Accessibility Charter to be signed by key anchor project groups
Te Arataki Taero Kore o Waitaha: The Accessibility Charter – Canterbury is to be signed on 3 November by key groups leading Christchurch’s anchor projects.
A Barrier Free NZ Trust (BFNZT) initiative, led in collaboration with Earthquake Disability Leadership Group (EDLG), the landmark document challenges the rebuild and regeneration agencies to go beyond minimum compliance in accessibility; instead, championing the creation of genuinely accessible public destinations and journeys that enable all people to move around independently. This includes disabled people, older people and young families.
Foundation signatories include Canterbury District Health Board, Christchurch City Council, Development Christchurch Limited, Environment Canterbury Regional Council, Ōtakaro Limited, and Regenerate Christchurch. Speakers at the event include former Paralympian and Disability Rights Commissioner Paula Tesoriero, and Barrier Free NZ Trust Chairperson and Blueprint lead Don Miskell.
Barrier Free NZ Trust Chief Executive Lorraine Guthrie says the vision is for Canterbury to become a model of best-practice accessibility. “We have the opportunity to create some of the world’s most accessible and liveable spaces right here in Christchurch,” says Ms Guthrie.
“The Charter initiative is a way to implement a practical process which will result in a higher level of accessibility of public places and spaces that will in the not too distant future become the new minimum for compliance. The Charter gives organisations who aspire to meet a best practice level of accessibility to do so, and provides them guidance on how to achieve this.”
“One of the key ideas to come out of the Share an Idea survey in 2011 is that the people of Christchurch wanted to create an accessible, inclusive and safe city that is a great tourist destination. The foundation signatories have made a commitment to high levels of accessibility, which is a big step towards our city making that idea a reality.”
Ms Guthrie says implementation of the Charter provides for the right people being heard (users) and right process being adopted (mandatory and independent accessibility auditing) to achieve the right outcome (genuinely accessibly and barrier free environments).
“What we can prove works in Canterbury, can be applied across the country,” says Ms Guthrie. “Canterbury is in a unique situation, given the scale of rebuild and repair. We see it is an opportunity to show what a difference implementing a two-fold process of independent technical accessibility audits and reporting input from disabled users of the environment can make. We expect the legislative change will catch up and government will be more open to change if they can see the practical implementation working and making a difference.”
The Earthquake Disability Leadership Group (EDLG) is the local agency collaborating with BFNZT to support the roll-out of the Charter within Canterbury. The two organisations have been consulting for the past 18 months, with groups leading all anchor projects in Christchurch to create, develop and implement the Charter, with the support of a number of national and local disability organisations.
EDLG Projects Facilitator Amy Hartnell says industry, business, groups and individuals all play a role in the creation of an accessible Canterbury. “Accessibility is good for us all; it benefits whānau, business, tourism, economic development, iwi, and the health and wellbeing of local people.”
“For businesses, creating an accessible building is a lot more cost-effective than retro-fitting later, future-proofing the space for change. Being more inclusive, it also ensures a larger customer base and shows a strong community focus.”
“Those involved with the regeneration of Christchurch need to plan for and have a process for incorporating best practice accessibility into their design and construction systems. We believe the Accessibility Charter in Canterbury can encourage and assist organisations to do this. We are excited to see CCC and Ōtakaro take a lead in the implementation of best practice accessible design in their developments. Ultimately the benefit will be that accessible design will just become business as usual.”
The first phase of the project is focused on securing accountability from the key public work developers, with private developers encouraged to sign up to the Charter and implement a plan to adhere to its principles of leadership, education, technical advice, and health and wellbeing of Cantabrians. BFNZT expects to collaborate with other groups across the country on the Charter and provide a way for those agencies wanting to be morally and fiscally responsible as they aim for best practice accessibility and not minimum compliance.
|For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:
Barrier Free NZ Trust
021 029 16314