Auckland Unlimited champions accessibility across the region

As Auckland hosts the 36th America's Cup we are celebrating Auckland Unlimited’s innovative approach to ensuring that the host city was as accessible as possible to visitors and residents alike during the events. Here’s how they did it.

A blue sea and distant blue hills

From the start, the aim was to make sure that the America’s Cup Race Village and other venues and activation sites were as accessible as possible to ensure that everyone, regardless of age or ability, could get involved. Since 2019, Be. Lab and Auckland Unlimited have been working in partnership to make this happen.

A key part of Auckland Unlimited’s role has been in facilitating the Summernova Festival series, supporting third party event organisers in Auckland to deliver world-class accessible activations that enhance and complement the 36th America’s Cup across the summer. This approach has ensured that the reach of the accessibility focus has been as broad as possible, reaching beyond the Race Village and on-water programme to create opportunities to participate across the region.

The work started a year before the first event, with Be. Lab providing training and specialist advice – including accessibility assessments and feedback on event site plans – to event organisers. We’ve worked with Auckland Unlimited to develop information for racegoers and for businesses, and delivered programmes to ensure that race volunteers, staff and other stakeholders, including hospitality, tourism providers and event facilitators, are confident in how to provide the best possible customer service for visitors with access needs.

The importance of accessible events

Brad Pivac, Auckland Unlimited’s Event Activation Lead for the 36th Americas Cup says: “Accessibility was a key factor in our America’s Cup activations framework from the beginning. It was built into our project team that accessibility needed to be in the forefront of our planning.”

Brad explains: “Given one in four New Zealanders have an access need, we understand that you are excluding a massive engagement opportunity as well as a financial opportunity for events if you don’t make them accessible.”

Taking just a few steps means you can open up your event to be more inclusive of the wider community says Brad, and from a business point of view, an accessible event has a much higher chance of attendance, spend and success because you’re not limiting your target audience.

The biggest challenge for Brad was in communicating that vision to the many different people and organisations involved in the summer’s events: the project team, community groups, local boards, businesses and more than 20 third party event organisers.

Brad says in the end, he and his team managed to get everyone on board and committed to working towards the most accessible America’s Cup campaign yet.

He adds: “The thing I am most proud of is the dedication to accessibility that I’ve seen across our entire Auckland Unlimited project team and their functional areas. Everyone got behind the vision and goals.”

Accessibility training

A key part of the Be. Lab programme was a series of training events for front line customer service staff, security and volunteers involved with the America’s Cup Events, as well as other Auckland Tourism, Hospitality and Event providers.

The “Be. Essentials” workshop introduced the importance of access, focusing on the “why” and “who”, and looking at access design and thinking. With this insight and understanding, people could move onto “Be. Confident”, a development programme to help teams think about the way they relate to people with access needs. The aim here was to give them the confidence to create a welcoming, accessible environment for all customers, clients and colleagues.

Elizabeth Stewart, a Democracy Advisor with Auckland Council, took part in the Be. Confident training and said: “It really challenged some of my views and has helped me think about accessibility in a different way. The session will make me a much better volunteer too.”

The legacy

Other elements of the Be. Lab – America’s Cup partnership will benefit the city long into the future, including:

  • The development of a comprehensive  accessibility guide for event organisers, taking them through a series of checklists and assessments to ensure their events can be as accessible and inclusive as possible.
  • The knowledge gained by the operations and productions teams from working closely with Be. Lab, with a better understanding of how to make events more accessible.

The legacy is also in the development of a new approach, where a wide range of stakeholders involved in the full range of visitor experience in Auckland City were invited to take part in the Be. Lab’s accessibility training.

Brittany Morgan Be. Lab Project Manager for the 36th America’s Cup says that what she loved about Auckland Unlimited’s approach was that “this broad approach included long-term attitudinal changes and a deeper understanding of accessibility, rather just the physical accessibility of the events themselves.”

Brad Pivac sums it up: “The biggest thing I’ve learnt through working with the Be. Lab Team is that accessibility is achievable on any event – regardless of scale or budget. There are always steps that can be taken, at little to no cost, which can improve the event experience of access citizens.”

“Be. Lab are the most experienced in the field, their knowledge and connections in the community are significant.”

How accessible is your business?

Be. Lab has made it easy for you to kick start your own accessibility journey with a free online assessment tool. Take our free online self-assessment now.

Get in touch to learn about how we can work with you to develop a bespoke accessibility plan for your event, venue, business or organisation.


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