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Accessibility Support Programme for the New Zealand Traveller Declaration

Screenshot of the New Zealand Traveller Declaration form

Anyone landing in Aotearoa New Zealand must complete a declaration about what they are bringing into the country and where they have been. This is to protect our unique and fragile flora and fauna.

In the past the declaration was a paper form which created barriers for many people with access needs. It needed to be completed either on the plane or at Customs in New Zealand.

During 2022 and 2023 Multiple Government agencies, MPI, MBIE, CUSTOMS, MoH, NZTA, and STATS,  embarked on a challenging journey to digitise the New Zealand Traveller Declaration (NZTD). Tranche one of the programme, focused on health declarations and faced difficulties due to tight timelines, staff changes, and an unexpected Covid lockdown.

Accessibility complaints and negative user experiences prompted a pivotal decision – the integration of an accessibility program for Tranche Two. This is where Access Advisors entered the scene, partnering with the NZTD team on a mission to reduce barriers for all users.

Accessibility Initiatives

Working closely and collaboratively with NZTD Access Advisors implemented a comprehensive programme of work to enhance accessibility, including:

  1. Alternatives Research Report: Explored alternative formats for the landing card.
  2. Persona Based Guidelines: Outlined design considerations based on various access needs.
  3. Regular Support for Product Team: Maintained consistent communication through stand-ups and weekly catchups.
  4. NZeTA Mobile App Review: Conducted an in-depth examination of the previously problematic mobile app.
  5. Iterative Web Reviews: Regularly assessed the new web form for accessibility improvements.
  6. Content Reviews: Ensured content is accessible for diverse audiences.
  7. Usability Testing of Web Form: Gathered feedback from recent travellers with access needs.
  8. Support for Mobile App: Provided assistance for the ongoing development of the mobile app.

Flexible Support: Adapting to Diverse Needs

To address diverse and changing business, legal and user needs, Access Advisors also provided ongoing flexible support for almost 12 months. This included sessions on accessibility basics, error message assessments, colour contrast, visible focus, live screen reader demonstrations, quick question sessions, code-level development sessions, and advice on alternative formats and providers. Our adaptability was crucial in addressing a broad range of accessibility issues.

Wins and Challenges: Lessons Learned as Accessibility Champions

The best aspect of this project was our success in establishing regular communication with the program lead, direct contact with product owners, and gaining recognition as valued contributors to the program. Providing an independent expert perspective and the longevity of our engagement enriched collaboration.

The project did present some challenges which included navigating multiple agencies and their requirements, staff changes, restricted access to prototypes, and balancing conflicting priorities.

Future Direction: Continuing the Journey of Inclusion

The NZTD is now live for all travellers flying into New Zealand. The digital form has undergone significant improvements in accessibility since the beginning of the project. Major and critical issues have been successfully addressed. In addition, The Accessibility Statement effectively communicates the present state of the NZTD, and valuable resources have been created for future use. Including Access Advisors in the development team helped transform the NZTD into a viable and equitable product for disabled individuals.

Looking forward, NZTD will continue its iterative improvement, addressing remaining issues, supporting the mobile app as it develops, and conducting regular reviews. Suggestions for maintenance support, exploring consortium-wide accessibility implementation, and increasing awareness and training are part of our vision for the future.

Summary: A Triumph in Accessibility Advocacy

The NZTD's accessibility transformation, guided by Access Advisors, is a triumph in inclusivity. Opportunities to influence such large scale projects are rare, and we are thrilled with this project.

Usability testing of the digital form revealed a positive reception of the move to digital, appreciation of the visual design, Te Reo Māori content, and improved biosecurity information.

Our journey, though challenging at the start, has positioned the NZTD for continued improvement, leaving behind valuable lessons and resources for future projects. The program lead's feedback underscores the collaborative success, emphasising the commitment to accessibility and inclusion that defines the NZTD. 

Feedback from Programme Lead

Early in the development of the New Zealand Traveller Declaration (‘digital declaration’) we committed to developing a product that was accessible and inclusive. We engaged with Access Advisors to help us better understand what we needed to do to make sure the digital declaration and supporting information and resources met the standards required. Access Advisors worked collaboratively with us to create and deliver a digital product that we are all incredibly proud of.

Sharon May

Senior Responsible Owner, New Zealand Traveller Declaration, New Zealand Customs Service