Why Accessibility Matters and Measuring Accessibility: The Be. Index

13th June 2016

The research forum considering On Thursday 9th June the Blind Foundation hosted a research forum considering "Why Accessibility Matters". By bringing together different groups, and hearing from a variety of organisations who were already engaged in research relating to the topic of accessibility, the Blind Foundation initiated a discussion around identifying gaps and planning priorities in Accessibility research. The Jubilee Hall in Parnell, Auckland was full of individuals and groups from around New Zealand who were looking forward to considering the question of "where are we now, and where do we want to get to?".

Blind Foundation CEO Sandra Budd began the day by asking for a collaboration across organisations, and an exploration of what we can work together on to progress the "access for all" campaign. Dianne Rogers, Policy Manager for the Blind Foundation, discussed the importance of evidence-based research and raised the question of how research on accessibility could be leveraged.

The first speaker was Associate Professor Gail Pacheco, presenting her research which had been commissioned by the Blind Foundation. By bringing together data from 3 waves of the Disability Survey (2001, 2006 and 2013) Pacheco was able to identify the patterns and trends of disability, education and the labour market. The study raised some interesting questions about what we could be asking in the future that would fill in the gaps- for example what does "employment" mean (what type, number of hours of employment, and within which sector) and what further studies could be undertaken in the future.

A number of the team from the "Journeying Together" evidence based project spoke about some of the work that they have been involved with. Journeying Together is a partnership between academics, disability advocates, researchers and transport professionals who since 2010 have been working collaboratively with industry to develop tools to help make transport more accessible. It was fascinating to hear about how by working collaboratively with industry they had the opportunity to be part of shaping the conversation around transport.

Accessibility is the greatest possibility for NZ and the WorldThe third presentation was from Qiujing Wong and Nic Kayes. Be. Accessible have been working with AUT University to conceptualise and explore the potential for the establishment of an "Accessibility Centre of Excellence" (working name). The vision is that this would bring together a cross-disciplinary critical mass of people interested in accessibility research and practice together to optimise what is possible – where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It would be a place of learning, research, innovation, and thought leadership where research findings can be used a mechanism for social change.

The flagship project for this centre would be the development of a Be. Index – a robust measure aiming to capture how New Zealand is doing in delivering an accessible experience for all. The team from Be. and AUT shared the early thinking on this vision and invited attendees to share their initial impressions, fit with existing work and ideas, hopes for the future, and how the Be. Index may be able to support that.

The afternoon provided the opportunity for group discussion to identify priorities around research needs, and opportunities for future collaboration. These will be published on the Blind Foundation website shortly.

It was exciting to be part of a day of discussion, sharing of ideas and collaboration. Many thanks to the Blind Foundation for initiating this discussion- we can't wait to see what comes next!