The most accessible little capital: a six-year journey

A starry background with the words Be. Wellington beside the Be. logo Be. Accessible's journey in Wellington began in 2011 with the genesis of our organisation. We started with a vision to make Aotearoa a leader in accessibility, beginning by working with organisations and councils to adopt best practice in preparation for the Rugby World Cup.

As Wellington was a host city, our CE, Minnie Baragwanath, approached the Wellington City Council (WCC) to work towards this goal with people who were already viewing the world through the lens of accessibility. In a dedicated effort by a local authority, WCC funded a Wellington-based relationship manager, Ross Livingstone, who engaged a number of organisations in conversations about the direction and possibilities of becoming more accessible.

WCC also subsidised Be to work 50% in the public sector and 50% alongside private companies, showing their commitment to enabling an accessible city. This positioned Wellington as a city and national hub that is striving towards becoming an exemplar in best accessibility practice meaningfully and collectively across business and local government.

At the heart of our work was about creating a consistent journey for all access travellers, whether they are tourists or residents. In an intention to develop this seamless journey, we worked with Interislander, Tranzmetro, Wellington Airport as well as museums, galleries, cafes and visitor attractions – all facilities that residents will be using long after the world cup finished.

Despite Wellington’s geographical challenges, the city’s businesses have shown excellent accessibility practice, with 50% of assessed businesses receiving a Silver rating and 28% receiving Gold. To top that off, Cable Car have committed to upgrading to Platinum, our highest possible rating reserved for businesses and organisations who exhibit exemplary accessibility.

Momentum was then building beyond regional entities and groups. Be. Coaches, Sandie Waddell and Genevieve McLachlan were established on the ground to continue the work in Wellington. Sandie, based in Kapiti, enabled region wide positive activity, which paid off in 2017 when Kapiti Coast Aquatic Centre became New Zealand’s third Platinum rated facility.

Wellington is proving to be the most diverse and deeply engaged city in New Zealand to adopt best practice in accessibility, and is therefore beautifully poised to become a leader and exemplar in accessibility in Aotearoa. The commitment towards the movement by the wide variety of sectors in the region allows for integration and collaboration to eventually become self-sustainable. From this sprung Be. Wellington – the idea that from a shared vision and genuine collaboration, Wellington can truly be accessible.