Recreation Aotearoa Disability & Inclusion Programme Manager Selected for U.S Mentorship


WEEK 1Week one found us in Houston, Texas. Some of my favourite moments from Texas include:

  • Meeting Lex Fridman, who is an absolute icon in the disability rights movement here in the U.S.
  • Vising James Driver Inclusive Park and seeing all of their various accessibility features (including a slide with a transfer station for a wheelchair user at the bottom).
  • Spotting this awesome community engagement initiative within Discovery Park Visiting (and playing on) the first wheelchair accessible softball pitch.
  • Attending a Huston Astros game.

WEEK 2: Week Two we split up from the other delegates in the programme - Guna and I are now based at Ability360 in Phoenix, Arizona. Some highlights this week:

  • Exploring the facility including it’s impressive aquatics facility (with 4 different accessible entrances!), their gym, courts and suspended walking track Visiting Tempe Town Lake and trying barge rowing.
  • Meeting a key American’s for Disability Act (ADA) coordinator whose job has been to make major events accessible and is now her own auditor of places and spaces.

This week ahead I’m hoping to head outdoors to see some of their trails and to survey a park with the ADA coordinator. Absolutely loving my time here and really grateful for the opportunity!


We are thrilled to share that Katie Owen, our Disability and Inclusion Programme Manager, has been selected to take part in the Global Sports Mentoring Programme ‘Sport for Community’ run by the U.S Department of State. The programme is focused on advancing disability rights and is a five-week immersive mentorship experience in the U.S.

Katie will spend three of the five weeks working with, and receiving mentorship from, Ability360, in Phoenix Arizona. Ability360 offers programmes that empower people with all disabilities to take personal responsibility so that they may achieve or continue independent lifestyles within the community.

Katie’s is most excited about:

  • Learning how the ADA and U.S. Access Board influences the accessibility and inclusion of spaces and places to be active in local communities in the United States,
  • Learning how facilities, open spaces (parks, playgrounds, beaches) and the outdoors have been made more accessible to meet the needs of people with disabilities across the U.S. and how we can use these learnings for the development of our New Zealand guidelines,
  • Learning about the U.S. best practice examples of accessibility in recreation settings, and how such examples could be replicated in New Zealand.
  • She also can’t wait to meet the other delegates from around the world and share experiences and learnings with them.
About Katie:

Through the influence of her mother’s teacher aid work, Katie developed a passion for and deep involvement in supporting people with disabilities at a young age. Throughout her career, she has actively sought opportunities to improve access for the disabled community in New Zealand – including experience in both volunteer and paid roles with organizations in the disability and sport/recreation sectors. Katie is passionate about enhancing opportunities for people with disabilities to be active across Aotearoa, New Zealand.

As the Recreation Aotearoa Disability and Inclusion Programme Manager, Katie’s role is to develop and champion national standards, guidelines, and advice for the active recreation sector to improve access to recreation places and spaces for people with disabilities across New Zealand. In addition, Katie is a volunteer board member of a recently established regional disability sports organization - Disability Sport and Recreation Hawke’s Bay. She has recently finished her master’s degree with the University of Waikato exploring how coach education can improve the inclusion of people with disabilities in mainstream sports.

Katie strongly believes in the power sport and recreation have to enhance the lives of people with disabilities. Her mission is to accelerate and enhance the accessibility of recreation places and spaces in Aotearoa through advocacy, developing guidelines and standards, and advice to the sector.

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