Standards Matter!

Word version of 'Why Standards Matter'

PDF version of 'What Standards Matter'

What are Standards?

“A standard guides activities of organizations in a way that is consistent across sectors. It means people can expect the same level of service or quality of products.”[1]

Standards can cover a huge range of activities undertaken by organisations and the people who interact with them.

Standards are knowledge. They are powerful tools that can help drive innovation and increase productivity. They can make organisations more successful and people’s everyday lives easier, safer and healthier.

Accessibility Standards are key to removing barriers so that people with access needs can fully participate in society. Accessibility Standards are not just a nice thing to have, they are a must. Accessibility Standards will make everyday life possible for all New Zealanders, including the 24% of Kiwis with a disability.

What are some Examples of Accessibility Standards?

Example: Accessibility Standards for Public Transport

Source: Australian Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport 2002[2]

  • Information desks, check-in counters, etc — airport terminals

At least 5% of information desks, check-in counters and similar airport fixtures used by passengers must be suitable for use by passengers in wheelchairs or similar mobility aids. (Part 22.2)

  • Accessible sleeping berths — ferries

If a ferry has sleeping berths, at least one accessible sleeping berth must be provided for every 32 beds or bunks on the ferry. (Part 22.4)

  • Instalment at accessible bus boarding points

Colour-contrasted tactile indicators must be installed at accessible boarding points at bus stops or in bus zones. (Part 18.3)

  • Taxi registration numbers

Raised taxi registration numbers must be placed on the exterior of passenger doors forward of the handle. (Part 17.7)

  • Stairs not to be the sole means of access – public conveyances and infrastructure. Stairs must not be the sole means of access. (Part 14.1)
  • Minimum number of seats to be provided

If a waiting area is provided, a minimum of 2 seats or 5% of the seats must be identified as available for passengers with disabilities if required. (Part 7.1)

Why Standards Matter

How do Standards Impact People in Real Life?

Comparison of Spark Arena in Auckland with a Similar-Sized Arena in Australia

Auckland City skyline showing Spark Arena rooftop on a fine day.

Spark Arena in Auckland seats up to 12,000 people. There are 17 wheelchair seating spaces available per show for the musical Hamilton during May and June 2023 (seating availability differs for events). These are all located in the left-side back row of the lower bowl. To book accessible tickets you have to contact Ticketmaster to determine availability. You can’t simply book them online. Then you have to phone Spark Arena separately to book a mobility carpark, which are very limited. Spark Arena has no public carpark for patrons so attendees that don’t secure a mobility park would need to make their own way to the arena from other nearby carparks.

If Spark Arena was in Australia, the arena would have to comply with the Disability (Access to Premises — Buildings) Standards 2010[3]. The arena would need to have at least 118 wheelchair seating spaces. These seats must cover all group sizes from single seats up to groups of 10. The wheelchair seating spaces must be evenly distributed throughout the entire arena. If the arena had 1000 carpark spaces, a minimum of 20 accessible carparks must be provided.   

Comparison of Enrolment in Education

Two young teachers hold painted letters aloft for a class of young children.

A child’s right to an inclusive education is enshrined in New Zealand law and in the UN Conventions that New Zealand is signatory to, including Article 23 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRoC) and Article 24 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD)[4].  Additionally, the Human Rights Act 1993[5] prohibits schools from refusing or failing to admit a person as a student on the basis of any of the grounds of discrimination in the Act including disability.

A 2022 Education Review Office report [6](ERO) shows 21% of disabled learners were discouraged from enrolling at their local school, 27% have been asked to stay home on official school days, and 29% have never been able to participate in school camps.

Some schools only enrol students if they have Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS) funding in place. To obtain ORS [7]funding the child must be very high needs for example completely reliant on sign language or braille or be significantly cognitively impaired. In other words, if you are not disabled enough, you can’t get funding, and if you can’t get funding you can’t enrol at your chosen school.

The Human Rights Act 1993 section 60[8] states a school may refuse admission to a student with a disability if the school cannot reasonably provide the special services or facilities that the student needs. Essentially this could mean that the school can’t afford to make the adjustments needed for your child so you can go somewhere else thank you very much.

Despite this, the ERO report shows that disabled kids in low-decile schools have better outcomes, especially around acceptance and inclusion. Only 50% of disabled students in high decile (8-10) schools were supported to learn in the way they felt most comfortable. Only 1/3 of parents of disabled students at high decile schools felt the school adapted the learning program to meet their child’s disability and only 23% of high decile schools supplied specialist support when needed.  

Under the Australian Disability Standards for Education 2005 [9]:

A person with a disability is able to seek admission to, or apply for enrolment in, an

institution on the same basis as a prospective student without a disability if the person has opportunities and choices in admission or enrolment that are comparable with those offered to other prospective students without disabilities.

An education provider that:

(a) refuses a prospective student with a disability a place in the institution, or in the particular course or program applied for by the prospective student, on the ground that the student would be able to enrol in another institution or a course or program at another institution; and

(b)   does not refuse students without disabilities places on the same ground;

does not treat a prospective student on the same basis as a prospective student without a disability. (Part 2.2)

The education provider must take reasonable steps to ensure that the prospective student is able to seek admission to, or apply for enrolment in, the institution on the same basis as a prospective student without a disability, and without experiencing discrimination. This includes discussing the needs of the student during the enrolment process and presenting enrolment information in accessible formats. (Parts 4.2 and 4.3)

If there is an activity in which the student cannot participate (because of their disability), the student is offered an activity that constitutes a reasonable substitute within the context of the overall aims of the course or program and any activities that are not conducted in classrooms (extra-curricular activities or activities that are part of the broader educational program), are designed to include the student. (Parts 5.2 and 5.3)

Any changes to accommodate a disabled student are done in consultation with the student and their parents or caregivers before the adjustment is made to determine whether the adjustment will achieve the desired outcome. (Part 3.5)

Teaching and delivery strategies for courses or programmes are adjusted to meet the learning needs of the student and address any disadvantage in the student’s learning resulting from his or her disability, including through the provision of additional support. (Part 6.3)

Comparison: A Group of Friends want to Travel to Waiheke Island for a Day Tour using the Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour. One of the People in the Group is Blind and another is a Wheelchair User.

Aerial shot of Waiheke Island showing the Waiheke Ferry Terminal

The person who is blind has to catch the bus from Sandringham Road into the city centre to meet her friends at the ferry terminal. Her nearest bus stop just has a pole with a written bus timetable. No audio timetable is available. No digital timetable is available, but she finds this hard to access anyway. She would have no idea when the bus she wants will be arrive, and must flag down every bus that she hears until she gets the right bus. She needs to get off the bus at the corner of Wellesley Street and Queen Street. If she is lucky, the bus will have audio warnings for upcoming stops. She’s has noticed that slowly more buses have this feature. Without audio announcements, she has to rely on the bus driver remembering the stop she wants to get off at. She has noticed most drivers are happy to do this, but sometimes they forget. When she gets to Queen Street she would have to navigate her way down to the waterfront. She could catch another bus or walk. There would be hazards everywhere (e.g. cones, scaffolding and roadworks) and she would have to navigate different detours every time. Hopefully, she would make it to the ferry in time.

The wheelchair user can use ramps to board the ferry at both the downtown and Waiheke ferry terminals and travel to the island. However, the buses on Waiheke Island are not wheelchair accessible. She would either have to use a taxi to get to every place her friends want to visit or she could just wait at the ferry terminal until everyone returns from their fun day out.

Under the Australian Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport 2002[10]:

  • General information about transport services must be accessible to all passengers.
  • Large print format type size must be at least 18 point sans serif characters, black on a light background.
  • All passengers must be given the same level of access to information on their whereabouts during a public transport journey. (Part 27)
  • Operators must designate at least 2 of the seats provided on their unbooked buses as priority seating for passengers with disabilities and other groups in need of special assistance (for example, the aging). (Part 31)

Under the Disability (Access to Premises — Buildings) Standards 2010[11] Part DP1, access must be provided to enable people to approach the building from the road boundary.

With these standards the blind passenger would easily catch the bus, make her way down a hazard free footpath, and make it to the ferry terminal on time. The wheelchair user can travel on the bus on Waiheke Island and fully participate in the day’s activities.

Given the importance of tourism to the New Zealand economy, public transport accessibility should be a priority. Especially at a tourist hotspot like Waiheke. By not having standards New Zealand is missing out on hundreds of thousands of tourism dollars.

Accessibility Standards Matter!

How can all Members of Parliament help?

  • MPs to advocate with their parties to include enforceable Accessibility Standards in the Accessibility for New Zealanders Bill currently being considered by the Social Services and Community Select Committee.
  • MPs to learn about Accessibility Standards, such as those mandated in Australia and how easily they can be implemented in New Zealand. Organisations would then have clarity about what they need to do to be accessible. Disabled people and people with other access needs would benefit from having the same level of service or quality of products no matter where they are in Aotearoa New Zealand. This would make all New Zealanders lives easier, safer, healthier and happier.
  • MPs to join the Parliamentary Champions of Accessibility Legislation (PCAL), a cross-party group of Parliamentarians to learn about effective Accessibility Legislation and why it’s a key tool to becoming more inclusive Aotearoa New Zealand.

[1]  Accessibility Standards Canada. Frequently asked questions. Definition of a standard. Accessed on 18 January 2023.

[2] Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport 2002.

[3] Disability (Access to Premises — Buildings) Standards 2010.

[4] Paraphrased from Parents of Vision Impaired NZ Position Statement: Education (2022).

[5] Human Rights Act 1993 section 57.  

[6] Thriving at school? Education for disabled learners in schools.

[7] Criteria and definitions for Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS).

[8] Human Rights Act 1993 section 60.

[9] Disability Standards for Education 2005.

[10] Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport 2002.

[11] Disability (Access to Premises — Buildings) Standards 2010.

Word version of 'Why Standards Matter'

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