Findings on local authorities and accessibility
An Office for Disability Issues (ODI) National Local Authority Survey on Accessibility was triggered by disabled people reporting that local government has a greater impact on their daily lives than central government.
The survey gives a snapshot of the progress being made by some local authorities towards meeting the accessibility needs of disabled people - and the huge room for improvement.
Twenty-three out of 78 local authorities responded (one regional council, seven city councils, and 14 district councils; one council chose to remain anonymous).
The survey covered seven key areas of interest: leadership; participation; data collection and planning; access to information and services; transport; built and public spaces; and resilience and inclusive communities.
ODI Key Findings:
Just over 30 percent of councils responded that “disabled people are ‘at the table’ when significant decisions are made”. In addition, 13 percent reported that, in relation to accessibility, “disabled people are employed in areas of leadership”.
Our conclusion is that more needs to be done to employ disabled people in local government positions in order to take a lead on accessibility.
Thirty-nine percent of councils rated the accessibility of their processes for disabled people’s participation in the community as “developing”.
When asked how they include the voices of disabled people in election processes, policy development and implementation, almost 40 percent reported that they do not have any form of accessibility or older people’s advisory group.
Our conclusion is that more can be done to progress disabled people’s participation in policy development and implementation at the local level.
Reporting on incidences of non-accessibility and resolution outcomes is the most common method of collecting accessibility data (74 percent). This suggests that councils may only collect such data following an incident.
Our conclusion is that the councils are not proactively collecting accessibility information on a wide range of issues.
Seventy-eight percent and 40 percent listed the New Zealand Disability Strategy 2016-2026 and the Accessibility Charter respectively as informing their thinking on accessibility planning. While it is encouraging that the Disability Strategy is prevalent in the surveyed councils’ thinking on accessibility, it would be beneficial to increase the profile of the Accessibility Charter.
The majority of councils use informal networks (91 percent) and in-house experience and expertise (74 percent) to support accessibility work.
The most frequent barriers identified by respondents as impeding progress on improving accessibility for disabled people relate to cost (eg retrofitting existing infrastructure) and resourcing (eg budget).
When asked what would best assist them in progressing work around accessibility in their regions, the most frequent response was clear guidance from both central government and their own councils, and a core staff within councils dedicated to disability issues.
Access to information and services
Two-thirds of councils are enabling disabled people to access information and services through the training of frontline staff.
Our conclusion is that other processes will also need to be put in place to improve access to information and services.
Seventy-four percent of councils rate their regional transport as less than “good” for accessibility.
When asked to comment on how they support the provision of accessible transport options, the most common answer was accessible parking.
Built and public spaces
Although respondents rate the accessibility of built spaces (74 percent gave a rating of “adequate” or “good”) and public spaces slightly better than the accessibility of transport networks, the conclusion is that much more work is required to meet disabled people’s needs in communities across New Zealand.
Resilience and inclusive communities
The ratings of resilience for local communities were mixed, being evenly distributed between “developing”, “adequate”, “good” and “strong”.
Although many councils are supporting a focus on inclusive communities, it is not clear whether this incorporates a focus on disabled people.
Some councils have a focus on disabled residents in emergency management planning.
Respondents listed various ways of providing “safe” community places or approaches for reporting incidents (eg hate crime) such as community-wide education workshops and councils working in collaboration with local emergency services.
Policy and practice documents
Councils were able to submit additional documentation to support their answers. Thirteen councils submitted 34 documents, which showed that a substantial amount of work is required to develop robust policies and practices that will make a positive difference in the daily lives of disabled people in communities across New Zealand.
Read the full National Local Authority Survey on Accessibility on the ODI website.