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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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EU Parliament-financed study: Catering for Accessible Tourism demand in Europe

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Map of Europe

A new study on the supply of accessible tourism services in the EU Member States, financed by the European Parliament, shows that there is a general lack of provisions for visitors with access needs.  Greater commitment and cooperation is needed between tourism authorities, destinations and enterprises, if supply is to meet the growing demand for accessibility, especially from increasing numbers of senior travellers, many of whom face access difficulties.  The study found that by 2020, over 4 million tourism businesses need to provide accessible services in order to accommodate the lowest forecasted demand from those already with disabilities, and the predicted increase in this number. Thus, there is a strong rationale for targeted actions by policymakers to improve support structures and incentives that will foster the growth of accessible services and to market these services to travellers within Europe and those from other source markets.

The study gathered data from a wide range of sources, showing that an estimated 9% of Europe’s tourism services already have some level of provision for travellers with specific access needs.   A number of leading destinations and “mainstream” suppliers are integrating accessibility measures into their products and services, enabling them to serve a wider market, thus making their business more sustainable over the long term.

However, the distribution of accessible services is highly uneven across Europe.   The “front-runner” countries, with the greatest numbers of accessible services, are France, Italy, Spain and the UK. These and other countries have invested not only in adapting and building accessible infrastructure but also in developing staff training schemes focusing on disability awareness and accessibility as part of customer service training. This, in turn, helps to give customers the confidence to travel with greater security, knowing that their needs will be met.  However, where accessible services are offered, the vast majority of these address the needs of people with reduced mobility due to motor difficulties or impairments.  Visitors who have other access requirements, such as those who need services for people with low vision or reduced hearing or special diets, are under-served in the market.  Visitors with intellectual disabilities or learning difficulties are the least served of all customer groups.

Lack of services for these groups means that their travel choices are limited – but it also implies “lost” income to tourism providers.

The study has identified important gaps in awareness and knowledge about accessible tourism among suppliers.  The European Commission’s tourism policy officer, Antonella Correra, states: “One important result of this study is that the first barrier is not the lack of financing. There is a perception that accessibility is expensive but when businesses were asked, it was mainly the lack of available guidance that holds them back. Knowing what needs to be done to make their services more accessible is the primary issue.”

Ivor Ambrose, Managing Director of the European Network for Accessible Tourism, which carried out the study together with VVA European consultants and EWORX S.A., adds: ”The study shows that businesses are largely unaware or cautious of the market potential and the business case for investing in the accessible tourism market.”

Referring to some of the good practices that the study has identified, Ambrose continues: “We have developed fifteen Case Studies, from Rovaniemi, the home of Santa Claus in Finland, to Paris Région – the world’s number one city for tourism. The studies highlight destinations that are working to create accessible itineraries and experiences for seniors, people with disabilities and families with small children, enabling these customers to enjoy a visit on equal terms with everyone else. Experiences from these destinations have been used to draw up recommendations and explain the tools and methods that other aspiring accessible tourism destinations and suppliers can adopt. We hope these will be a source of ideas and inspiration to many destinations and businesses”.

The study points to evidence that improvements to accessibility, whether they are in infrastructure or in many kinds of service, can increase sales, encourage repeat visits and bring higher average spend. However, proving the business case for accessible tourism is still a challenge in many areas. More regular and systematic market data is required in EU countries to guide business investors and public sector actors.  Another recent EU study of tourism demand has estimated that the accessible tourism market in Europe is made up of over 138 million people, of which only about half are regular travellers. The gross value added contribution of those who did travel in 2012 was estimated at 150 Billion Euro and the direct contribution to employment was about 4.2 million persons.

The Supply Study concludes that ‘mainstreaming’ accessible tourism policies in destinations can enhance the quality of tourism products for all visitors, as well as providing a pathway to local development. “It has been shown that, with stronger cooperation between decision-makers, destination managers, suppliers and the third sector, the focus on accessibility can lead to new jobs and business opportunities for entrepreneurs and investors” says Ambrose, concluding: “This recipe can give a boost to the tourism industry and also improve conditions generally for local communities”

Recommendations from the study are being adopted in the current EU tourism development programmes, in particular through support for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises to improve their staff skills for serving customers with various access needs and to develop accessible itineraries and supply networks.

Source: Adapted from press release.  Follow on Twitter: @EU_Commission @visiteurope @EUaccesstourism @VVA-Europe @eworx

Lonely Planet wants your accessible travel information

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Tourist in a wheelchair having her photo taken

Here is a great opportunity to get your access information in front of a worldwide travel organisation.   Martin Heng, Accessible Travel Manager at Lonely Planet is in the process of compiling a global database of useful websites for people travelling with access issues, whether through disability, injury or old age. He has already amassed dozens of useful links, but is interested in resources at a national and city level that he is unaware of.  If you have knowledge of online resources that may be useful to people travelling to your region, Martin would be very grateful if you could share some of your local knowledge with him for the benefit of countless travellers worldwide. You can drop him a line at travelforall@lonelyplanet.com.au with the address of any website that you think might be useful and a brief description of what the site offers. If you’re time poor, please just send him a link and he will follow it up himself. It could be a link to a local government access page, a public transport journey planner that has accessible filters, a business that offers accessible tours or someone’s personal blog that you’ve found useful or inspiring – he is potentially interested in anything and everything.

Follow on Twitter: @lonelyplanet @Martin_Heng

Welsh working hard to improve access in the arts

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Arts Council of Wales banner from their website

About 30 theatres and arts centres in Wales have signed up to a scheme to give disabled people better access to the arts, writes Georgia Snow in The Stage.  The scheme, called Hynt, is the brainchild of Arts Council of Wales (ACW) and is aimed at opening up cultural spaces and experiences for audiences with disabilities. Those taking part include Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff’s New Theatre and Clwd Theatr Cymru.  An access card entitles cardholders to a free ticket for a carer or personal assistant across all shows at participating theatres. When booking, box office staff will also be able to see automatically any additional preferences, such as if there is a need for parking for disabled people or the need to bring an assistance dog.

“It’s absolutely about trying to make booking and attending theatre as equal an experience as it can possibly be,” Hynt’s project manager Emma Evans told The Stage. “Having the same quality of experience is really important.”  The scheme also includes an online resource for audiences, which brings access guides and information on theatres and performances into one place.

In addition, Evans said the initiative was working with theatres across Wales to “embrace a transitional change” within arts organisations that will improve accessibility and understanding.   “We knew that we had to create this national card scheme with transparent criteria, but we also had to start a step change within the culture of the organisations we are going to be working with to bring them on board with that commitment,” she said.

Hynt is funded by ACW but has been created by development agency Creu Cymru in partnership with Diverse Cymru.  The scheme was announced by ACW alongside its equality guide, which has been published to give arts organisations practical ideas about improving equality and diversity within the arts in Wales.

Follow on Twitter: @Arts_Wales_ @DiverseCymru @CreuCymru @we_are_hynt

Edinburgh Airport hosts guide dog training day

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Puppy handlers at airport picture from Edinburgh Airport website

The cuteness factor hit new levels at Edinburgh Airport recently as 12 trainee guide dog puppies descended on the terminal for a training day.   The pups, aged between six and 15 months, arrived at the terminal with their volunteer puppy walkers to take part in a full airport walkthrough from arriving at the check-in hall, to going through security and into the departure lounge.   Part of the airport’s wider “Travelling with Additional Needs” programme, the terminal team invited the group from Guide Dogs Scotland along for the special training session which allows the puppies to gain crucial experience of a busy airport environment.

With over 520 registered guide dog owners in Scotland and many being regular air travellers, it’s vital that the puppies are trained for their future role as guide dogs as they have to be ready to deal with all eventualities and get used to busy places.  Sarah Gardiner, Head of Terminal Operations at Edinburgh Airport, said: “We’re very pleased to welcome the guide dog puppies and their handlers into the airport today so we can help give them valuable training for their future.

The “Travelling with Additional Need” programme was launched  a year ago and the airport has worked hard with Terminal and Security teams to better understand the complex requirements that some passengers may have.  “We realise that each passenger is unique and may have different requirements so that’s why we’ve been working hard to understand the complex types of barriers which can stop people from being able to fly”, said Gardiner.  “We firmly believe that everyone who wants to fly can fly and we’re committed to making sure all of our passengers have the best experience possible. We have an amazing team here at Edinburgh Airport and we’ll continue to work to ensure our services are of the highest standard.”

David Smith of Guide Dogs Scotland, said: “Fully qualified guide dogs are required to face a variety of settings and situations with calmness and confidence, and early tastes of different environments will see them experienced for later life.”   The puppies experienced a number of situations, traveling by public transport such as trains, buses and trams, before experiencing the airport environment.  “We’re keen to expose the pups to the experience of going through security and all that it entails, such as being handled by different people, having their lead and collar removed and going through the scanner”, said Smith.  “It’s a good experience for the pups to get used to the sights, sounds and smells of the airport so it shouldn’t bother them later when they are fully trained guide dogs helping people with sight loss to lead independent lives.

Edinburgh Airport is Scotland’s busiest airport. More than 40 airlines serve 100-plus destinations and 9.78 million passengers a year passed through the airport in 2013 – the busiest year ever for a Scottish airport.

Source: Edinburgh Airport.  Follow on Twitter: @EDI_Airport @guidedogsedin

WTM London 2015 award for accessible accommodations

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Tourism businesses and organisations around the world are being considered for the World Responsible Tourism Awards 2015 at WTM London this November.  The prestigious awards scheme, co-founded and organised by Responsible Travel, is part of World Travel Market’s World Responsible Tourism Day – the largest day of responsible tourism action in the world – which takes place on Wednesday 4 November and  celebrates the most inspiring and innovative examples of responsible tourism in practice globally.  For a second year, Enable Holidays will support accessible tourism in the Awards. Enable Holidays was the first UK tour operator to be accredited for its competence in auditing the accessibility and grading the suitability of accommodations abroad for people with disability, seniors, slow walkers and others needing better access.  This year the category ‘Best Accommodation for Disability Access’ will be awarded to an hotel or place to stay that is accessible and enjoyable for all, welcoming travellers of all physical and mental capabilities and which can serve as an example to the wider tourism industry.

A major discussion topic at World Travel Market London last year, the accessible tourism category also produced one of the 2014 Awards Overall winners, Campo & Parque dos Sonhos, Brazil, recognised for “demonstrating that truly inclusive tourism can enhance the adventure activity experiences for everyone, and enable families and friends to share their leisure and the experiences”, according to Chair of the Judging Panel Professor Harold Goodwin.

Lynne Kirby, managing director of Enable Holidays, believes the awards can play an important role in promoting accessible holidays: ‘’As one of the pioneers of accessible travel, Enable Holidays is pleased to support initiatives that are helping to open up more of the world to disabled people”. By sponsoring the Access category, Enable Holidays is helping to promote the need for truly barrier-free holidays and keeping this important issue at the top of the agenda.

Follow on Twitter: @RTAwards @WTM_London @enableholidays #WRTA2015

Tips for travelling in Barcelona for people with disabilities

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Guest blog: Julian Montero is a full time wheelchair user who is part of the management team at Barcelona Zero Limits(BZL).  BZL is an inbound travel operator (ITO) based in Barcelona, created to encourage inclusive cultural and gastronomy tourism in Barcelona and its surroundings.   They specialize in tourism for people with mobility problems, seniors and people with food allergies, and for anyone interested in a fabulous tour!  In this guest blog, Julian shares some tips for helping you to enjoy your travel to Barcelona. Julian wheeling in Barcelona

Tips for travelling in Barcelona for people with disabilitieshttp://www.accesstourismnz.org.nz/ #A11y #Trava11y @bcnzerolimits @VisitBCN_EN

1. How can I get to the city from the airport?  From the airport to downtown, you can easily get public transport without needing to take the shuttle airpot or taxi. With the 46 bus that leaves from Terminal 1 and at Terminal 2 you will reach “Plaça Espanya” in 20 minutes and from there you can move around the city quickly. Another alternative is the train from Terminal 2 and goes directly to Plaza Catalunya, the center of the city.

2.How can I move around the city?

Barcelona has an extensive metro and bus network that will take you to every corner of the city. A metro or bus ticket costs 2.15€ per trip, but the Barcelona Metropolitan Transportation (TMB) service offers discount travel cards. Travel cards can be purchased from metro ticket booths or Tourist Information offices.    Most of the buses on the bus network are wheelchair accessible. However the metro is a quicker way to move around the city. Most of the stations are wheelchair friendly, however we recommend you to get a metro map with the accessible stations information. You can download the map from the following link:  http://www.tmb.cat/ca/c/document_library/get_file?uuid=c8996f6c-8ad5-4d21-b59b-faf9fceebd80&groupId=10168

3. When is the best time of the year to visit Barcelona?

The best time to visit Barcelona is the month of November, after the all saints bank holiday and before the end of the month. This is the time of year when there are fewer tourists (be realistic, there are always many tourists in Barcelona, do not expect to be the only one!).  The prices of the hotels in Barcelona then are usually cheaper than during the rest of the year. Moreover you will find shorter queues!

4. Where to eat?

Avoid eating in crowded tourist areas, especially in the Ramblas, where everything is much more expensive. Just move a little to find much better prices especially for drinks. Neighbourhoods like Gracia and Borne offer alternatives with a much better price / quality deal than Las Ramblas or Plaza Catalunya.   Another good option is to eat in La Barceloneta, a neighbourhood with a port atmosphere built in the 18th century to provide shelter for the inhabitants of La Ribera. This neighbourhood is frequented by locals on weekends for eating and accessing its popular beach, Playa de la Barceloneta.

5. What to eat?

In Barcelona we like to walk and eat. It’s a local tradition to go from bar to bar enjoying the best snacks while drinking a beer or a classic vermouth, a drink  we recommend you to taste …it is sweet but bitter, stimulates the appetite and prepares the stomach to enjoy anchovies, pickles, and finally, a few colourful tapas.    Barcelona offers its streets and terraces to enjoy a few hours of one of its most deeply rooted and beloved culinary traditions.

6. Can I go to the beach?

Do not forget to to visit the beaches and enjoy the sun and the food.  Barceloneta is the first of Barcelona’s beaches, the one closest to the city and usually the liveliest.   The beach is fully accessible with a bathing assistance service. This service is intended for people with mobility problems, and aims to facilitate the entry and exit of the water to enjoy bathing time using – if necessary – an amphibious chair.   This area has walkways to the water, a suitable changing area, sit-down shower and a lifting crane. This allows anyone to swim in the Mediterranean with the help of volunteers.

7. Free Museums:

The first Sunday of the month, some local Barcelona museums offer free entry.   Some are free on Sundays ( Barcelona City History Museum at Plaça del Rei, Picasso Museum on Montcada 15-23,  Maritime Museum of Barcelona Avenida Drassanes).

8. What to do that is different?

If you want to see Barcelona from a different perspective and enjoy the city like you’ve never done it, you can book a tour of Barcelona, such as a gourmet tour, and enjoy the Mediterranean Cuisine and Tapas. Learn about the city by participating in all kind of cultural tours. And if you are more adventurous you can also live an unforgettable experience flying in air  balloon over the mountains of Catalonia or dive in the Mediterranean Sea and discover its breath-taking seabed with Barcelona Zero Limits.

Follow on Twitter: @bcnzerolimits

Ageing Boomers a factor in increasingly important Family Tourism

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Seniors and grandchildren

AUT University academics Heike A. Schanzel and Ian Yeoman have just had a paper published discussing “Trends in Family Tourism” (Journal of Tourism Futures, 2015: Vol. 1 Iss 2 pp. 141 – 147).  In it, the authors discuss how family travel is predicted to grow at a faster rate than all other forms of leisure travel.  It is a phenomena shaped by changes in demography and social structures, including a growing number of older people.   Longevity and smaller core families have led to the family becoming more vertical rather than statically horizontal in form. Grandparents are enjoying more time with their grandchildren as they live longer.  “In 1960”, write the authors, “the life expectancy of a UK woman was 73 and the mean age for giving birth was 27. Presently, the life expectancy for a woman is 81.9 and the age for giving birth is increasingly in their 30s. Present day grandparents can expect to enjoy several more years with their grandchildren than those of the 1960s”.  People expect grandparents to continue to play an active role in their grandchildren’s life.

Increasingly re-connection holidays across generations become a way for extended families to spend valuable time together, and 75% of travellers plan their holiday around a milestone event such as a birthday, reunion, wedding or anniversary – and even a holiday, to bring family members together. More baby boomers are becoming grandparents who are typically healthier, mobile and want to spend quality, fun time with their grandchildren.

Follow on Twitter: @tomorrowstouris

Permanent link to paper: Heike A. Schänzel Ian Yeoman , (2015),”Trends in family tourism”, Journal of Tourism Futures, Vol. 1 Iss 2 pp. 141 – 147 http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/JTF-12-2014-0006

Tourism in Italy for people with disabilities

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Guest blog by Cristiana Campanella of Rome and Italy Tourist Services, an incoming tour operator specialized in tours and services dedicated to people with disability.

Rome and Italy Tourism Service showing wheelcahir tourists

The idea to create a tourist service dedicated to people in wheelchair who wish to spend a holiday without worries, was born in 2007 thanks to the friendship that Stefano Sghinolfi (the owner of Rome and Italy) has with Carlo Rossetti, who is the president of Aisa (Italian Association for Ataxic Syndromes) who is disabled.   Stefano, before starting the business with Rome and Italy, was a tour leader who for many years went around Italy with groups of tourists.  One of the main problem during the tour, when travelling with people in wheelchairs, was that the wheelchair users often had to wait outside the major archaeological sites, or visit only a small part of them because of lack of access.  Unfortunately, in some of these sites, municipalities have built routes that are accessible to wheelchairs but that allowed a person to see only a quarter of the archaeological site. That is why he decided to make “accessible” the inaccessible sites. The only way to do that was to make an investment in the purchase of “special equipment”.

Rome is known as the largest open museum in the world, one of the most visited cities and one of the must-see wonders. But it isn’t what one would consider accessible to wheelchairs, at least not all of it. In Rome, a must is undoubtedly to visit the Roman Forum, which is full of cobblestones, steps and arduous paths; the same is true for the excavations of Pompeii,  Ostia Antica, and many more such. Thanks to collaboration with Ferriol Matrat, which is a French company  who produce the “Joelette”, a special one-wheel chair carried by 2 assistants, (originally used for the disabled while trekking), Rome and Italy has e made it possible to see these sites.

In regards to accommodation, nowadays in Italy, despite the existence of laws by which hotels are obliged to have rooms equipped for people in wheelchair, unfortunately often the rest of the buildings it is not.  This is in spite of the fact that hotels must be fully accessible not just in the room but from the entrance, with access to the breakfast room, with a large elevator, public accessible toilets, and rooms with bathroom equipped with grab bars, roll in shower etc.   That is why Rome and Italy  studied and then create a section on our web site dedicated to the disabled tourists where they can easily find accessible hotels in several Italian cities. We have visited and tested personally all the hotels shown on our website, documenting with picture and information the accessibility. All this information is now available on our website where the disabled can check, according to their needs, which accommodation would be the most suitable.

Rome and Italy also have wheelchair accessible vehicles, and can hire every type of equipment needed by wheelchair travellers.  Follow on Twitter: @RomeandItaly @joelette_sport http://www.romeanditaly.com/wheelytrekky-la-sedia-speciale/

Travel businesses missing out on huge market: WTM

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 Travel businesses failing to take into account the disabled market are missing out on up to £80 billion of potential spend in the UK alone. The headline figure was discussed a round table conversation organized by The Travel Tech Show at the World Travel Market (WTM) and Amadeus, which focused on disabled and responsible travel.  The event featured an in-depth and informed discussion as eight experts from both business arenas gathered to discuss the markets. But it was the figure from the UK Government’s 2012 Legacy for Disabled People, Inclusive and Accessible Business which provoked much discussion.  Ataxia South Wales Chairman Alan Jones said the report showed the UK’s estimated 10.6 million disabled people have a combined annual spend on goods and services of up to £80 billion, adding: “It is a big market out there. What’s the travel industry doing about it? In a word, nothing.”  Jones said the problems start as soon as he tries to book a holiday as many people in the industry see his wheelchair rather than the human being using it, leaving agents too embarrassed to deal with.

Enable Holidays Managing Director Lynne Kirby said such problems are endemic in a trade which has failed to educate staff how best to handle disabled people. Amadeus Director of Marketing Rob Sinclair-Barnes added if the market is to be adequately served, it must be all encompassing: “Accessible travel is the only type of travel that has implications from the moment of departure from home to the moment of return.”  However, Virgin Atlantic Passenger Disability Adviser Geraldine Lundy said the trade would need to go even further to meet the market’s needs, adding: “It is even before they (disabled travelers) leave home. It is when they’re thinking about the holiday and booking it. It is about getting the information about where they want to go.”  Lundy said the information needs to be accurate to allow disabled people to make informed decisions. She added it must also take in to account that some disabled people are blind or have learning difficulties and will need the information presented in a different way.  Sinclair-Barnes pointed out that as Baby Boomers enter old age and face increasing health problems, the industry must take action. “It (accessible travel) is a growing market. I’ve found it quite astonishing how little (product) there is.”

Source: World Travel Market.  WTM is the leading global event for the travel industry, and holds a four-day business-to-business exhibition for the worldwide travel and tourism industry. Almost 48,000 senior travel industry professionals, government ministers and international press, embark on ExCeL – London every November to network, negotiate and discover the latest industry opinion and trends at WTM.

New “Accessible Japan” website for visitors

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Guest blog: When not slaving away in a Japanese office, Josh Grisdale is out seeing the sights and wants to share his adopted home – from a wheelchair user’s point of view.   In this blog, he describes why he started Accessible Japan.

maiko

I first visited Japan 15 years ago in 2000.  It was unforgettable.  Not just the exciting culture and exotic landscape, but because of adventures brought about by my disability: being carried down 5 flights of stairs in an electric wheelchair by six subway employees is not something easily forgotten!  There were also many stares – not in a mean-spirited way, but innocently inquisitive.  I realized then… “hey, where are all the disabled people?!”  Few people with disabilities were out and about.

Fast forward to today, and I am just one of many people with a disability living life in Tokyo. Japan has changed an incredible amount and I would say that it is even more accessible than my native Canada!  The rail system is very easy to use, there are many clean accessible toilets around, and most tourist sites are modified.

One reason for starting Accessible Japan  was the frequent divide between what a disabled person sees as accessible and what an able-bodied person thinks is accessible.  I think everyone knows what I’m talking about.  I find there are two extremes: being told a place is accessible and being devastated upon arrival to find it isn’t, and being shied away from a great place because a worried owner thinks a 2cm step cannot be maneuverer by a wheelchair.  While I cannot speak for every person with a disability and don’t want to say what can or cannot be done, what I can do is provide as much information as possible so the readers can decide for themselves.   This is what Accessible Japan aims to do.

The major reason for starting the website, though, is the language barrier.  A surprising number of hotels in Japan actually have rooms which are wheelchair accessible (called “barrier free” in Japan).  However, I don’t think that the people making the hotel websites imagine that a person with a disability would come from abroad.  As such, when looking at a hotel’s English-language website,  you might reject it because it doesn’t mention an accessible room.  However, when looking at the Japanese-language website, you find one – even listing amenities and showing pictures!  Since most people just visiting Japan cannot read the language, they don’t get any further.  My goal is to wade through the piles of Japanese information and list it in English.  Additionally, I want to introduce some major tourist sites and aspects of everyday life through the blog.

I just started a month or two ago, so we still have a ways to go, but I would enjoy having people come along for the trip!  My goal is to have a searchable database on the site in the near future – like hotels.com, but with disabled users in mind.  Most information will come from translating the Japanese information first, but Accessible Japan intends to make detailed site visits in the future.  I currently have no planned order of doing such visits, so if there are any requests, please ask via email (info@accessible-japan.com), Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/AccessibleJapan), Twitter (https://twitter.com/AccessibleJapan), Google+ (https://plus.google.com/108792131332807728580) or Pinterest (https://www.pinterest.com/accessiblejapan/)!

Right now we are having a contest to help spread the word about Accessible Japan– you could win a free photo book of Japan just by following or tweeting! (www.accessible-japan.com/contest).  The Olympics and Paralympics are coming to Tokyo in 2020 – hope to see you there!

New app: Accessible NYC subway and places

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Wheelie map of NYC

Wheely is an application designed to help wheelchair and stroller users better navigate the New York City Subway system as well as provide a useful guide to accessible places in specific neighbourhoods. Wheely features accessible subway maps licensed by the MTA®, specific directions and maps to subway elevators and reviews based on local accessible places. Wheely is founded by Anthony Driscoll, a Parsons New School MFA Design and Technology candidate, who was inspired to create this app through his travels with his father who was diagnosed with MS in 2001.  Over the past couple years Driscoll senior has been dependent on a power chair to get around.  He and Anthony have travelled all over the country together and have experienced all levels of accessibility.   When Anthony moved to NYC to attend grad school at Parsons School of Design, his family would visit frequently.  It took a lot of preparation and research to accommodate his father’s needs. They  would have to call ahead to restaurants and figure out the best way for him to get from place to place.  Though all of NYC’s buses are accessible, they are slow and can be a hassle to board and exit the bus.  They decided to use the subway system since that is what Anthony was most familiar with.  It took a few times traveling the subway to realize the right way to board the train and which lines were accessible.  The MTA subway is hard to decifer when looking for accessible stations and sometimes the elevators are out of service which left people stranded. Anthony saw a gap in the market for a visualized accessible subway map and elevator statuses and decided to create Wheely.

Whether you’re in a wheelchair, using a stroller or your boss made you move a million boxes from one office to the next, Wheely gives your a map of accessible stations and helps you find subway elevators.

Wheely will not only be an accessible subway map with elevator directions but a fully accessible guide for New York City.  Wheely plans to create an open source interactive map with reviews and ratings of various accessible places. To do this they need user input.   People can help by telling Wheelie what their favourite accessible places are.  They do not have to be in New York City but NYC places are preferred.  By providing them with this information they will be able to start building a database to later add to Wheely as a fully functional navigational guide with ratings and reviews.

Sources: http://www.wheelyapp.com/  https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1935800597/wheely-a-wheelchair-accessible-guide Follow on Twitter: @wheelynyc

AccessAble Leicester app: 24/7 access guide

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Leicester city centre

DisabledGo, working in partnership with Leicester City Council have launched a brand new app to revolutionise access information.  The AccessAble Leicester App is the world’s first bespoke access app on iOS, delivering user friendly accessibility guides, available 24/7.  It is powered by DisabledGo. This free mobile application enables disabled people and their friends and families to find detailed access information from a pan disability perspective for over 1000 venues across the city of Leicester, including car parks, toilets, and entrances.  Every venue is visited and assessed in person by a highly trained DisabledGo surveyor.

The AccessAble Leicester App offers the following mobile access features.  They include:

AccessAroundMe – Instant access to detailed access information to places to visit across Leicester at the touch of a button. Each detailed access guide has information about opening times, directions, ramps, lifts, accessible toilets and much more!

Find A Loo – Highlights the closest public accessible toilet to the user’s current location, and gives precise details of the facility.

MyWayToGo – The world’s first integration between mobile access information and maps. Users can now locate and get directions directly to their chosen accessible place to visit.

FindMeNow –  built in emergency locator that sends the GPS location of the user, directly to their selected emergency contact via email or SMS.

AccessMyWay – Enables the user to filter results to match their specific access requirements, such as accessible toilets, car parking, changing places and hearing assistance.

Apple VoiceOver – compatible with Apple’s VoiceOver software, making all the access information accessible.

The app will give spontaneity and choice back to disabled people, breaking down the barriers to enjoying and contributing to their community faced by them.

Cllr Manjula Sood, Assistant Leicester City Mayor for community involvement, partnerships and equalities, said that the council was aware that disabled people want better information about accessible facilities in Leicester, following the many changes to the city centre over the last few years.   “Changes such as improved shop mobility facilities, level street access throughout city centre, and the city’s many major attractions, need to be supported by up to date and reliable information about accessibility”, said Sood.  “With more and more people using smartphones, this new app will make this information easy to find and help ensure equal opportunity and choice for everyone.   We want to ensure that disabled people have comfortable and enjoyable visits to the city centre.”

DisabledGo was founded in 2000 by wheelchair user Gregory Burke and is a not for profit disability organisation.  It provides online access information to towns and cities across the UK and Ireland free of charge at.   It features over 120,000 places including shops, tourist attractions, universities, hotels, health centres, colleges, restaurants, leisure centres and more.   The aim of DisabledGo is to let people with disabilities know what they will find at a particular venue or attraction so they can plan in advance with confidence or find places that suit them while travelling.

To download the app, visit the iTunes Store.   Major source: press release.  Follow on Twitter: @DisabledGo @Leicester_News @LeicesterCncl

Disability Access, World Responsible Tourism Awards 2015, WTM: now open for submissions

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Man with crutch at booking counter The World Responsible Tourism Awards 2015 at WTM are now open and include the category “ Best accommodation for disability access”.    The Awards are part of the world’s largest event for responsible tourism action at the World Travel Market, London (WTM London).    The disability access category award will go to an entrant that is a place to stay that is accessible and enjoyable for all, welcomes travellers of all physical and mental capabilities, sets a standard for accessible tourism practices, and serves as an example to the tourism industry.  Responsible tourism should be accessible to all travellers.    The judges are looking for accommodation providers who have integrated progressive policies and practices of inclusion and accessibility into the heart of the business – this is not only about wheelchair access, but about an ethos of accessibility that runs throughout the hotel. The award is sponsored by Enable Holidays which was established in 2004 as the first UK tour operator to be accredited for its competence in auditing the accessibility and grading the suitability of accommodation abroad for people with mobility impairments. In addition to providing holidays for disabled travellers, Enable also caters for the elderly market, slow walkers and people looking for an easier way to get around and enjoy their holiday. Last year the award focused on access and attractions and facilities. Follow on Twitter: @WTM_WRTD @WTM_London @enableholidays

Amsterdam: New Accessible Routes city guide

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Amsterdam canal

A new City Guide with 5 accessible routes through Amsterdam has been developed by Accessible Travel Netherlands in close cooperation with the Dutch design company Field Factors. The 5 short accessible routes travel past barrier free restaurants, museums and sights of interest. All venues along the route are accessible for people with limited mobility. Additionally, the city guides provides accessibility information about public transport and shopping streets. The goal of developing this guide was to provide routes with no or very limited steps. Bridges will be found along the routes, but the most challenging bridges have been avoided.

The city guide is available as online and printed versions in English and Dutch. People that have booked their trip to Amsterdam with Accessible Travel Netherlands will receive the online city guide. Other visitors to Amsterdam can pick up a printed version from Starbikes Rental in Amsterdam, a bike rental where special bikes and wheelchairs are available for hire. The online version can be downloaded from the website.

Accessible Travel Netherlands is run by Veroniek Maat, a one-time intern at the New Zealand Tourism Research Institute at AUT University.  Maat has a Masters in  Leisure, Tourism, and Environment from Wageningen University,  and has written a number of guest articles for Access Tourism NZ in the past, most recently about creating an accessible tourism network in the Netherlands.    The city guide was realized with support from Starbikes Rental, Amsterdam Marketing, Province Noord-Holland and Nationale Vereniging de Zonnebloem.   Follow on Twitter: @AccesstravelNL  @starbikesrental @Stichting_AM @ProvincieNH

New website uses crowd-sourcing and mapping to rate access in the UK

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Rob Trent lives in Hampshire, England. He has worked for Ordnance Survey (Britain’s Mapping Agency) for over 25 years. He has personal experience of living with a disability, overcoming accessibility challenges, and an understanding of the benefits of mapping data.    Rob has previously combined his life experiences with his interest in sport, and has worked with the Football Stadium Design Council and the Football Foundation to help improve facilities for disabled people at football grounds.  In this article, Rob tells us about his reasons for starting AccessAdvisr, a website containing ease-of-access information. 

 

Spaghetti junction of roads

“Yes, it’s accessible, there’s only two steps to navigate”. “We have a ramp allowing access to our building”.

As a wheelchair user I have often come across comments like those above.   However, on many occasions the reality differs greatly from the description. “Ramps” are more like ski slopes, and “access to our building” is usually past the cleaners equipment, through the kitchen and into the service lift. Things are very often not quite what they seem.

Out of that frustration AccessAdvisr was born. I wanted something for users who face the same challenges as me (and that could include parents with prams and cyclists, but primarily people with disabilities).   My career with Ordnance Survey meant that AccessAdvisr combined the idea of crowd-sourcing with a mapping background.   AccessAdvisr was created to provide a customer a real-world view of how easy-to-access different places and transport stops are for disabled people.   The aim is to provide a simple mechanism to allow people with mobility challenges to rate and find first-hand accessibility information. Photographs and videos can be posted on the site.    Information on accessibility can then be used to improve the situation. Heres an example of a typical AccessAdvisr rating: https://accessadvisr.net/place/view/18269/

The real challenge lies in getting people to use the site. Starting any business (and AccessAdvisr is a business) is a long hard slog, and this has been no different.   Clearly we would love to have more people adding information to the site so that AccessAdvisr can be of real benefit to people with accessibility challenges.

AccessAdvisr started because it is an answer to a real problem. With help from all of you out there we can go a long way to sorting the problem.    If you feel you have something to contribute then please check us out. The AccessAdvisr website can be viewed here: https://accessadvisr.net/. In addition to the website AccessAdvisr can be found on Twitter (@accessadvisr) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/AccessAdvisr).

Editors note: AccessAdvisr works with a number of UK local authorities and organisations to develop this website and the Community Pages.  The support of organizations such as Suffolk County Council (Twitter: @suffolkcc), Milton Keynes Council (@mkccouncil), Nottinghamshire County Council (@NottsCC), Nottingham City Council (@MyNottingham), The University of Nottingham (@UniofNottingham), and GeoVation (@GeoVation) is helping to grow AccessAdvisr’s user community and enabling it to develop the software tools.   AccessAdvisr Ltd. is a subsidiary of Integrated Transport Planning Ltd., a UK-based transport research and planning consultancy with offices in London, Birmingham, Nottingham, and Milton Keynes. 

Science Museum London tips for improving access

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Science Museum London website banner showing exhibition

Writing recently on Scope, The Science Museum of London’s  Special Event Developers, Claire Hazell, shared some tips on how the Museum achieved recently being named as one of the top 20 most accessible tourist attractions in Britain.    As Special Events Developer, Hazell and her team write, develop and present a large programme of events aimed at families during holidays and weekends, and run a variety of events aimed at making the Science Museum accessible to everyone.   Regarding accessibility, the main points Hazell shared on Scope are:

1) There is a big difference between accessible and inclusive.  For example, the Museum’s  science shows, storytelling sessions and workshops are all presented in British Sign Language and are suitable for both deaf and hearing visitors.

2) Accessible means different things to different people. Making the museum accessible can mean different things for everyone. It could just mean giving someone a map so they can find their way around but it could also mean coming to an event which has provision for their needs. 3) Don’t make assumptions

3) Don’t make assumptions.  The Museum never assumes anything and makes sure it looks at developments from every angle and assumes nothing.

4) You can’t do it alone.  If you don’t know much about what an event will need, ask people that would know.   Information from other people/groups is invaluable and will help a team provide a new event that is open to even more people.

5) Taking the first step is hard but the rewards are worth it.  It is always an amazing accomplishment to open the door for an event for the first time and see the smiles on the faces of families and children.

Find out more about The Science Museum and accessibility at the Museum.  Follow on Twitter: @sciencemuseum @Claire86Hazell @scope

VisitEngland conference on accessible tourism

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VisitEngland photo of a wheelie and a pushchair user in a souvenir shop

VisitEngland is that country’s national tourist board. Its role is to grow the value of tourism by working in partnership with the industry to deliver inspirational marketing campaigns and to provide advocacy for the industry and visitors. The organisation’s work is underpinned by robust research and customer insights.  VisitEngland has for a number of years been at the forefront of developing accessible tourism for people with disabilities and others who need better access to tourism, travel, and hospitality.  It has carried out a number of initiatives in this area (search here), and annually gives an “Access For All” award at its Visit England Awards for Excellence” celebrations.   Recently, VisitEngland received funding from the European Commission to develop accessible tourism, and is currently part way through an “Access for All” project, developing and promoting 7 high quality accessible tourism itineraries.

This year – as part of English Tourism Week 2015 (14-22 March), VisitEngland will be holding a conference on achieving access for all in tourism venues.   Unlocking the Purple Pound will be held in partnership with Sandcastle Waterpark in Blackpool on Wednesday 18th March.  Sandcastle won the 2013 Gold Award for accessible tourism.   The  free event will help business owners and managers improve their facilities and services for disabled people and those with other accessibility needs – a market now worth £12.4bn to England’s tourism industry.

With more than 1 in 6  visitors to England likely to have an impairment and a massive 31% uplift in the number of domestic holidays taken by the 55+ age group since 2006, the business case for improving accessibility has never been more compelling.

Sponsored by Aveso, the programme is packed full of practical tips and expert insights, including an Access Statement workshop, top tips for accessible marketing and tailored sessions for attraction and accommodation businesses.

Follow on Twitter: @VisitEngland @VisitEnglandBiz @AvesoCP

Visiting Barcelona with a disability

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Guest post: Since Mirjam Stibbe moved to Barcelona in 2005, she has seen more and more people visit the Mediterranean city.  Because a family member from The Netherlands with MS wanted to visit Stibbe, she began to look for appropriate accommodation for her.  Here she describes how this compelled her to start Barcelona-Enabled.

Barcelona Enabled tour group

I understand perfectly what the attraction of Barcelona is: the sea and beaches, delicious food, amazing architecture, vibrant cultural life, football, laid back atmosphere. Do you want me to go on? Working in tourism, I saw that Barcelona provides many possibilities to its visitors. There are great places to stay and there is so much to do and its so easy to get around in this small big city.

However, it is not always obvious to everyone how the city is very welcoming to people with access needs.    To organize your trip when you are physical impaired in a strange country is a challenge. You would like to make sure that you have your accessible needs covered. This is harder than it seems. Make some calls to some hotels and you will be told that the hotel has wheelchair accessible rooms. The hotel is obligated by law to have this, so another answer is unlikely.  But how unfortunate is it, when you arrive at your accommodation and there are 3 steps to get into the lobby, the lift is too small to fit your wheelchair, or the adaptations to the room is a lowered bathtub.

Coming from grey, cold Holland, my family loves to visit me in Barcelona. One family member has MS so I looked for appropriate accommodations.   This was harder than expected. I found very few places that had the minimal adaptations that were required.   And if you’re looking for a roll-in shower with a seat, sufficient space around your bed to turn your wheelchair or put a hoist, I was left with very few options.

This was the start of the initiative of Barcelona-Enabled, a service for the mobility impaired that want to enjoy a carefree holiday in the city.   I started making a selection of accommodation that are perfectly adapted and established good relationships with them so my clients would always get an excellent service. I also started organizing airport transport with wheelchair accessible vehicles with reliable providers. Barcelona-Enabled also offer mobility equipment (hoist, electric bed, shower chair, mobility scooter etc.), sightseeing tours in and around the city, and advice about how to enjoy stays.

When basic requirements such as these are met, people find that Barcelona is such an amazing easy city for wheelchair users. Most of the public transport is accessible, museums have great access and in summer there is a Red Cross service at the beach that helps people get into the water. Most sidewalks have lowered curbs, and adapted bathrooms can be found in the many bars in the city.

Stibbe can be contacted at Barcelona-Enabled: +34 68 505 2628; Follow on Twitter: @Benabled; eMail:  mirjam@barcelona-enabled.com;  www.barcelona-enabled.com

New UNWTO manual: Accessible Tourism for All

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UNWTO Manual on Accessible Tourism for All Front Cover

The United Nations World Tourism Organisation’s (UNWTO) Manual on Accessible Tourism for All: Public-Private Alliances and Good Practices has just been published.  It is the first publication of a technical nature produced by the UNWTO in collaboration with the Spanish ACS Foundation. The Manual highlights the value of accessible heritage and cultural resources and provides the necessary technical knowledge for making built and natural tourism environments accessible within the framework of public-private alliances.

The 284-page manual covers such aspects as an overview of Tourism for All (TfA), public-private partnerships, an analysis of good practice, accessibility in architectural heritage, historic and tourist cities in Spain, access in historic European city centres, parks, and gardens, access in natural surroundings and transport, training, sports activities, and accessibility and international cooperation.   The manual has an extensive list of references and links to accessibility information.

The report points out that people with disabilities make up a significant part of the world’s population, and that their number is on the rise due to the ageing trend being observed in certain regions, because disability increases with age.  The report goes on to say that The World Health Organization estimated that in 2011, there were approximately one billion people with disabilities in the world, that is, 15% of the total population.  They also constitute an emerging segment in terms of tourism demand. There is wide consensus that this demand is growing and is multi-customer, since each person with disability tends to be accompanied.  The disabilities market is also an image-booster for a destination, could help solve issues of seasonality – especially with regard to beach tourism, and is capable of generating higher income than the average for conventional tourism.

The ACS Foundation is a private non-profit institution with a mandate to act as the channel for all social action undertaken by the business corporation Grupo ACS. It enters into agreements with Spanish and international institutions to launch and support projects and training and also research activities related to the restoration of historic heritage, environmental conservation and the removal of barriers to improve the quality of life of persons with disabilities or in a situation of dependence, and tourism for all.

Source: World Tourism Organization and Fundación ACS (2015).  Manual on Accessible Tourism for All – Public-Private Partnerships and Good Practices, UNWTO, Madrid.    http://www.e-unwto.org/content/j875u2/fulltext.pdf  Follow on Twitter: @UNWTO @UNWTO_pub

Improving access for visitors and locals in York UK

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 York Minster

The UK City of York Council’s Disability Access Scrutiny Task Group  – chaired by Councillor Julie Gunnell – is encouraging Make it York (the council’s new tourism and culture body), to make full disabled access “one of their major aspirations for the city”.   The Group has met with DisabledGo, a website which provides a guide on disability access at venues, and has produced a list of recommendations designed to remove barriers for people struggling to access heritage sites, museums and galleries.   York is one of England’s finest and most beautiful historic cities, with a mixture of Medieval, Georgian, Victorian, and modern streets and buildings.  Despite the historical nature of York, many buildings and services are accessible to many disabled people. City of York Council, York Tourism and the University of York are happy to sponsor the Disabled Go website to help promote independent living for disabled people in York. The company already provides visitors with extensive facts on 25 York buildings, but now councillors want to work more with venues and DisabledGo which has guides on best practice.

York Minster is already listed on DisabledGo, and has a five star rating for its accessibility.   Recommendations include that live music venues achieve the Live Music Industry’s Charter of Best Practice and that heritage sites sign up to Visit England’s National Code of Visitor Attractions to improve what they offer disabled people.

Follow on Twitter: @MakeItYork @DisabledGo @CityofYork