Accessibility Principles

The concept of the "Accessible Journey" provides a comprehensive framework and mechanism for creating barrier free and universally usable built environments and for addressing how effectively access requirements for people with disabilities have been implemented.

The "Accessible Journey" is a theoretical path of travel that links the three primary components of built environment design and construction.

Critical points in the "Accessible Journey" occur at the transitions between components where:

  • Transport systems deliver and pick up people
  • Transport systems delivery and pick up points connect to public spaces and buildings
  • Public spaces connect to buildings
  • Building entrances
  • The quality of “The Accessible Journey”

The quality of the "Accessible Journey" depends on the thoroughness with which the detailed requirements for access by people with disabilities are implemented.  The more comprehensive is compliance with the access requirements, the better is the "Accessible Journey".

Three practical design principles relate to the concept of the Accessible Journey:


The design of the exterior environs of a building, including carparking, works to ensure that people with disabilities can get to a building;


Ensures that people with disabilities can enter and move about freely within a building without having to call for assistance; and


The building and facilities are, in fact, usable by all people with disabilities.
These practical design principles relate the Accessible Journey to an individual building and connect the legislative requirements for access to the specific compliance detail of the "Accessible Route".

The Accessible Route

"A route that is usable by people with disabilities.  It shall be a continuous route that can be negotiated unaided by a wheelchair user, a person with a walking device or a guide dog.  The route shall extend from street boundary and car-parking area to those spaces within the building required to be accessible to enable people with disabilities to carry out normal activities and processes within the building." (NZS 4121:2001 p13)

Universal Access Design

Universal Access Design is a concept and design approach that sets parameters but does not identify any minimum detail to establish that it has been achieved.  It involves a fundamental shift away from the practice of removing barriers for a particular group of people, ie: people with disabilities, to a way of meeting the environmental needs of all users, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity or ability.

It is a move away from providing separate and stigimatising design solutions for people with disabilities. It has an inclusive objective to ensure no one is physically excluded from use of any built environment by unnecessary architectural or engineering barriers.

In New Zealand effective implementation of barrier free and universal design is based on compliance with the mandatory access requirements for people with disabilities.

Universal Access Design

  • Equitable use - the design is useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities;
  • Flexibility in use - the design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities;
  • Simple and intuitive to use - use of the design is easy to understand, regardless of the user's experience, knowledge, language skill or current concentration level;
  • Perceptible information - the design communicates necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user's sensory abilities;
  • Tolerance for error - the design minimises hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions;
  • Low physical effort - the design can be used efficiently and effectively with a minimum of fatigue;
  • Size and space for approach and use - appropriate size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation, and use regardless of user's body size, posture or mobility.
  • Inclusive environments

Inclusive environments are made up of many elements, such as;  the attitude of individuals in society, the design of products, communications, as well as the design of the building itself.  Inclusive environments recognise and accommodate differences in the way people use the built environment and provide solutions that enable all of us to participate in mainstream activities equally, independently, with choice and dignity.

Why Design With Accessibility In Mind?


We are an aging population, which means more people will be living with impairments related to mobility, vision and hearing.  By providing universally accessible buildings you are maximising the number of people able to access your building and undertake normal activities and processes without requiring assistance.


Universal design is a safer environment for all, including; caregivers with prams, those temporarily disabled through injury, as well as people with long term disabilities.  A public building built with accessible features, may reduce the chance of injury or harm.

Economic Good Sense

Often the cost of building fully accessible buildings is no greater than inaccessible buildings.  Barrier Free NZ Trust encourages building owners to build right the first time, thereby reducing the risk of  alterations at some later date that may be costly.

  • Making workplaces accessible will increase the participation rate of impaired persons in the workforce.
  • Removing barriers to schools, colleges and tertiary institutionss will increase opportunity  to achieve educational attainment  for persons with impairments.
  • Savings in health-care and social assistance costs as more individuals with impairments become self-supporting.
  • The retail and tourist sectors will expand when persons with impairments can easily travel and shop.