Community & Environment

Library, Waterworld score silver accessibility ratings

Hamilton’s Waterworld and Central Library have both earned silver accessibility ratings from a social change initiative that safeguards the rights of disabled New Zealanders.

Be.Accessible carries out audits of businesses, buildings and services to determine how user-friendly they are for people with impairments. The initiative then helps organisations ensure their sites and customer services meet the needs of people with disabilities.

Be.Accessible audited the city’s flagship public library and swimming and recreation complex earlier this year.

The audits focussed on four key areas:

  1. Accessibility of printed materials and online channels.
  2. Entry to sites (including transport options, carparking and signage).
  3. Accessibility within the sites including customer services and facilities.
  4. Exiting sites in an emergency (evacuation procedures, alerts for evacuation and staff training and awareness).

The Waterworld report praised several features of the site including its hydrotherapy pool; the close proximity of mobility parking spaces to the main entrance; the ramp access to two of the pools and the installation of the pool pod – a special device allowing people with significant physical impairments to enter the pool. It also noted the size and availability of larger changing rooms for people with impairments, and the flush floor surface alongside the 50m pool.

Stuart Davidson, Hamilton Pools Manager, welcomed the report and the rating as a sign Waterworld had made positive progress to meet the needs of people with disabilities.

“People with impairments are an important customer group for us and we want to ensure we can meet their needs now, and into the future,” Mr Davidson says.

“Be.Accessible’s report also gives us some valuable guidance on other changes we can make to our facility as we respond to what our customers need to use our facilities in the way they want to.”

Mr Davidson says customers with impairments often take advantage of the Learn to Swim service at Hamilton Pools. As they achieve their goals in the sessions; this gives his staff a strong sense of accomplishment and pride. “Water is an excellent tool for therapy and exercise for disabled people and we’re very proud to be supporting them.”

Hamilton City Libraries Director Rebecca Whitehead says she’s particularly proud of Be.Accessible’s endorsement for her staff.

“Be.Accessible recognised our staff as showing great empathy for customers with impairments and that’s a terrific reflection of the calibre of Hamilton City Libraries’ public-facing staff who do disability training,” Mrs Whitehead says.

The disability training undertaken at the Council is arranged by Life Unlimited.

Be.Accessible’s report also noted the value of the Central Library’s installation of height-adjustable counters and the wide clear path and  entry ramp into the library which allows easy access for people using mobility aids.

Hamilton City Council arranges for two public sites to have a Be.Accessible audit done every year; as part of the Disability Action Plan.

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