Clearing Our Way

In 2020, the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) Foundation gave permission for Blind Low Vision NZ (BLVNZ) to adapt their “Clearing Our Path” resource for the New Zealand context. Our hope is that by sharing this expertise, the built environment and digital spaces will become more accessible for people who are blind, deafblind or have low vision.

The purpose of this resource is to encourage people involved in design to think before they proceed with plans because it is far more cost effective to build in accessibility in the planning stage.

While this document is based on best practice, it is important to remember that everyone is an individual. As such, this is a living document, and Blind Low Vision NZ will endeavour to keep this resource updated.

We’d love to hear what you think. Let us know by calling Blind Low Vision NZ on 0800 24 33 33 or emailing



BLVNZ is committed to advocating for accessible environments for people who are blind, deafblind or have low vision. Equal rights for all disabled New Zealanders are enshrined in the New Zealand Human Rights Act 1993, the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, and echoed in the United Nations Charter on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). Governments, both in New Zealand and around the world, are passing ground-breaking accessibility and disability rights legislation. Additionally, we are reaching new levels of societal awareness. We believe that public services and digital spaces that are not accessible to people with disabilities cannot be accurately described as “public.”

Architectural design should incorporate elements that facilitate the safe and independent use of the built environment. There are many simple and inexpensive ways to deliver accessible environments for people who are blind, deafblind or have low vision. These solutions can be designed to be aesthetically pleasing as well as to make environments accessible, and more usable. Implementing these solutions mainly requires the application of simple techniques to make information about an environment available in an accessible way. To read more about the seven principles behind universal design, please visit the University of North Carolina’s Centre for Universal Design.

Equally important is the accessibility of digital information. Virtually all types of information and services are now provided digitally. As with any other user groups, it is important for people with disabilities, including people who are blind, deafblind or have low vision to be able to access and use digital information.

The design recommendations presented in this resource focus primarily on the needs of people who are blind, deafblind or have low vision. People who are deafblind experience even greater barriers to travelling independently and accessing built environments and information. There is great diversity within the deafblind population. Some people are born deaf and later become blind, and vice versa. There are very few people who are totally deafblind, and often there is some sensory ability in one or both of the senses.

While some technical requirements also address various design needs of people with other disabilities, it is important to note that “Clearing Our Way” guide is not intended as a resource to comprehensively address the accessibility needs of all disabled people.

It is also important to note that individual local councils and regional councils may have by-laws which address some of the same technical requirements presented within this resource. Where such by-laws exist, architects and other designers are encouraged to choose the design requirements that maximise accessibility for people who are blind, deafblind or have low vision. Design requirements should always at least meet central government legislated requirements of the local territorial authorities.


The Clearing Our Way Guide

Please click on the following links to download the Clearing Our Way Guide. You have the option of downloading the full guide, or the individual section that you’re interested in.

Blind Low Vision NZ hopes that by sharing this guide, the built and digital environment will become more accessible for people who are blind, deafblind or have low vision. When referring to, or sharing this resource, please use the following reference:



Blind Low Vision NZ gratefully acknowledges the advice and assistance of many individuals who have generously contributed their time and expertise to this resource.

  • Jelena Zidov, Senior Policy Analyst, Blind Low Vision NZ.
  • Chris Orr, Access and Awareness Advisor, Blind Low Vision NZ.
  • Kate Kerr, Rehabilitation Instructor, Visionary Rehabilitation Services.
  • Rhonda Comins, Lived experience advisor.
  • Ari Kerrsen, Lived experience advisor.
  • Thomas Coysh, Lived experience advisor.
  • Access Advisors.
  • Ian Wilson, Photographer.