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News and views about  tourism, travel, and leisure that is accessible to people with disabilities, seniors, and Baby Boomers who will experience increasing disability as they age.

Blog by Sandra Rhodda, Director, Access Tourism New Zealand

Views are strictly my own

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New accessible services map on Pantou

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Woman in a wheelchair on a boat Thanks to Pantou

Pantou.org – The European Accessible Tourism Directory – now has a map view of accessible services. Pantou (Greek for “Everywhere”) provides information about suppliers of accessible tourism services in all European Union and Accession countries, as well as suppliers such as travel agents and tour operators who provide accessible services to Europe-inbound customers.  The Directory makes it easier for tourists with any kind of access needs to find what they are looking for when planning a visit.  It also promotes European accessible tourism suppliers, showing places to go and things to do – in safety and with convenience and comfort.  Suppliers who are listed on Pantou provide a wide variety of tourism services, including accommodation, facilities, transport, tours, venues and attractions that are designed to be inclusive and accessible for people who have a disability, long-term health condition or other specific accessibility requirements.  Registration on the site of accessible tourism suppliers is free.

The website is supported by the European Union Commission and managed by the European Network for Accessible Tourism (ENAT http://www.accessibletourism.org/).  Follow on Twitter: @Pantou_tourism @EUaccesstourism @EU_Commission

Conference: Innovative approaches to accessibility and heritage protection in Accessible Tourism

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The European Foundation Centre (EFC  http://www.efc.be/news_events/Pages/SAVE-THE-DATE!-Accessible-Tourism-Innovative-approaches-between-accessibility-and-heritage-protection0624-3730.aspx ) will hold a conference at the European Economic and Social Committee venue, Brussels examining approaches to accessibility and heritage protection in accessible Tourism.  The meeting will be held on 5/12/14, and will focus on four aspects of access and heritage protection, namely, services, partnerships, cultural heritage, and technological solutions.  Because tourism is seen as an important source of growth for the economy of Europe, investment in the accessible tourism sector will benefit everyone.  The conference will tackle the issue of challenges in protecting historical heritage while making it accessible to all.  Examples from the work of the League of Accessible and Historical Cities (LAHC http://www.lhac.eu/ ) will illustrate the discussion. LACH is a practical and innovative project carried out in the framework of the European Foundation Center Consortium of Foundations on Human Rights and Disability, which has been implemented in six European cities.  In these cities, eleven foundations are collaborating with local and national authorities, civil society, architects, and experts to improve the accessibility and protection of historical heritage.

Follow on Twitter @The_EFC

New app to help Blind navigate London transport

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A new phone app being developed by London charity The Royal London Society for Blind People (RSLB http://www.rlsb.org.uk/and digital product studio ustwo (http://ustwo.com/ )  could help blind and vision-impaired passengers by using Bluetooth iBeacons to map out London’s transport systems, writes Kate O’Sullivan in The Londonist (http://londonist.com/2014/08/new-transport-app-for-vision-impaired-londoners.php).  For many vision-impaired Londoners, difficulty navigating the capital’s huge and complex network of busy Tube, bus and rail systems can be a permanent barrier.  The new Wayfindr app will use existing Bluetooth iBeacon technology (BLE) to digitally map out locations. The beacons send out an electronic pulse that allow it to locate the user by comparing signal strengths. Once it has this information, it can send out directions through bone-conducting headphones which carry sound to the inner ear through the skull, making navigating transport systems solo possible for vision impaired passengers. Bone-conducting headphones sit on your cheek, meaning that you are still able to hear what is going on around you: essential if you are vision-impaired.

Transport for London (TfL) already offers assistance to blind or vision-impaired passengers by meeting them at ticket barriers and arranging for someone to meet them at the other end, and at any interchange. It’s a process that can easily involve three, four or more members of staff. This ‘turn up and go’ system is a welcome change to the old one, which required passengers to book in advance for assistance, and communication often breaks down between stations, leaving people stranded.

There is still site testing to be done and, for the new app to be implemented successfully, iBeacons would need to be installed across London’s vast transport network, starting with the Tube. This will clearly come at substantial cost. For it to become a reality, TfL needs to jump on board and fully support this new project, says O’Sullivan.

Source:  adapted from the Londonisthttp://londonist.com/2014/08/new-transport-app-for-vision-impaired-londoners.php .  Follow on Twitter: @Londonist @ustwo @RLSBcharity

Yorkshire tourist attractions praised for accessibility

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Silver Travel Advisor logo from their website

A number of Yorkshire tourist attractions have been praised for being accessible to older travellers. The National Railway Museum, in York, RHS Garden Harlow Carr, near Harrogate, Fountains Abbey, near Ripon, Ampleforth Abbey, near Helmsley and Malton’s Eden Camp Museum, all received plaudits from Silver Travel Advisor which is a review and advice website for mature travellers.

Silver Travel Advisor managing director Debbie Marshall is very impressed with the level of consideration and detail that Yorkshire’s tourist attractions have gone to in order to accommodate older or less able guests.   “Many of them offer mobility scooters, lifts and ramps, and all the sites visited have gone to great lengths to ensure the comfort and welcome of the UK’s aging population” she said.

Silver Travel Advisor is a website run by a team of mature travel industry professionals.  Members can join for free and are invited to contribute to the site’s growing collection of impartial mature travel reviews, travel advice and travel tips – all written exclusively by and for mature travellers.

Follow on Twitter: @SilverTravelAd @Welcome2Yorks

SFO Unveils Mobile App for Visually-Impaired Passengers

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Exterior of the San Francisco Inteernational Airport building

San Francisco International Airport (SFO http://www.flysfo.com/ ) has unveiled a prototype version of a smartphone application which can help visually-impaired passengers to navigate through an airport terminal.  The app was developed through San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee’s Entrepreneur-in-Residence Program (http://entrepreneur.sfgov.org/), which paired SFO with the Indoo.rs (http://indoo.rs/), a leader in indoor navigation technology, and was developed in a relatively short span of 16 weeks.

The prototype app works in conjunction with approximately 500 beacons located throughout the terminal to audibly call out various points of interest, including gate boarding areas, restaurants, and even power outlets. The prototype version will undergo additional testing and refinement before being released for use by the traveling public.

Source: Press release http://www.flysfo.com/media/press-releases/sfo-unveils-mobile-app-visually-impaired-passengers Follow on Twitter: @flySFO @indoors_rs

Accessible Flanders

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One hundred years after the start of the First World War, Flanders Fields has prepared for the expected influx of visitors during the centenary by being – as one of the Visit Flanders tourist board brochures puts it – “Accessible to Everyone”.  So write John Oates and Rob Crossan in The Telegraph (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sponsored/travel/great-war-flanders/10980195/accessible-travel-flanders-fields.html).    

In Ypres, the Gothic-style Cloth Hall on the town square is now home to the In Flanders Fields museum, which was recently renovated and has level floors and lifts for wheelchair access. Overall the museum provides an informative and accessible introduction to wartime history and sites. There are a number of companies in Ypres offering car and minibus tours.  It is important to book ahead and talk to the companies about any access needs.

Inevitably some places are more accessible than others. Take the famous Menin Gate in Ypres, an arch which bears the names of almost 55,000 missing Commonwealth  soldiers. The steps on two sides of the gate would be impossible by wheelchair, which means that you couldn’t get close to some of the inscribed panels or the places where wreaths of poppies are left.  On the other hand, the main area beneath the arch is flat and that’s where the poignant Last Post is sounded at 8pm every day in honour of the fallen. The space gets very crowded with tourists, so it’s a good idea to arrive by around 7.15pm, but there’s space in the middle where people with disabilities can get a spot away from the throng.

While there’s no substitute for making personal enquiries, the authors found the “Accessible to Everyone” brochure both detailed and accurate. Perhaps most importantly it doesn’t gloss over potential problems. At Tyne Cot, for example, it mentions an accessible entrance but also warns that “there is an adapted toilet, but it is difficult to reach because of the path’s pebble stones”.

The tour is exceptionally accessible and effective to blind and visually impaired visitors.  Visit Flanders has a huge roster of walking guides, all of whom were excellently prepared for dealing with a who needed extra assistance with stairs, roads and with reading some of the hugely informed visual elements to museums such as the In Flanders Fields museum in the centre of Ypres.  This is one of the best examples in Europe of a museum which has embraced the interactive approach to commemorating history without the usual concomitant dumbing-down.

The audio recordings (made by actors) of real diary entries written by soldiers, nurses and doctors, detailing the horror of life on the front line with a notable lack of sentiment or emotion are particularly good.  Visiting the battlefields themselves is no less affecting. The Memorial Museum in Passchendaele (actually in the nearby village of Zonnebeke) has a re-creation of a trench.  With detailed descriptions by a guide, people with visual disability can feel their way around the contorting narrow alleyway.  It’s impossible not to be affected by the feeling of suffocation that immediately manifests the moment you step inside the warren of bunkers where thousands of men would spend months enduring the near-constant ear-splitting sound of exploding shells.

It’s clear that, by providing accurate information – alongside training staff and working with sites to upgrade facilities – Visit Flanders is taking access seriously. Indeed, Visit Flanders recently won the ‘Amadeus and World Travel Market (WTM) Travel Experience Award’ for its provision in Accessible Tourism. Download Flanders Fields – Accessible to Everyone at www.accessinfo.be. It includes listings of hotels and restaurants with accessible facilities.

Sources: John Oates, Rob Crossan, The Telegraph; Visit Flanders; Access Tourism NZ.  Follow on Twitter: @VisitFlanders @valiesje @john_oates @crossantravels 

International NGO Naturefriends promoting Accessible Tourism

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Nature Friends Barrier free tourism brochure front cover showing wheelchair user

Naturefriends International is the global umbrella organisation and a member of the Green 10, the platform of the ten largest European environmental organisations.  They have 500,000 members in approximately 50 member and/or partner organisations throughout the globe, and are therefore one of the largest non-governmental organisations (NGOs) worldwide.  Naturefriends supports tourism and leisure activities that are socially equitable and in tune with nature, the protection, preservation and dynamic interpretation of our natural and cultural heritage, and the promotion of sustainable mobility as a contribution to climate protection.

Mindful of the 2011 World Health Organisation/World Bank publication which pointed out that there are more than one billion people with disabilities globally, and mindful of the worlds ageing (and therefore increasingly disabled) population, Naturefriends is getting behind Accessible Tourism.  They have produced a brochure – “Accessible Tourism for All” (Barrierefreier für Alle/Tourisme sans barrièrs pour tous– which demonstrates that there are different ways of rendering access to tourism and leisure­ time activities as barrier­-free as possible. They are all intended to serve as models, as inspiration and as incentive to Naturefriends activists and tourism experts.

Source: Naturefriends (2014). Accessible Tourism for All. http://www.nfi.at/dmdocuments/NFI_BarrierefreierTourismus.pdf

Follow on Twitter: @NFI_Brussels @annagl42

Tourism Guides for People with Learning and Intellectual Difficulties in Europe

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T GuIDE logo from website

The Tourist Guides for People with Learning and Intellectual Difficulties in Europe programme (T-GuIDE)is an initiative of nine organisations supported financially by the European Union’s Lifelong Learning Programme, ”Leonardo Da Vinci”.  The aim is to produce an EU training model and Manual for training Tourist Guides in guiding people who have learning difficulties or other intellectual impairments.  Many tourism destinations and businesses recognise that they must diversify and increase the quality of their products in order to reach new and wider markets. A re-orientation of the tourism sector is taking place with a focus on  ”Accessible Tourism for All”, which aims to deliver safe, comfortable and enjoyable tourism experiences for the entire tourism market, including people with disabilities, seniors and others with specific access requirements.   Tourism providers in all parts of the tourism service chain need targeted training to develop their skills, so that they can meet the particular needs of guests with learning difficulties or intellectual disabilities.  There are 8 European countries involved, as well as networks for Accessible Tourism, Social cooperatives and Foundations involved in tourism, the Federation of Tourist Guides, and several universities.

Main T-GuIDE outputs include:  A discussion document on methodologies for tourist inclusion of intellectually disabled people;  Draft T-GuIDE Manual with good practices and methodologies for intellectually disabled;  Training of 18 tourist guides in the EU, using the Draft T-GuIDE Manual (test and refine);  An  EU training model and T-GUIDE Manual (final version);  A framework of skills for training and skills assessment of “T-GuIDEs” at EU level;  A Trial of a Tourist Itinerary for visitors with intellectual disabilities/learning difficulties.

The T-GuIDE project is supported through the European Commission’s Lifelong Learning Programme, “Leonardo da Vinci”, Transfer of Innovation.   Source: T-GuIDE.  Follow on Twitter: @EUaccesstourism

Surge in wellness tourism, says LuxGuide

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THE wellness travel sector will enjoy a big surge in interest in the coming years, says LuxGuide editor Deborah Dickson-Smith. This is because more people realise the key to long term health is in their own hands, globalisation is opening doors for consumers to more lifestyle philosophies and treatments, and ageing baby boomers are looking to extend their years of good health.    As more people adopt healthier lifestyles, tourism operators and travel agents should expect to see more clients who want to incorporate this into their holidays. Twitter: @LuxperienceAU @where2nextblog

Economic Impact and Travel patterns of Accessible Tourism in Europe

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The final summary report of one of three studies commissioned in Accessible Tourism in Europe has been released.  The report is by the European Commission, DG Enterprise and Industry (DG ENTR) in 2012-2013 and aims to build a comprehensive picture of Accessible Tourism in the European Union (EU). The survey was conducted by GfK Belgium, the University of Surrey, NeumannConsult and ProAsolutions. The main aim of the study is to better understand demand for Accessible Tourism in order to guide policy-making in this field. For this purpose, five main research objectives were identified:

  1.  To examine the current and future demand for Accessible Tourism in Europe and beyond
  2.  To investigate the travel patterns and behaviours of, and information provision for people with access needs
  3. To evaluate the tourist experience across different tourism sectors from demand and supply-side perspectives
  4.  To estimate the current and future economic contribution of Accessible Tourism and its impact on employment
  5. To propose recommendations and success factors to improve the supply of Accessible Tourism offers.

The study results show that the accessible tourism demand by people with special access needs from the EU currently generates a total economic contribution of 786 billion Euros in terms of total output and 356 billion Euros in terms of gross value added or 394 billion Euros in terms of GDP within the EU. This scale is equivalent to about 3% of total GDP of EU27 in 2012.   In addition, the people with special access needs from the 11 key international inbound markets generated a total economic contribution of 34 billion Euros in terms of total output and 15 billion Euros in terms of gross value added or 17 billion Euros in terms of GDP to the EU.

The objectives of the study were translated into five key tasks whose key findings are presented.  Key predictions include that by 2020 the demand for EU accessible tourism by people within the EU will continue to grow to about 862 million trips/year, while demand  by the key international inbound market will reach 21 million trips/year.  If EU tourism destinations were improved so that almost complete accessibility of buildings, hotels, restaurants, museums, and various accessible services were available, the study showed that demand would increase almost 44% against the baseline, so that trips by EU residents would by 2020 rise to 1, 231 million trips/year.  The rise amongst people from key international markets would rise by almost 77%.  This could potentially result in 36 million trips/year by 2020.  In economic terms, this rise could translate into a rise of 39% in economic contribution. 

 Source: Miller, G (2014).  Economic Impact and Travel patterns of Accessible Tourism in Europe   Service Contract SI2.ACPROCE052481700 European Commission, DG Enterprise and Industry.  https://www.academia.edu/7606067/Economic_Impact_and_Travel_Patterns_of_Accessible_Tourism_in_Europe

 Follow on Twitter: @UKguchan

Hilton Pattaya earns Thailand Accessible Tourism Award 2013

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File:Pattaya Beach Road.jpg

Hilton Pattaya Thailand has received the 2013 Thailand Accessible Tourism Award certified by Department of Tourism, Ministry of Tourism and Sports of Thailand (TSPT). The award is presented to hotels that exemplify a high standard of universal design and provide accessibility to all guests including the elderly, people with disabilities, and anyone needing easy access such as pregnant women, parents with pushchairs, and travellers with luggage.  “We attempt to offer those guest facilities and the finest in hospitality, service and dining for memorable experience.” said Rudolf Troestler, general manager, Hilton Pattaya.   Hilton Pattaya is one of Hilton Worldwide’s managed properties in Thailand and is located in the heart of the city overlooking Pattaya Beach and the Bay. 

For information about accessible travel in Thailand, visit Accessible Thailand

Follow on Twitter: @HiltonPattaya @AccessThailand

Biggest tourism and travel spenders are the Baby Boomers

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Tourism Review (http://www.tourism-review.com/) recently carried out a survey of travel agencies and professionals in the tourism industry to get their opinions on changing trends with travel, consumer expectations, and booking.  They came up with seven important trends and their likely effects.  One of these was the fact that it is Baby Boomers – those in their late forties to mid sixties – who are the biggest spenders.  TR notes that for any tourism business, be they hotel, travel agency, or airline, it is crucial to keep up with trends in spending and technology in order to stay ahead of the competition and retain their evolving consumer base.  Businesses within the sector need to keep an eye on where their revenue is coming from.  Spending habits tend to be separated into generations and while agencies focus on attracting the youth market, they only account for 9% of travel expenditure in the last year.  It is the Baby Boomers spending the most, bringing in 60% of the revenue.

Follow on Twitter: @Tourism_Review

Glastonbury praised over access for deaf and disabled fans

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The huge Glastonbury Festival has been praised for its access for deaf and disabled fans in a BBC report (Tom Bateman).   The event is a five-day music festival that takes place near Pilton, Somerset, England. In addition to contemporary music, the festival hosts dance, comedy, theatre, circus, cabaret, and other arts.   This year’s Festival was the first ever to be awarded “gold” status by campaigners who want better access for deaf and disabled people at concerts and music venues.  The festival site includes accessible showers and toilets and is staffed by volunteers who provide wheelchair hire and a minibus service to help people move around the festival site.  It also has a “high-dependency” unit which can give people with serious illnesses access to sterile toilet, washing and medical facilities.  Festival organisers said the award was a sign of how “society is changing the way it thinks and acts towards disability”.  The event had a bespoke campsite for deaf and disabled festival-goers, uses raised “viewing platforms” for wheelchair users at 11 stages and employs sign language interpreters to allow deaf people to understand lyrics during live acts.  Gideon Feldman from the charity Attitude is Everything, which made the award earlier this year, says Glastonbury has taken disabled access “incredibly seriously”.  “There are an awful lot more deaf and disabled people [than there used to be] who feel that this is a festival they want to come to.”

One of Glastonbury’s regular features is its DeafZone area, which offers lessons in British Sign Language and a team of interpreters for deaf people to access acts across the festival site.  This year two sign language interpreters were used during Blondie’s performance on the Other Stage on Friday afternoon.  Jo Stevens, a support worker for deaf people in Bath, has been working at the festival and says she has a hearing problem which means she struggles to understand lyrics in music.  “I really like to be able to understand what is going on, what is happening,” says Ms Stevens.

The biggest changes to accessibility for deaf and disabled people at Glastonbury have taken place over the past seven years.  Claire Elsam, the festival’s access co-ordinator, says Glastonbury is working to make more progress but thinks it has helped “change attitudes” towards disability.  “It amazes me that there are still venues that could quite easily be changed and still aren’t being changed,” she says.  “Certainly when it comes to other festivals there are far smaller and easier sites that people can make accessible but they don’t necessarily do that.  Campaigners acknowledge that cost is often a barrier to music venues becoming more accessible to disabled people.  But Attitude is Everything argues that venues may be missing out on ticket sales, with four out of five deaf and disabled people saying they are put off going to events as they lack confidence in sites being accessible.

Source: BBC Radio 4.  Follow on Twitter: @GlastoFest @BBCr4today @attitudetweets

£370m Scottish Accessible Tourism Market to get a boost with free online customer service training

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A new £45,000 online training programme will help Scotland’s hotels, visitor attractions, pubs,  and restaurants better cater for the requirements of people with access needs including those with physical, sensory or learning disabilities, elderly visitors and parents with small children.  Scotland’s Minister for Tourism, Fergus Ewing officially launched the first phase of the e-learning Accessible Tourism Course at a visit to the Crowne Plaza in Glasgow on 23 June.  With the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in August, VisitScotland and its partners believe the programme will ensure all visitors to the City, regardless of their access needs, receive a world-class welcome.  Free of charge, the initiative will be available to all Scottish businesses. Ryder Cup Europe has already agreed to use the course as part of its customer service training for Marshalls and Access Buddies ahead of the global event in September at Gleneagles.

As well as promoting good practice, the training will a provide users with a better understanding of the requirements of this growing market.  Training is split into four categories: accommodation, visitor attractions, restaurants and catering, and pubs and bars.  Accessible tourism was recently valued at more than £370m to the Scottish economy, an increase of £37m since 2009. The rise demonstrates the huge potential economic benefits to hundreds of businesses and services across the country of catering for this market.   Tourism Minister Ewing said at the launch of the training that everyone should have the chance to enjoy all that Scotland has to offer. “Improving accessibility has real potential to help achieve tourism industry growth ambitions and boost the wider economy, as well as enhancing social equalities.”

Chris McCoy, VisitScotland Accessible Tourism Scotland project manager, said: “2014 is the year we welcome the world and we want to make sure everybody receives the same warm Scottish welcome. However, we know that poor customer service and a lack of accurate information are among the most common barriers facing visitors with access needs. This project is designed to help equip employees and managers with the skills and knowledge they may need to welcome all visitors, regardless of their access needs. We hope through innovative online tools such as this, we can position Scotland as a country with world-class accessible tourism facilities, offering more choice as well as excellent customer service.”

In the run up to the Commonwealth Games, the Accessible Glasgow Tourism project, an official Glasgow 2014 legacy project which links to the wider Accessible Tourism Scotland project, is encouraging business to realise the potential economic benefits of the Accessible Tourism market by developing an ‘Access Statement’.  An access statement offers visitors with access needs a clear description through words and pictures of the facilities and services they can expect during their trip. Creating an access statement is often the first step to making a business more accessible.

For more information about accessible tourism and to access the training course:  www.visitscotland.org/accessible-tourism-training.  Source: VisitScotland.  Follow on Twitter: @VisitScotlandNews @FergusEwingMSP @rydercupEUROPE @Capability_Scot

EU opens Access City Awards 2015

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The European Commission has opened the competition for the fifth ‘Access City Award 2015′, the European Award for Accessible Cities. The annual prize recognises and celebrates cities for their efforts to make it easier for the disabled and older people to gain access to public areas such as housing, children’s play areas, public transport or communication technologies.   Making Europe more accessible to those with disabilities is a key part of the EU’s overall disability strategy 2010-2020, which provides the general framework for action in the area of disability and accessibility at EU level to complement and support Member States’ action .  Since 2010, 171 cities have participated so far in the 4 previous Access City Award. The Award is part of the EU’s wider efforts to create a barrier-free Europe: improved accessibility brings lasting economic and social benefits to cities, especially in the context of demographic ageing. Cities with at least 50,000 inhabitants have until 10 September 2014 to submit their entries for the award.   EC Vice-President Viviane Reding, Commissioner for Justice said that people with disabilities still face too many barriers in everyday life, which is why the EU has placed accessibility at the centre of their strategy for building a barrier-free Europe.  “The Access City award allows cities across Europe to showcase their efforts in making life more accessible for all!” said Reding.  “I am pleased to see that there are so many good practices shown by European cities – accessibility offers new business opportunities and can be a real stimulus for innovation and growth. I encourage all European cities to participate in this excellent European initiative and help make Europe more accessible for all”

The Access City Award is given to the city that has demonstrably and sustainably improved accessibility in fundamental aspects of city living, and that has concrete plans for further improvements. The Award covers actions in the areas of:

1. Built environment and public spaces; 2. Transport and related infrastructures; 3. Information and communication, including new technologies (ICTs); and 4. Public facilities and services.

Previous Access City Award winners include Avila Spain,  Salzburg Austria,  Berlin Germany, and Gothenburg (Sweden).  

Source:  EU release.   Follow on Twitter: @EU_Justce @VivianeRedingEU 

EU Commission ‘Mainstreaming Accessibility’ Across All European Tourism Policies

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