Auckland Botanic Gardens achieve Silver Rated Accessibility

22nd September 2016
Auckland Botanic GardensCongratulations to the Auckland Botanic Gardens who were this month awarded a Silver Be. Welcome accessibility rating.

The Botanic Gardens began their accessibility journey when they commissioned a Be. Welcome assessment in 2013, becoming the first Auckland Council Park to do so. Receiving a Bronze rating they could see where they were already doing well, and also the areas they needed to make improvements. Since that time they have worked through many of the recommendations and while doing so, and through the passion and enthusiasm of some genuine accessibility champions, they have grown a truly accessible culture within their team.

Silver award presentation at Auckland Botanic GardensVisitor Services Manager Micheline Newton says that the Be. Welcome report was a great starting point as it gave them tangible actions to take the first steps to improve access. They were able to assess what was achievable straightaway, and which would be longer terms goals to work towards.

Some of the fantastic accessibility improvements that they have already made include:

  • Brochures in 6 languages
  • Accessibility features prominent on the website- the team understand that pre-planning before a trip is important to all their visitors
  • The development of an accessibility map showing accessible features which will be available on the website and in large print at the visitor centre
  • Audio-described trails available through the STQRY app
  • Improvements to accessible carparks, toilets, signage, routes, paths and walkways
  • Mobility Scooters and wheelchairs available for hire

What also happened as a result of this process is that accessibility, rather than an extra consideration, has in their words “become simply business as usual”- both integrated into their everyday decisions and also the starting point for all future plans and developments. Audio-description and NZSL interpretation are now part of the usual delivery of any of their new tours and trails, but it doesn’t stop there.

Julia Watson- Senior Gardener- Education and Partnerships- explains that for them accessibility is about being open to the diverse needs and wants of all their visitors. "This means making sure that we're engaging all people and being very open to how we can deliver our programmes in the best way possible for everyone" taking into account all access needs- be they physical, cultural or language-based.

The results have been some really exciting education programmes- for example through working with the Blind Foundation Gardening Group to design programmes to match the Gardening group's interests they have held successful workshops on growing Microgreens, Weed Identification and Composting.

Part of the accessibility journey has been encouraging staff to take the time to experience the park from different points of view and to understand the diversity of the communities they serve through engagement. Through these new conversations a unique culture has evolved- Micheline tells us "Staff have a positive attitude and better understanding about accessibility and are keen to challenge themselves to find ways to be more inclusive. Our team feel they have permission to be innovative and enjoy testing how new technologies work in our environment".

Of working with Be. Accessible and the process of the assessment they say that it has given them a roadmap - and as a team they now have a common language and a common goal. They feel pride in what has been achieved and a sense of real value in the work they are doing to make the Gardens more accessible to all communities who visit the park. And having the support of Be. Accessible and the other organisations' they have worked with along the way has been invaluable.

Congratulations to the team at Auckland Botanic Gardens for what they have achieved so far. They have demonstrated a real commitment to creating an environment that is welcoming to all - and at the same time have grown something else we think is pretty special- an organisational culture that engages, listens and is responsive to the needs of the communities it serves.

We look forward to seeing what they will grow next!