What is Accessibility?

Accessible [ak-ses-uh-buhl]
1. Easy to approach, reach, enter, speak with, or use.
2. That can be used, entered, reached, etc.
3. Obtainable; attainable.

Accessibility is all about our ability to engage with, use, participate in, and belong to, the world around us.

It's something that you mightn't even consider on a day-today-day basis, however for many of us, access to education, employment, and the community can be difficult and limited.

The New Zealand Disability Strategy (2001) describes disability as: 

 "The process which happens when one group of people creates barriers by designing a world only for their way of living, taking no account of the impairments other people have. Our society is built in a way that assumes that we can all move quickly from one side of the road to the other; that we can all see signs, read directions, hear announcements, reach buttons, have the strength to open heavy doors and have stable moods and perceptions."

And the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which New Zealand has ratified states that we must recognise "the importance of accessibility to the physical, social, economic and cultural environment, to health and education and to information and communication, in enabling persons with disabilities to fully enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedoms."

Over 800,000 New Zealanders have a disability of some kind, and this does not include older people (of which we will all be one!), parents with young children, people with temporary injuries or illnesses, and visitors from overseas who may have limited understanding of the English language and the Kiwi culture.

In a 2005 study, it was estimated that approximately 42% of disabled people were not in any form of employment, compared to 23% of non-disabled New Zealanders. The opportunity cost of greater employment and education for disabled people is estimated at around NZ$11.7b.

Throughout history, we have already seen the immense contributions that many great leaders with disabilities have made to our world. Did you know the inventors of the telephone, the typewriter, and the lightbulb all had disabilities! Great leaders such as Franklin D. Roosevelt and Helen Keller also had access needs and illustrate the many opportunities for great leadership that we could miss out on in the future if we create a disabling world. 

Imagine a world where every person, building and community is truly accessible. In a physical sense, all people could go anywhere they wanted; in a social sense, we would be accepting of all peoples’ abilities; and in a personal sense, we would all have the self-confidence and courage to chase our dreams and live a fulfilled life.

The Accessibility Social Change Movement is a fundamental shift in thinking that will create this world. It encourages us to think and act in a way that inspires and enables 100% accessibility for us all.

“All people in this country have a right to achieve to their potential. And we as a country will not achieve to our potential, until and unless they can.”
John Allen, Chair Be. Institute