History of AccessAbility

AccessAbility has been a people-focused and forward-thinking organisation since the day it started.


AccessAbility’s story begins with two visionary women: Lorna Sullivan and Jan Scown. In the mid-nineties, formal Needs Assessment was a relatively new requirement and hospitals were set to become the places where disabled people went to access funded services.

Lorna and Jan dreamed of establishing an alternative-thinking and disability-focused organisation, to provide Needs Assessment and Service Coordination (NASC) in a way that supported disabled people to pursue the lives they wanted.


CCS Bay of Plenty; Community Living Trust; and Access Ability founding Board members Kaye Taylor and Peter McRae brought together the funding to form ‘Access Ability’. The organisation started delivering NASC services in Taranaki and Whanganui under the leadership of Jan Scown.


Pip Nicholls began leading Access Ability and extended its NASC to South Auckland. The organisation worked in this area for more than a year.


Access Ability took up the Regional Intellectual Disability Care Agency (RIDCA) contract in Auckland and Northland. It also began working as the NASC and RIDCA for Otago and Southland.


Access Ability made one of its biggest advances, establishing Imagine Better as a separate entity. Lorna Sullivan was appointed Chief Executive (CE) of this new organisation and Judy Bilderdeck took up the reins at Access Ability.

Imagine Better was set up to educate the disability sector, with the goal of moving towards ‘individually designed supports for disabled people’. Its ambition was for disabled people to live self-fulfilled lives as valued members of society.


Access Ability celebrated its tenth birthday. The Board’s desire to diversify led to two new contracts with Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC): Supported Living and Supported Employment.


On 1 April 2009, the original shareholders were bought out and the organisation adopted a new constitution.


Access Ability ended its RIDCA contracts and closed its Auckland office.


After an organisational review, the Board decided to restructure Access Ability. The AccessAbility Charitable Trust was set up on 1 July 2013 and Access Ability Limited was dissolved.

Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Judy Bilderbeck, stepped down from her role, after 16 years with Access Ability, including nine as CEO.

The Board recruited Tony Blackett as the new CE, to oversee both AccessAbility and Imagine Better from September 2013.


AccessAbility secured the contract to run Local Area Coordination in Central Otago and Southland. Local Area Coordinators began working in these areas in October 2014.