First Be.Accessible accredited supermarket

Countdown Hawera has re-opened its doors today as the country’s first ‘Be. Accessible’ accredited supermarket, after a significant refurbishment put mobility and accessibility at the heart of the store’s redesign.

Kiri Hannifin, Countdown’s General Manager, Corporate Affairs, Safety and Sustainability, says supermarkets are by nature busy places, and for customers with mobility needs navigating their way through a store can sometimes be challenging.

“Sometimes the smallest changes can make a huge difference, like light switches that aren’t too high to reach if you’re in a wheelchair or mobility scooter, or a fire alarm that flashes lights instead of just a siren so that hearing impaired customers know they need to exit. It’s really important to us that all New Zealanders feel welcome when they shop with us, and we’re proud to have worked alongside Be. Accessible to help guide us to make our Hawera store more user-friendly. We’ll now be taking these learnings to our future store designs,” says Kiri Hannifin.

Neville Pulman, from Be. Accessible says Countdown Hawera had to meet a wide range of requirements to gain accreditation.
“Supermarket shopping is a basic task that everyone should be able to do with ease. The Hawera store is a great example of creating a supermarket and a workplace that can cater to everyone regardless of ability or disability,” says Neville.

Chrissie Cowan, Chair of the Access Alliance and CEO of blindness advocacy group Kāpō Māori says “We’re supporting the Government to help New Zealand achieve full accessibility. So it’s great to see businesses take up this mantel in tandem with our work. More than 1.1 million disabled New Zealanders would benefit from accelerating accessibility. But we also know it benefits older people, carers of young children, people for whom English is a second language and people with temporary injuries, as well as their friends and families.

“We congratulate Countdown for opening New Zealand’s first Be. Assessible certified supermarket and hope it inspires more retailers to embrace accessibility. From the work we do, we know access to information is one of the biggest barriers that stops businesses from accelerating accessibility. Sometimes barriers are created simply because people don’t know what’s required to make a space accessible and hopefully Countdown Hawera shows retailers how easy it is to achieve accessibility.

“It’s also significant to note that accessibility is about navigating more than just physical environments. It’s important we also address access to services like public transport, entertainment, banking, information and communication across the country. By doing this every Kiwi will have the opportunity to work, volunteer, be in education, care for their loved ones or live a comfortable retirement” says Ms Cowan.

Changes across the store include:

  • A visual alarm system for emergencies and an EVAC chair for wheelchairs at the
    emergency exit
  • Contrasting colours for doors and reduced natural light in the entry area to avoid
    glare for visually impaired customers
  • Aisles have been designed to provide space for wheelchairs, mobility scooters and
  • Team areas have been designed to cater for a range of mobility needs
  • Wider mobility car parks which are clearly marked in blue for customers
  • A safe and easy path to the store entrance from mobility car parks
  • Dedicated mobility scooter parking
  • Two mobility scooters owned by the store, which can be loaned to customers to use
    while shopping
  • A designated drop-off zone for taxis and vans
  • Parking for parents with prams
  • Clearly marked pedestrian paths through the car park.
  • The store will also be holding Quiet Hours once the team and customers have settled
    in, designed to support a low-sensory shopping experience, beneficial to people with
    Autism in particular.

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