Mental Health Crises – Helping your staff avoid or manage them

Mental Health printed on scrabble blocks

Very few people will be able to claim that COVID-19 has not increased their stress levels in some way. Whilst New Zealand as a country has managed through their lockdown exceptionally well, many New Zealanders are at risk of, or are already in, a mental health crisis.

As an employer, it is in your interest to support your staff through any challenges they may be facing to their wellbeing. Beyond any legal requirements, benefits of getting this right can include:

  • More engaged staff with a stronger employer/employee relationship
  • Increased performance and reduced absenteeism
  • Better quality staff retention and increased loyalty
  • Reduced workplace accidents

We wanted to share with you some of the online resources that we have come across over the past weeks to support you in these efforts.

If you have other resources that may be of value, please let us know so that we can share them as well.

Just A Thought’s – Staying On Track

just a thought

The Staying on Track course introduces easy-to-use, practical strategies to cope with the stress and disruption of day-to-day life as an impact of COVID-19. The page also includes a number of resources that can assist your team to maintain their mental health.

BlueSkyMinds’ – COVID-19 Mindfulness Meditation Help


Accessibility Tick partner BlueSkyMinds has prepared a number of resources to assist during these challenging times.

From mindfulness meditation practices by MBSR Trained instructors, links to other COVID-19 specific resources, suggestions of books worth reading and apps that assist. These are all worth checking out.

ILO Global Business and Disability Network’s – Mental health conditions and work

Global Business and Disability Network

The ILO Global Business and Disability Network’s Mental health conditions at work online course is a great set of short 15 minute e-learning modules followed by a short 5 minute quiz aimed at –

  • Combating stigma and raising awareness
  • Manager training
  • Resonable accommodations
  • Return to work
  • Employment strategies for persons with severe mental health conditions

Mental Health Foundation’s – Five Ways to Wellbing at Work

The Five Ways to Wellbeing (Connect, Be Active, Take Notice, Keep Learning, Give) are proven to help people find balance, build resilience and boost mental health and wellbeing. The Five Ways to Wellbeing can also support workplaces to meet their health and safety obligations to manage risks to mental health and wellbeing.

This toolkit can help you build a strategy if you don’t already have one.

Mood Gym (Australia)


Moodgym is like an interactive self-help tool which helps you to learn and practise skills which can help to prevent and manage symptoms of depression and anxiety.

With over 1 million users worldwide, it is a fantastic resource to assist during these times.

R U OK? (UK)

R U OK, A conversation could change a life

This is a great resource for if you have concerns about someone’s mental health. It provides guidance on how to start and hold a conversation with them in a safe and supportive manner.

Simple steps that could change a life.

Heads Up – Better Mental Health in the Workplace (Australia)

Heads up, Better mental health in the workplace

A treasure trove of resources for all sections of workplaces, both large and small. Here you will find some great resources for the organisations, employees, managers and even small businesses.

Note: A number of these resources have accessibility flaws. We were unable to find resources that were developed with full accessibility in mind, but considered that the overall benefit to those who could access them outweighed not sharing these due to their incomplete accessibility. If you need assistance in making them available to staff with accessibility needs, please reach out on email to

Making Online Meetings Accessible

There are many things that you can do to ensure your virtual meetings are usable by everyone, including those with accessibility needs. I thought that we would take the opportunity to share a few of them with you –

Assume there are people who are blind, deaf, neurodiverse, have a physical impairment, or any other number of accessibility needs joining your meeting

Unless you have information to the contrary, you should always assume that there are people who have accessibility needs attending your meeting and make the meeting as accessible as possible.

To obtain information to the contrary, you either need to –

  • Have existing relationships with each of the attendees and know they don’t need adjustments, or
  • Ask attendees to declare their accessibility needs ahead of the meeting.

When scheduling a meeting ask something like the following –

Our organisation is committed to ensuring our meetings are accessible for everyone. In order to be able to participate in this meeting successfully, do you have any adjustments/accommodations that you would like us to make? If so, what?

Understand the accessibility features of the tools that you are using

Most the mainstream tools for online meetings and webinars have information publicly available regarding their accessibility features. Take the time to understand what is possible with your tool.

Where you are using additional features of tools (such as whiteboards, chat, polling, etc.) understand the impacts that they may have on participants.

Have fit for purpose equipment

Quality audio visual equipment

Where at all possible, don’t just use a laptop’s built in web camera and microphone. Ensure that you use a high-quality web camera and microphone to ensure that everyone can hear and see you clearly.

Good quality broadband

Also ensure that you are connected to a suitable broadband connection to minimise the chances of any buffering causing issues with meeting members comprehension.

Ensure your materials are accessible

When creating your material, ensure that you follow accessibility best practices. This will require you upskilling to understand how to ensure they are accessible. You can do this by –

Share material out before or at the start of a meeting

Sending materials to the attendees before actually starting can allow them the opportunity to use them should they encounter accessibility barriers with the live meeting.

Provide Captions

The choice of which captioning technique you use will depend largely on the level of accuracy required, budget, needs of those in the meeting. Your options include:

Sign Language

If it is requested, you should engage a sign language interpreter. They will guide you through the process.

See the Sign Language Interpreters Association of New Zealand’s Interpreter Directory (opens in a new tab) for a list of interpreters.

Ensure everything on screen is audio described

If something is put up on the screen don’t assume that the audience has read it. Some people will be unable to interact with the visible content so ensure that you have verbalised it as well.

If you can’t verbalise it, then the content shared well in advance to allow those with accessibility needs to consume and subsequently comprehend it ahead of the meeting.

Say your name every time you speak

Ensure that the meeting has an understood convention that every time someone speaks they say their names. This will allow those using audio only links, who are blind or have low vision, or for everyone else where someone has just not labelled themselves correctly in the software, to understand who it is that is talking.

Have someone monitoring the chat

Ensure that you have someone monitoring the chat who can assist people with any accessibility challenges that they may raise.

Post URLs in presentation in the chat

When you share a link to something in the presentation, ensure that the link is also made available in the chat function.

Pause at key points and ask for feedback

People with various accessibility needs may not feel confident to interrupt you to ask a question. Ensure that you ask questions at set points and allow plenty of time for them to do so, including by chat if they prefer.

If one person is dominating the conversation, ensure to ask others for feedback as well.

Free Webinar Series

This webinar series is now complete. Accessibility Tick members can access them in our Member Only Area under
Learning Modules / Webinars

During the COVID-19 lockdown (March / April 2020), Accessibility Tick will be putting on a number of free webinars.

We kicked it off with a webinar on Accessible Document Basics. Thanks to everyone who attended. A recording of this is available in the members only section of the website.

Disability Etiquette Basics

Accessibility Tick, Disability Etiquette Basics, Free Webinar

Our next free webinar is going to be Disability Etiquette Basics on Wednesday 8th April 2020 @ 10am.

We will explore the 6 generic areas of Disability Etiquette as published by the New Zealand Office for Disability Issues, as well as current accepted language. Presented with practical examples as to why these matter.

Watch out for more information on future webinars.

Employers Network submits on Government’s Draft Disability Employment Action Plan

Having employers voices heard as part of the recent consultation for the government’s Draft Disability Employment Action Plan is essential. That is why members of the Accessibility Tick Employers Network (ATEN) have today submitted a submission outlining their consensus feedback on the Action Plan.

Supportive of the plans objectives, our employers’ network feels the plan should include provisions for –

  • Recognising and proactively supporting an employer led body that is focussed on disability in the workplace from an employer’s perspective.
  • Expanding from focussing on getting someone into work to also providing them with ongoing support that leads to a meaningful career aligned with their personal aspirations.
  • Reviewing the supported employment model, heeding to employers’ input as a key stakeholder, ensuring that any changes best completement employers’ recruitment processes / approaches.
  • Establish ways for government to lead the way in their own disability practices.

The ATEN Draft Disability Employment Action Plan can be found below –

Our first retailer to achieve the Accessibility Tick – The Warehouse Group

Please see their press release below –

The Warehouse Group is proud to announce it has achieved the Accessibility Tick. The tick recognises the programmes of work the Group is undertaking to support accessibility in its workplaces and stores.

The Warehouse Group CEO, Nick Grayston said with approximately one in four Kiwis affected by physical, sensory, mental or learning disabilities, it is important that access is given the right consideration as a business priority.

“We believe a diverse, inclusive and accessible workplace brings out the best in our people. That’s why we’re committed to creating an environment where all team members feel safe and confident to bring their whole selves to work and customers have full access to ours stores,” said Grayston.

There are multiple programmes of work in place to support accessibility across The Warehouse Group, including working closely with team members on matters that personally impact their needs the most while at work.

By 2025, the retail giant is striving to ensure that all products, services and buildings will be accessible for all. Some of the changes coming to stores over the next five years include; a trial of quiet sensory hours for neuro-diverse customers in The Warehouse stores, ensuring all new stores across the Group are fully accessible and inclusive, as well as ensuring that the e-commerce presence is just as accessible as a physical store would be.

Celebrating the Ready Willing and Able video series

Our partnership with The Inclusive Employment Taskforce Bay of Plenty has been amazing. We continue to explore ways to work together and provide employment opportunities.

The below 3 videos were created to illustrate the abilities that people with disabilities bring to open employment.

Joel – Tauranga Visitor Centre

Joel explores his vision loss due to retinitis pigmentosa and his employment at the Tauranga Visitor Centre.

Chris – Farmer Autovillage

Chris chats about his emloyment at Farmer Autovillage whilst living life in a wheelchair.

Sue – Welcome Bay Vet Clinic

Sue is a vet at the Welcome Bay Vet Clinic and talks about how she has returned to normal life after her spinal injury.

Vector first employer awarded with Accessibility Tick

Vector Limited

Media Release

The Accessibility Tick is a new programme helping employers be part of the solution in creating a more accessible and inclusive New Zealand for people with disabilities.

At the Inclusive NZ Conference in Wellington yesterday, Vector was recognised for its role in co-designing the Accessibility Tick programme.

Vector’s Chief Risk Officer, Kate Beddoe, says: “Diverse, inclusive, and accessible workplaces are win-win situations: employees feel valued and accommodated, which boosts productivity, raises morale, and results in a more successful business. Making our workplace even more welcoming will benefit these employees and means we can also tap into a talented pool of prospective employees.

“Being awarded the Accessibility Tick, alongside our Rainbow Tick and accreditation as the only large corporate business in New Zealand committed to the Living Wage, demonstrates Vector’s commitment to providing an accessible and equitable workplace for everyone.”

Accessibility Tick programme lead, Tanya Colvin, applauds Vector for its commitment to accessibility, and for its willingness to get involved at an early stage to co-design a programme that will resonate with the business community.

She explains that while there has been great appetite from New Zealand employers to be inclusive of people with disabilities for some time, the missing piece for many has been the ‘how’.

“We know employers see the value in fostering a diverse and inclusive workplace. We have seen them tackle inequities in areas such as gender and demonstrate their commitment to the LGBTTI community through the Rainbow Tick.

“Meanwhile the roadmap to accessibility has not been all that clear, so we are pleased to be helping employers take it out of the ‘too hard’ basket with the Accessibility Tick programme. The Tick provides them with the structure, tools and support to implement an action plan where they are committed to taking meaningful steps towards accessibility and inclusion through policy, culture and environmental changes,” says Ms. Colvin.

Disability Rights Commissioner, Paula Tesoriero encourages employers to learn more about the Accessibility Tick. She says: “I support initiatives that build inclusion and aim to ensure employers take advantage of the talent pool of disabled people.”

The Blind Foundation is a lead partner in the Accessibility Tick programme, which has grown from the organisation’s insight that a pan-disability initiative was needed to create systemic change supporting employment of people with disabilities.

Blind Foundation spokesperson Norman Evans says the organisation supports clients through its employment support service and while that has fostered many individual success stories, it is only a drop in the ocean in creating meaningful change for employment of people with disabilities.

“New Zealanders with disabilities are three times less likely to be employed than their non-disabled peers. Over more than 15 years, we haven’t moved the dial significantly in bridging that gap.

“The Accessibility Tick programme turns the traditional approach on its head, highlighting that the problem isn’t about people with disabilities – it’s about how workplaces are setup to include them,” says Mr Evans.

Some of the easily achievable steps Vector has taken to encourage a more accessible workplace include: integrating accessibility into their Health and Safety protocols; senior managers attending unconscious bias training; and changes to their recruitment processes and the way vacancies are advertised to encourage those with disabilities to consider Vector as a workplace.

Ms. Colvin says both employers, and potential employees benefit from the Accessibility Tick: “It serves as a mark of confidence for all parties that inclusivity and the needs of people with disabilities are not just taken seriously – they are welcomed.

“One in four New Zealanders identify as having a disability. If organisations are not inclusive and accessible, they could be missing out on a quarter of the market.”

The Accessibility Tick programme is currently working with a further nine organisations. These employers are expected to become foundation members when they are awarded with the Accessibility Tick.

More information on the Accessibility Tick is available online:


Supplied photo: Tanya Colvin, Accessibility Tick programme lead, with Paul McCloskey, Vector’s Group Manager – HR, holding Vector’s Accessibility Tick award.

For more information please contact:

Kimberley Ross, Blind Foundation Communications Manager on behalf of Accessibility Tick | 022 011 3635

Murielle Baker, Senior Communications Specialist at Vector | 021 02756461

About the Accessibility Tick

The Accessibility Tick programme helps New Zealand organisations become more accessible and inclusive of people with disabilities. We are a pan-disability social enterprise with a vision for bridging the accessibility and disability employment gaps. We recognise that New Zealand organisations have a variety of accessibility issues and we help to simplify that process and to get better outcomes.

About Vector

Vector is New Zealand’s largest distributor of electricity and gas, owning and operating networks which span the Auckland region. We’re leading the transformation of the energy sector to create a new energy future with sustainable energy technology, which includes solar power, energy storage, EV charging stations, and smart meters, and we’re constantly identifying and developing options that will provide value, choice and service for our customers.