The Access Alliance People’s Choice Awards was presented on Friday, 21st of February at the Sudima Auckland Airport. The event recognised businesses and organisations who were going above and beyond to accommodate their customers with access needs.
I had the privilege of presenting an award – the first of the evening. But I was just as honoured to be sharing this responsibility with other presenters with access needs, namely Chris Orr, Rhonda Comins and Lisa Reid who are blind or low vision. The Master of Ceremony was Amy Hogan, who commanded the room with her charming wit and timely jokes; I will come back to Amy.
The event was attended by Minister for Disability Issues, Hon Carmel Sepuloni, Associate Minister of Health, Hon Jenny Salesa, and Co-Chair of Parliamentary of Champions for Accessible Legislation (PCAL), Hon Alfred Ngaro.
Minister Sepuloni spoke about the importance of why accessibility matters to New Zealand; noting that it allows all Kiwis the opportunity to engage in all parts of life with confidence and dignity to reach their potential and aspirations. In addition, the Minister emphasised that access to the physical environments would mean access to education, employment, public transport, entertainment, information, and communication.
Seven businesses were presented with awards, with Christchurch based, Sign Equity Ltd, a provider in teaching New Zealand Sign Language, winning Best Social Inclusion, and the Supreme award, for being nominated multiple times across several categories: “We feel communication, in general, is a human right, and a lot of places are overlooking it,” said Brendan Fraser, Sign Equity’s Business Development Manager. “We are here to support all the other businesses around us and correct that.”
I was very encouraged by Brendan’s comments. He spoke passionately about Sign Equity’s commitment to making accessibility a key component in New Zealand businesses.
The awards provide recognition to businesses who are succeeding and promoting accessibility to the community. It also provides lessons as to what needs to be improved in other areas and how to further develop facilities that can further improve accessibility requirements. The awards can gain ideas and input from people with lived experience and businesses like Sign Equity, as they are clearly leading the way in providing accessibility. The success of the awards ensures that everyone wins.
Incidentally, Amy was also a winner on the night. As MC, Amy commanded the room with her infectious humour and smile. Everyone in the room was equal part, shocked and entertained when Amy told the story about the time she had to be carried down to the podium in a lecture theatre to give a lecture on access and disability rights. This is just one way that Amy related to everyone in the room to show everyone is going to have access needs at some point in their lives. I thought it was a good opportunity for businesses and dignitaries to hear an example of the barriers that people with access needs face on a daily basis. I also believe that Amy’s delivery of her story, as well as her overall performance, helped people to better understand topics that aren’t easy to discuss. More importantly, the rapport that Amy built with everyone has become a solid foundation for future award presentations.
Access Alliance People’s Choice award winners:
- Best Accessibility Website – IT’S ACCESSIBLE
- Best Accessibility Education Provider – Auckland University of Technology
- Best Accessibility Transport Provider – Driving Miss Daisy Mangere Bridge
- Best Accessibility Retailer – The Warehouse Group
- Best Accessibility Employer – Thumbs Up Charitable Trust
- Best Accessibility Service Provider – NextStep NZ
- Best Social Inclusion – Sign Equity Ltd
- Supreme accessibility winner – Sign Equity Ltd