When Technology Does Good!

Department of Conservation —  24/06/2021

Accessibel is in the news, with one of its key players – Bridget Meyers of the Halberg Foundation – winning an Innovation in Sport Award. Find out more about this exciting project…

The technology you use impresses no one. The experience you create with it is everything.” – Sean Gerety, User Experience Expert

What do a black-tie event in Dunedin and a bushwalk in Franz Josef have in common?

Imagine that you have movement restrictions: perhaps a disability or an injury. You may not need to imagine – 24% of all New Zealanders identify as disabled! For these people even a short track can be a challenge – what if there are steps, or a slippery *****, even a tight carpark? Unexpectedly encountering ‘crunch points’ like these is scary and dangerous for many people.

A “crunch point” on the Leith Saddle walkway in Dunedin.
📷: accessibel.co.nz

Enter Accessibel.

We all know the saying ‘Knowledge is Power’. Accessibel empowers people with restricted movement to explore nature on their own terms. It represents a shift from conservatively grading tracks to keep everyone safe, to trusting that people understand their own capabilities and may be able to go further and do more than others imagine with appropriate information.

On Friday 21st May Bridget Meyer was recognised for her contribution to Accessibel at the Otago Sports Awards, winning the Innovation in Sport Award. Bridget was an advisor at the Halberg Foundation for many years and throughout her life has been a committed advocate for accessibility in the outdoors.

Bridget explained: “Our vision is for ALL New Zealanders, be it families with buggies, people with temporary impairments such as dodgy knees and hips, through to those who have permanent impairments – to have access to relevant information that is going to encourage active recreation alongside their family and friends.”

Bridget Meyer and her friend Kieran explore the Dunedin Coast.
📷: Andy Thompson

Accessibel is a partnership between the Halberg Foundation, mapping software company Sensibel and the Department of Conservation. It takes a practical approach to accessing public walkways, cycleways and waterways by integrating rich data and photographs into maps. 

The data captured by “profilers” is uploaded into data-rich, interactive maps which empower people to plan for outdoor adventures. Image from accessibel.co.nz

Jobs for Nature supports Accessibel mapping in Franz Josef

Jobs for Nature funding has allowed several locals that used to be in tourism to begin capturing data for South Westland tracks and waterways. This work is underway as we speak (and read 😊).

It is important that the information in Accessibel is trustworthy, consistent and comprehensive, so the ‘profilers,’ as they are known, undergo training and support. The data they collect is uploaded to the website and into a fantastic map.  There’s lots more to come before we can say we’ve mapped Aotearoa New Zealand, but it’s starting. Check out the progress so far at www.accessibel.co.nz (open in Chrome).

As Bridget said in her acceptance speech:

“The recognition of the Accessibel project demonstrates not only to us, but also to those who have additional support needs, that we’d like to do better as a society; so we can ALL be enjoying the many outdoor opportunities that New Zealand has to offer.”

What a wonderful use of technology that is!

Brenden Howard, Jobs for Nature ranger, out measuring “crunch points” on a South Westland track.
📷: Brenden Howard
Accessibel empowers people of all abilities to plan and enjoy time in nature confidently and safely.
📷: Andy Thompson

Interested in using Accessibel? Add the website to your favourites on your mobile, and get outside with a friend or colleague who needs some support in the outdoors. You could also recommend the site to friends and whānau who mmight need some additional information about potential walks or excursions to encourage them into te taiao.

The tracks covered on Accessibel are expanding and the team are reaching out further afield to six new regions across Aotearoa, to make our beautiful whenua more accesible for all.

One response to When Technology Does Good!

  1. 

    I’m sure a lot of people would love to try this job. Thanks for sharing.