NZ’S FIRST BE. ACCESSIBLE SUPERMARKET OPENS

Countdown Hawera has re-opened its doors as the country’s first ‘Be. Accessible’ accredited supermarket. The store underwent significant refurbishment to receive the accreditation which puts mobility and accessibility at the forefront.

Minister for Disability Issues, Honourable Carmel Sepuloni, said that it was great to see that this store was accessible and inclusive for customers and staff members with disabilities. “This store shows what disabled people can expect in their communities in terms of accessibility. I congratulate Countdown and look forward to seeing other examples like this appearing across New Zealand”.

The redesign saw several changes which included:

  • A visual alarm system for emergencies and an EVAC chair for wheelchairs at the emergency exit.
  • Contrasting colours for doors, and reduced natural light in the entry area to avoid glare for visually impaired customers.
  • Aisles have been designed to provide space for wheelchairs, mobility scooters and prams.
  • Team areas have been designed to cater for a range of mobility needs.
  • Wider mobility car parks which are clearly marked in blue.
  • A safe and easy path to the store entrance from mobility car parks.
  • Dedicated mobility scooter parking.
  • Two mobility scooters owned by the store, which can be loaned to customers to use while shopping.
  • A designated drop-off zone for taxis and vans.
  • Parking for parents with prams.
  • Clearly marked pedestrian paths through the car park.
  • The store will also be holding Quiet Hours once the team and customers have settled in, designed to support a low-sensory shopping experience, beneficial to people with Autism in particular.

According to Kiri Hannifin, Countdown’s general manager of corporate affairs, safety and sustainability, explained that supermarkets are busy places, and for customers with mobility needs navigating their way through a store can sometimes be challenging. “Sometimes the smallest changes can make a huge difference, like light switches that aren’t too high to reach if you’re in a wheelchair or mobility scooter, or a fire alarm that flashes lights instead of just a siren so that hearing-impaired customers know they need to exit.  It’s really important to us that all New Zealanders feel welcome when they shop with us, and we’re proud to have worked alongside Be. Accessible to help guide us to make our Hawera store more user-friendly. We’ll now be taking these learnings to our future store designs.”

Countdown Hawera had to meet a wide range of requirements to gain accreditation.  Neville Pulman, from Be. Accessible said that the Countdown team attended to these needs and opportunities with care, innovation and a result that sets new standards. “Supermarket shopping is a basic task that everyone should be able to do with ease. The Hawera store is a great example of creating a supermarket and a workplace that can cater to everyone regardless of ability.”

The new store also includes Countdown’s other latest features such as a more expansive fresh produce department, energy efficient fittings and transcritical refrigeration to help reduce energy use and carbon emissions.