Collaboration and Accessibility in Health Information Services

Reflecting on HealthTech Week 2024, New Zealand


Ackama co-presented with Health New Zealand | Te Whatu Ora at the Te Tītoki Mataora Forum in Auckland during HealthTech Week 2024. We had the pleasure of sharing the work on the Accessible Health Information Project (AHIP) presented by Leo Goldie-Anderson from Te Whatu Ora and Mischa Saunders from Ackama.


Cartoon drawings of two people applying accessibility function to a webpage. Text on page stating Web accessibility: not just colour contrast and ARIA tags.


Accessible Health Information Project Proof of Concept

AHIP focuses on ensuring people can access health information when and where they need it, in the most valuable format for them. This proof of concept is part of the work to design and develop an Accessible Information Service for Health New Zealand Te Whatu Ora, translating and distributing health content in alternate formats for the disability community of Aotearoa/New Zealand.


Reflections on the Conference

The themes of collaboration and community involvement resonated strongly throughout the conference, especially on day 3. It’s crucial to engage communities upfront and throughout the research and project development process, rather than just consulting them at the end for user testing.In the panel discussions, we were inspired to hear from experts such as:

  • Professor Tahu Kukutai who emphasised the importance of working with Māori communities and securing buy-in from the “Marae council.” Researchers become Kaitiaki (guardians) of the data, bearing the responsibilities of guardianship.
  • Dr. Fuafiva Fa’alau who highlighted the need to deeply understand and involve Pacific communities.
  • Dr. Jo Nunnerley who discussed the significance of establishing trusted relationships with people with brain injuries and involving them throughout the journey.
  • Dr. Grace Walker and Lucy Jessep, University of Canterbury who focused on verbal consent and engaging with Māori communities with diabetes, stressing the importance of understanding tikanga and ensuring a kaupapa that includes all team members. A big part of this is being culturally safe and bringing the right people to the communities who can be both culturally responsive and aware. Relationships aren’t built overnight.


Connecting to Our Project

For AHIP, we emphasised the necessity of a disability-centric approach. With 24% of Aotearoa having disabilities, this community spans all other communities. The AHIP puts disability needs first, advocating for a system that welcomes, celebrates, listens to, and treats disabled people equally.

We highlighted that web accessibility goes beyond colour contrast and ARIA tags. Accessible Health information needs to be first-class information, accessible in formats like NZSL videos, Easy Read, and Blind Formats.

Led by the Disability Strategy Team, with a disability community member as Product Owner and Project Sponsor, and involving representatives from various disability groups, the project serves as a model for disability-centric collaboration. We believe this approach should be standard practice in creating inclusive healthcare solutions.


Two cartoon people thinking of ideas sharing a table with the text A model for how to collaborate on a disability-centric project.


Why How We Build Software Matters

Understanding how disabled people will use the software is vital. Collaborative design means combining our tech expertise with their lived experience of disability. True collaboration goes beyond user testing; it’s about working together from the ground up.