Access to the Built Environment
Public spaces and buildings are not fully accessible for people who are blind, deafblind or have low vision.
The RNZFB Board believes that:
- The needs of all users of public buildings and spaces must be taken into account in developing infrastructure in New Zealand.
- It is time to develop and legislate for a mandatory standard of access to public spaces and buildings.
For many blind people, the built environment acts as a barrier to their participation in the community. The inability to fully access the facilities that everyone else in the community takes for granted – footpaths, cafes, public buildings, swimming pools, libraries, sporting facilities and movie theatres – limits independence and impacts on quality of life.
Most often access to the built environment is thought of only in terms of wheelchair access within buildings and carparks. Blind, deafblind or low vision users are often not considered.
Blind, deafblind and those with low vision must be able to use footpaths safely and effectively. When cyclists and pedestrians share pathways, there is an increased potential for pedestrians to be injured. Cyclists move more quickly than pedestrians move and blind, deafblind and those with low vision often cannot hear them.
There are existing standards that apply to the built environment, such as the New Zealand Standard 4121:2001 Design for access and mobility: Building and associated facilities [by authority of compliance document for clause D1 Access Routes of the New Zealand Building Code].
What Blind Low Vision NZ Will Do:
- Encourage blind people to express their needs and explain when something is not accessible.
- Work with infrastructure specialists, local authorities, building developers, owners and local and central government to advise how to improve access to public buildings and the built environment, and contribute to accessibility audits.
- Seek an undertaking from the Property Council of New Zealand to reduce constraints for blind, deafblind and low vision users of public spaces and buildings.
- Support efforts to enshrine universal design in the Building Act and the Building Code and establish mandatory access standards for public building and spaces.
- Increase public awareness of how making the environment accessible for people who are blind, deafblind or have low vision benefits everyone.
What Blind Low Vision NZ Wants Government to Do:
- Investigate what comparable countries are doing to create the conditions where building developers, designers and owners design for all users when designing, upgrading, modifying and retrofitting public buildings and spaces.
- Ensure that public sector procurement practices for public spaces and buildings specify accessibility standards.
- Support efforts to enshrine Universal Design in the Building Act and the Building Code and establish mandatory access standards for public building and spaces.
- Amend legislation and regulations to set a clear expectation of what access standards must be.
- Require access audits to be included in the design process and to be reviewed (as are fire safety standards) and adhered to.
- Remove shared use paths until minimum safety standards are met.
- Give priority and sufficient resources to the implementation of the Malatest Report on the revision of the Building Code and NZ Standard 4121.
- Enact a comprehensive accessibility law that will provide enforceable standards for all aspects of the built environment.