful to them. Many wished it could have been longer!

Several Microsoft staff members have put their hands up to be a mentor for one of the candidates, joining other professionals who are wishing to offer their mentor services to the group.

The group will now continue to have one on one coaching from the Be Employed team, preparing them for job applications and interviews.

Employers – if you haven’t already contacted us with great job opportunities – don’t miss out! Get in quickly to access this pool of talented candidates who have the skills and attitudes 21st century workplaces need.

Footnote reference *

Meet Brittany

Profile image of BrittanyWe’re delighted to announce that last month Brittany Morgan joined the Be. Welcome Team.

Some of you may already know Brittany from the awesome work she has been doing within the Capital Project Accessibility Group (CPAG) in her previous role at Auckland Transport.

Brittany has a background in Urban Design, and a passion for people and how they move to and through spaces. She is joining Be. Accessible as part of the Be. Welcome team to expand and refine the design plan offering.

Brittany told us that she believes in a highly inclusive design process involving true collaboration with diverse users, early on and often. She also believes that to meet the diverse needs of New Zealand we need to start with inclusion at the centre of design. She holds an Honours degree in Spatial Design from Massey University and is also a qualified personal trainer. Growing up in Hawkes Bay, she has a love for being at the beach and the outdoors, can’t resist a jar of peanut butter, is a lover of big cups of tea and furry friends.

Brittany says “I feel honoured to be part of the team at Be. and work with such an inspiring group of people. I am excited to be working together with this awesome team and with everyone in the community we represent, to be creating accessible spaces and places for us all to live in and enjoy”. We’re really excited to have her working with us!

Prudence Walker- Alumni Update

Profile image of Prudence Walker

Here's an update from one of our fabulous Be. Leadership Alumni, sharing some exciting news about her next adventure!

In 2013 I participated in the Be. Leadership programme. The year gave me the opportunity to reflect on my journey so far and take the time to reflect on where I wanted to go. I valued the opportunity to meet and build lasting relationships with other Be. Leaders from all over New Zealand who share the mission of making Aotearoa more accessible.

I've always appreciated the diversity of the human race and been concerned with social issues and human rights. Since I was in primary school I have campaigned for issues that were important to me. As a young adult, I began my involvement with CanTeen - and by age 22 was the National President. Throughout the years, I have been involved in a number of different organisations locally, nationally, and internationally.

Since completing the programme I have become clearer about where I want to put my energy and have focused on taking on work where I thought my skills were best utilised and saying no to more things. I’ve been a Be. Welcome Coach, Be. Confident Facilitator, and built my own business – Kōrero with prudence focusing on facilitation, advocacy, and social project work. I became Regional Disability Leadership Coordinator for CCS Disability Action Southern Region (and spent a period of time acting in the nationally equivalent role), managed an inclusive, accessible music concert, and am currently finishing off a National Disability Awareness project for the organisation.

I’m more intuitive than a goal planner and see that there are many opportunities in life, we just need to decide which ones to pursue. When I heard the Disabled Person’s Assembly (DPA) was looking for the right Chief Executive for them at this time, I saw an opportunity to put myself forward for consideration. I am excited to soon be joining the team at DPA and look forward to our work together to achieve an equitable society that upholds human rights and maximises the participation of all people.

He aha te mea nui o tea o? He Tangata, he tangata, he tangata.

What is the most important thing in the world? It is people, it is people, it is people.

Mā te wā,