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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


UNWTO Global Code of Ethics for Tourism: from international convention to binding international law?

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Participants at the UNWTO in Spain

The 17th meeting of the World Committee on Tourism Ethics (WCET), held at the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) headquarters in Madrid, Spain on 26-27 April 2016 discussed the advances in the process of conversion of the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism (GCET) into an international convention and reiterated the importance of transforming the Code into legally binding international law.    The WCTE is the independent body responsible for overseeing the implementation of the GCET), and is a subsidiary organ of the UNWTO General Assembly.    The process of transformation is led by a group of UNWTO Member States which is currently drafting the text of the convention to be presented to the 22nd UNWTO General Assembly to be held in China in 2017.

Stressing the relevance of adopting a convention on Tourism Ethics, Pascal Lamy, Chair of the Ethics Committee and former Director General of the World Trade Organization, said “Transforming the UNWTO Global Code of Ethics into an international convention represents a major step forward in ensuring that tourism development is a force for good in our societies and UNWTO Members States are committed to this objective.

Over the course of the two-day meeting, the Committee debated how to increase the awareness of the GCET and its core values such as accessibility for all, child protection and the obligations of tourism service providers in the field of safety and security standards in tourist accommodation and beach water sports.   As the organ responsible for promoting and monitoring the implementation of the GCET, the Committee commended the growing number of companies and trade associations that have adhered to the Private Sector Commitment to the Code. By April 2016, a total of 452 signatories from 64 countries had committed to promote and implement the Code in their business operations, including just one from New Zealand: The Travel Agents Association of New Zealand (TAANZ).


UNWTO Ethics and Social Responsibility Programme

World Committee on Tourism Ethics

UNWTO Global Code of Ethics for Tourism

UNWTO Private Sector Commitment to the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism

Follow on Twitter: @UNWTO

USA Disability Rate 12.6%

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Cover of the “2015 Annual Disability Statistics Compendium” USA

The USA Annual Disability Statistics Compendium is available from the University of New Hampshire website. This is a web-based tool that pools disability statistics published by various federal agencies together in one place.  The Compendium shows that the overall rate of disability in the US population in 2014 was 12.6%. The percentage of those with a disability in the United States civilian population rose from 11.9 in 2010 to 12.6 in 2013 and 2014.  Rates of disability increase with age. In 2014, in the population under 5 years old, less than 1.0% of the population had a disability. For the population ages 5-17, the rate was 5.4%. For ages 18-64, the rate was 10.5%. For people ages 65 and older, 36.0% had a disability.  In 2014, of the US population with disabilities, forty percent (40.7%) of people with disabilities were 65 and older.  All disability types (hearing, vision, cognitive, ambulatory, self-care, and independent living) have increases in disability percentages with age, however cognitive shows the least change between age groups.

Hearing disability is connected strongly with age: there are very low percentages in the under 5 and 5-17 age groups (0.5% and 0.6% respectively), rising to 2.1% of 18-64 year olds, and to 15.0% of those ages 65 and over.    Vision disability also is connected strongly with age. Only 0.5% of children under 5, 0.8% of the 5-17 age group, and 1.9% of 18-64 year olds had a vision disability. For those 65 and over, the percentage increases to 6.7%.  The national prevalence percentage for civilians with cognitive disabilities increases with age, starting at 4.1% for those age 5-17, rising to 4.4% for those 18-64, and jumping to 9.1% for those ages 65 and over.  the percentage of ambulatory disability increases rapidly with age. In those ages 5-17, the rate was a very low 0.6%.  For those in the working age (18-64 year olds), the rate jumps to 5.2%.  The rate then leaps to 23.0% for those ages 65 and over.  As with the other disabilities, the national percentage of civilians with a self-care disability rises with age (Figure 27).  The percentage was 1.0% for those ages 5-17, 1.9% for those ages 18-64, and 8.4% for those 65 and over.  The national percentage for independent living disability for civilians ages 18-64 was 3.7%. For those 65 and over, however, the percentage skyrockets to 15.2% (or nearly 1 in 7).

References: Kraus, Lewis. (2015). 2015 Disability Statistics Annual Report. Durham, NH: University of New Hampshire.   Follow on Twitter: @UNHIOD @Dialogue4Health

Oyster Accessible Travel New Zealand

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Oyster Accessible Travel New Zealand came about when three motivated women joined forces with their own funds to build a better accessible world for tourism in New Zealand.   They told Access Tourism New Zealand: “We saw a need and wanted to make a difference”   In this guest article, Kimberly Graham and Maddy Widdowson write about setting up this service.

Wheelchair waiting to be loaded onto a plane


Kimberly Graham writes: –

“Our family loves to travel and see new places. I worked for years in front-line tourism in New Zealand’s South Island before moving north to Auckland to start my family. My first child Finlay, who is now 11, was born with Cerebral Palsy and uses a wheelchair for mobility. Travelling and visiting family in the South Island was becoming harder to achieve and needed a lot of planning. Our biggest hurdle was suitable accommodation, equipment hire and adaptive transport. Within closed groups on social media it soon became evident we weren’t alone with these frustrations. That is where my vision for a ‘one-stop shop’ travels resource for people with access needs started. There was an obvious need and no one was doing it in New Zealand”

Oyster Accessible Travel started to take form when Jill Goddard (Kim’s cousin) introduced Kim to her friend Maddy Widdowson.

Maddy Widdowson writes: –

“Last year I finished my career as an Occupational Health and Safety Specialist and decided to set off on a 6 month trip to Europe with my husband. Just before leaving my friend Jill called and wanted to introduce me to her cousin Kim. She apparently had an idea that Jill thought I might like to be a part of. I became instantly drawn in to her vision of a much needed travel resource for people with access needs. I saw everything I love doing sitting in front of me – making a difference, research, project planning and New Zealand, the country I adopted 15 years ago. The three of us collaborated and with limited funds we built on the vision that it is Oyster Accessible Travel today”

Getting down to business and formulating the Oyster Plan!

We intend New Zealand to become the ‘Pearl in the Oyster’ for accessible travel.

The key was to provide a resource that provided everything the user needed at their fingertips. We didn’t want to be a website full of links to other sites. We want our users to find the information they need in one place.

It was also important we created an interactive website that talked and discussed access needs regularly with its users. Everyone’s access needs are different and having a diverse sector of community to cater for was going to be the challenge. We knew feedback and a review system played an essential part for the site. Detailed descriptions backed up by photographs a must. Our mission is to encourage people to travel more by making the planning stage easier and giving them the assurance they needed.

Another key element to our website is the ability to BOOK the access room in a selected accommodation! Access rooms are generally not advertised for whatever reason the provider has. This means, as a guest with access needs you are never quite sure whether your comments are read or your call is properly logged and processed.

Oyster was launched on 1st March 2016 and it is now packed with information!

Oyster Accessible Travel New Zealand provides a comprehensive booking site and travel guide for both domestic and international travellers who travel with extra mobility needs. It covers the following categories: –

* Accessible Accommodation

* ‘Things to do’

* Accessible Walks

* Transport

* Adaptive Equipment Hire

* Downloadable Maps and Brochures on access facilities

* Interactive Blog, Review System and Newsletter

* And lots more!

Oyster NZ encourages positive travel information, products and experiences. It welcomes feedback to build an essential window into New Zealand’s accessible world.

Oyster’s future plans!

Our vision is big!

* We intend to visit all listed accommodation to provide verification that the information stated by the business is correct. In doing this we will be able spread the knowledge of what true access means for people with extra mobility needs.

* We will have all our regions covered with detailed accessibility descriptions and photographs where possible.

* We will continue to encourage feedback, discussion and hope that our review system will become utilised by everyone.

* We will be working in collaboration  with other disability and tourism organisations to make New Zealand the number one accessible destination of the world!

* We will customise packages for the access tourist who requires that little bit more!

Social change is big at present worldwide and over the last 5 years has been steadily growing in New Zealand. We want to help with that positive change and breakdown the barriers society puts up!

Follow on Twitter: @oyster_nz @Maddy_oysternz @kim4oyster

UK: South West tourism awards for Access and Inclusivity

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Photograph of the Baths showing a rectangular area of greenish water surrounded by yellow stone buildings with pillars. In the background is the tower of the abbey.

Congratulations must go to the Roman Baths in Bath and to the Calvert Trust in Exmoor for winning the Gold Award for Access and Inclusivity at the South West Tourism Awards (UK).     The Roman Baths also won the prestigious Winner of Winners award.   The awards were presented at a ceremony at Exeter Cathedral on February 4 (2016).   The Roman Baths is one of the finest historic sites in Northern Europe, and one of the most popular tourist attractions in the UK.   Run by the Heritage Services section of Bath & North East Somerset Council, it attracts around one million visitors a year – making it one of the most visited heritage attractions in the United Kingdom.  In 2011 the Roman Baths completed a £5.5 million redevelopment to transform its accessibility, bring the best of modern interpretation to the site, and preserve it for the next 100 years. This is the first phase of an on-going programme of development that will continue over the next seven years.

The Roman Baths were recognised for its efforts to welcome all types of visitors and particular praise was given to the British Sign Language (BSL) trained staff, BSL audio tours, large print leaflets, use of braille on exhibits and online information for people with claustrophobia.   The provision for wheelchair users was also praised, including the availability of wheelchairs for visitors to borrow, lowered ticket office counters and accessible toilets. The assessors also noted the high level of training for all staff.

Bath Councillor Patrick Anketell-Jones, Cabinet Member for Economic Development, said: “The Roman Baths constantly strives to improve accessibility for all visitors and local people.  “There have been many efforts made to ensure the historic site can be enjoyed by everyone, including staff training, information provision, and improvements to the building, such as the recent addition of new lifts.  We are delighted that these efforts have been recognised with both of these South West Tourism Awards. They are a testament to the fantastic customer service that the staff provides.”

Disabled Holidays: Archery

The Calvert Trust Exmoor runs the only 5 star activity centre in the country, and caters for people with physical, sensory and learning disabilities of all ages and levels of ability, together with their families, friends and carers. Activities on offer include sailing, horse riding, wheelchair abseiling, accessible cycling and archery. Almost 4,000 guests had a residential break with Calvert Trust Exmoor last year.

Tony Potter, Chief Executive of Calvert Trust Exmoor said “This (the award) is fantastic news that rewards all the hard work that the team at Calvert Trust Exmoor consistently put in;  we are so pleased to be recognised for delivering an excellent experience for anyone and everyone,  of any ability or age.”

The Roman Baths and the Calvert Trust have also been shortlisted for the Access for All Tourism Award in Visit England‘s Awards for Excellence, winners for which will be announced on Tuesday, March 8.

Follow on Twitter: @RomanBathsBath @CalvertTrust @VisitEngland @swtourismawards #SWTA

Dubai Forum on Accessible Tourism

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In October, The Dubai Inclusive Development Forum took place.  The Forum included international experts in the field of Accessible Tourism, and sessions considered best practices and opportunities for inclusive tourism to thrive, not only in Dubai but across the Gulf region.  Contributors included Dr Ivor Ambrose, consultant and managing director at European Network for Accessible Tourism (ENAT); Rehabilitation International, New York, secretary general, Venus IIagan; and Victor Calise, commissioner, New York City Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities.  Present where a number of local hotel operators.

The Forum heard that there is a growing population of people with disabilities, believed to be about one billion people worldwide. They are looking to travel, and the onus is on TAs, governments of countries, suppliers and most importantly the hotels, to provide easy accessibility.  Research from VisitEngland notes that accessible tourism in that country accounts for 14% of the overnight hotel occupancy with growth in the value of three time that of tourism in total.

Although the industry is driven by the private sector, governments have a major role in regulating the travel and tourism of a country. “Governments ensure there are laws in place for accessibility. When a place is being built, for example, it needs to be accessible ready. New York had 54 million visitors last year, do we know how many of those were people with disabilities? A lot of surveys and studies need to be done by government, which at this point is not too frequent,” said Calise.

Hotelier Middle East contacted a few hotels to discuss the issue, and operators seem to have geared themselves up to match up to the supply of inclusive tourists. Salalah Rotana Resort general manager Hossam Kamal said: “A number of rooms in the resort have been designed specially to accommodate guests with disabilities and elderly guests. All rooms are located on the ground floor making them easily accessible by wheelchair. Room amenities have been positioned lower for easy reach such as the key card slot, lighting control switches, towel rack, storage cabinets and wardrobe.”    The Ajman Palace Hotel in the United Arab Emirates has a slightly different approach. The hotel goes all out to ensure they pamper their guests, offering them deluxe rooms located near the elevator for easy access.  “We have special Braille telephones with jumbo dial pads, Deafgard vibrator pillow alarms and vibrator room alarms that help guests enjoy a comfortable stay,” said Ferghal Purcell, general manager of the Ajman Palace Hotel.

Illaghan and Calise stressed the importance of adequate training amongst hotel staff to best serve tourists with disabilities. It is evident that hotel operators have sensed the market and are providing adequate facilities for tourists looking to travel.  The Millennium Airport Hotel Dubai for example notifies the staff at Dubai Airport to keep a wheelchair on hand as soon as a relevant booking has been made. The hotel staff is in constant communication with the airport representatives and the latter ensures that the reception and bell boy are geared up to offer dedicated service to the incoming guest.  The hotel’s general manager Simon Moore said “Priority is given for guests with special needs in order to fully satisfy their requirement.”   Dusit Thani Dubai has a well-defined programme in place. Aside from the ‘Disability Awareness Training Programme’ conducted, the hotel has 25 first aiders who are trained for emergency situations.   An Emergency Response Team (ERT) is also in place at the hotel. Front liners are also trained on how to welcome, check-in and out and escort guests who are physically challenged. Guests who require special attention are discussed during daily morning operation briefings and are written on the ERT board, a company spokesperson told Hotelier.

Calise was impressed with Dubai, and the potential and promise that comes with a developing city.  “Dubai has a great opportunity to market Expo 2020 as the first fully accessible World Expo” he said.

Source: Hotelier Middle East.  Follow on Twitter: @EUaccesstourism @ri_global @NYCCalise @NYCDisabilities @VisitEngland @DubaiExpo2020 @HotelierME

Edinburgh sees 2016 conference as a huge opportunity to enhance the city as an accessible destination

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Scotland Edinburgh Castle

Business tourism leaders in Edinburgh have hailed an international event they say will play a crucial role in cementing the city’s reputation as an accessible destination that welcomes disabled and disadvantaged visitors.   Scotland’s capital city has been selected as the host city for the Rehabilitation International 23rd World Congress (R.I. World Congress) in October 2016. The four-day event will bring more than 1,000 delegates to Edinburgh and an estimated economic impact of over £2million.  Jointly led by Convention Edinburgh and host venue, the Edinburgh International Conference Centre (EICC), the winning bid not only showcased the city’s strong business tourism offering, but ensured the Edinburgh’s accessible credentials were at its core. From Edinburgh’s transport providers and its compact size, to the considered approach to accessibility by the EICC and city businesses, Rehabilitation International leaders agreed Edinburgh was the best fit for its conference and delegates’ needs.

Chris McCoy, who heads up the accessible tourism project at VisitScotland (Scotland’s national tourism organization), said: “VisitScotland has been working to promote accessible tourism in Scotland for some time now [for an example, see here]. There are parts of Scotland that have embraced accessibility and Edinburgh is preparing for a big International Rehabilitation World Congress in October 2016. We are working with tourism businesses throughout the city to produce access statements, which give visitors a full description in words and pictures of the facilities available. The Royal Yacht Britannia and the Royal Botanic Gardens, for example, have produced excellent access statements.   VisitScotland has been working closely with Euan’s Guide for the last year and we are keen to establish such great partnerships with the ultimate aim of an accessible Edinburgh.” Euan’s Guide is a listings and review website that helps disabled people and their families know which venues are truly accessible.

Lesley Williams, head of business tourism, Convention Edinburgh said: “In many ways, the compact size and solid transport connections for Edinburgh make it an incredibly accessible city, a key reason why the RI World Congress, event planners selected the city to host its high profile global conference in October 2016. That said, there is a huge opportunity for more to be done to make Edinburgh, its shops, restaurants, hotels and attractions, more user-friendly for everyone. Next year’s Rehabilitation International World Congress is set to be an incredible catalyst, providing a focus and structured timeline for improving Edinburgh’s accessibility. The coming months will see a solid programme of training workshops and focused collaboration that will raise awareness, provide insights and offer practical assistance for businesses to improve their customer offering. The city is coming together, working with VisitScotland, The Shaw Trust, our members and Euan’s Guide, to create a legacy of improved services and inclusive-customer experience, for all its visitors and residents. This is a legacy we want to live on long after the World Congress comes to an end.”

Joel Charles, a spokesperson for Shaw Trust Scotland, said: “Shaw Trust Scotland is a charity committed to ensuring disabled people can lead independent lives. We are privileged to be hosting the Rehabilitation International World Congress in Edinburgh next year. The World Congress brings together a global network of member countries who work to promote the rights and inclusion of people with disabilities or health problems. Shaw Trust Scotland is working closely with Edinburgh City Council, Convention Edinburgh, VisitScotland and Transport Scotland to make sure accessibility issues are not a barrier encountered by disabled delegates at next year’s World Congress.”

Source: Conference News.   Follow on Twitter: @ri_global @VisitScotland @conventions @eicc  @ShawTrust

Endeavour Safaris – World Travel Market winner for accessible accommodation

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This year’s World Travel Market (WTM) World Responsible Tourism award for best accessible accommodation has been shared this year by Scandic Hotels and Endeavour Safaris.  Scandic’s win has already been celebrated on this website (here).  WTM – held in London each year on World Responsible Tourism Day – is the largest travel and tourism event in the world. The accessible tourism 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

Endeavour Safaris is a tour operator based in Northern Botswana, but offering safaris to Namibia, South Africa, Victoria Falls, Mozambique, and elsewhere.   In addition to the journeys they create for all their clients, they have a unique division that specializes in accessible travel for persons with disabilities: including mobility-, visual-, and hearing impairment, as well as persons requiring oxygen or kidney dialysis.   Guests on mobile safaris sleep in specially designed, state of the art, luxury safari tents.  Clients travel to different places throughout the holiday, including remote spots such as the islands of the Okavango Delta where they can camp under the stars after a day on safari. Inclusivity is at the core of Endeavour Safari’s work, taking accessible tourism away from niche to norm and showing that tourism accommodation, even in the wildest of environments, can be enjoyed by nearly all tourists. Access requirements include mobility, visual, hearing, or medical issues. And with inclusivity at the core of what they do, their vision is to also have people with and without disabilities working alongside each other within the business too, particularly with the forthcoming opening of their 100% inclusive Lodge, where integration will be continue to be the inspiring ethos.

Follow on Twitter: @EndeavourSafari @enableholidays @WTM_London @RTAwards

USA: New wheelie travel guide

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Cover of 20 States on Wheels

The USA now has a new free accessible travel guide: “20 States On Wheels”.    It covers 15 cities and five national parks.  Assembled by four college-age friends (Brad Riew, Kunho Kim, Cynthia Cheung, and You-Myeong Kim), it is based on an epic road trip they took in 2014.   “There are a number of good accessible travel guides to the U.S., but “20 States on Wheels” is definitely a worthy addition to the canon”, says Ian Rudder in New Mobility magazine.   “Each of the 20 chapters focuses on one city or national park and details everything from tourist attractions, to weather, to accessible taxi and van rental information. The book even lists the number of accessible hotel rooms and accessible shower and parking options of a number of hotels in each city. Transit maps, contact info and well-written blurbs on many must-see items will be invaluable for anyone trying to plan a trip to one of the destinations the four friends visited.   Kunho Kim – a paraplegic – offers insights throughout on predictable and unforeseen access obstacles” continues Ruder.

The guide has a lot of great pictures and an easy to read layout.  A short essay about the group’s cross-country adventure begins each chapter.    Check out the official website to find out how to get your free copy.

Follow on Twitter: @20StatesOnWheels @New Mobility

City of Rio’s accessibility improvement plans praised by IPC President‏

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International Paralympic Committee (IPC) President Sir Philip Craven has praised plans to improve accessibility at major tourist attractions in Rio de Janeiro ahead of the next year’s Paralympic Games and said he hopes it is the start of greater things to come.  During a recent visit by Sir Philip to Rio, the city’s Mayor Paes announced Projeto Rotas Acessíveis (Accessible Routes Project). The six month long initiative (started last month) will see 4,000m² of accessible pavements and 5,831m² of concrete resurfacing undertaken at the entrances to 10 popular Rio locations. Attractions that will benefit from nearly EUR 1 million of accessibility improvements include Sugarloaf Mountain, Corcovado (the mountain that hosts Christ the Redeemer) and Copacabana beach.

Sir Philip said “Due to the very nature of the city’s geography, Rio can be a difficult place to get around and realistically it will take more than a generation to transform it into one that is accessible for all. However, thanks to the Paralympic Games heading to the city in 2016, improving accessibility for all is now a hot topic.”  He pointed out that Games act as a catalyst for further improvements to take place after the Paralympics.

Improvements will include the levelling of pavements and roads, installation of ramps and tactile flooring, the removal of obstacles, and improvements to bus stops and car parking areas.   The other areas that will be improved are: Barra da Tijuca beach, Praça XV, Paço Imperial, Cinelândia, Jardim Botânico, Vista Chinesa and Mesa do Imperador.   Away from the city centre a number of other accessibility projects are also taking place.  Rio 2016’s Olympic Park, which will host nine of the 22 Paralympic sports, will be 100 per cent accessible; whilst improvements are being made to all other competition venues ahead of the Games.   Improvements in transport are also being made with the city’s Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system and Light Rail Vehicle (LRV) capable of accommodating all passengers.

Source: Press release.  Follow on Twitter: @paralympic @ipprio @Prefeitura_Rio

Spanish hotel takes silver at WTM for accessible accommodation

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Photo of exterior of accommodation from the RSHA website

RuralSuite Hotel Apartamentos (RSHA) has won silver at World Travel Market (WTM) Responsible Travel’s World Responsible Tourism Awards.   They received the award at a ceremony at the WTM in London on November 4, 2015, for their work in providing accessible accommodations for travellers of all physical and mental abilities, seniors, and anyone needing better access.  RSHA – in the Navarre region of Northern Spain – fully understands and embraces the fact that people with disabilities want to travel just as much as other people, whether it is for work or play. They understand that, just like everyone, people with disabilities want an adventure, to stay in beautiful accommodations, discover new places and cultures.   RSHA realised that in order for them to be inclusive, they had to do more than the basic, legal requirements.   Being inclusive is also about being insightful. Finding out not only exactly what people’s needs might be, but also what their travel desires are. So, they have created a very informative website, giving all the details travellers with disabilities might require. They also aim to have their website fully accessible in the next year or so too. They have created stylish apartments that are in keeping with the designer feel to the hotel generally, but which also cater for various needs, with accessible kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms. The common areas, from the outdoor Jacuzzi to the restaurant are also designed with accessibility in mind. Activities at the hotel are inclusive, with adapted quad bike trips around their vast estate, horseriding and cycling being just a few of the things to do. Their attention to detail is superb, helped along by their partnership with Spanish accessibility experts Fundation ONCE, PREDIF and RedStable.

WTM, which is held in London each year on World Responsible Tourism Day, is the largest travel and tourism event in the world. The accessible tourism 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.    As with all the WTM award winners in this category, RSHA realise that people with special needs would like their needs to be catered for, but they do not want to be treated as ‘special’. They just want to be treated as guests.

Follow on Twitter: @ruralsuite @Fundacion_ONCE @Predif_Estatal @enableholidays @WTM_London @RTAwards

Accessible tour of Cambridge, UK

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UK Disability campaigner and entrepreneur Martyn Sibley has just launched an accessible tour break in Cambridge for people with disabilities and mobility problems.  Martyn, who has spinal muscular atrophy and uses a motorised wheelchair, is a keen traveller and wants to use his own experience to help other people with disabilities make the most of their lives.  He also believes there is an opportunity to benefit from the £17 billion in spending money potentially available from wheelchair users in North America and Europe.

The five day, four night Cambridge tours will be run in 2016, and they and accommodations will meet customer’s requirements.  “I live here and know Cambridge well. It is not far for me to go and I can show people around,” said Martyn, who plans to take in traditional Cambridge sights including the colleges and Backs, the Fitzwilliam Museum and an excursion to Ely, as well as shopping and entertainment.

The Cambridge tour is a spin-off from Accomable, which is designed to be the AirBnB for disabled and older people, set up by Martyn and business partner Srin Madipalli, who also has spinal muscular atrophy.  “Our vision for Accomable is to provide an efficient, one-stop shop so anyone with a mobility problem or disability can enjoy travel in the UK and abroad,” Martyn said. “I have been a wheelchair user all my life and love to travel but it can be extremely difficult to arrange if you have a mobility issue.”  Accomable originally stemmed from the Disability Horizons Group, an online magazine that Martyn and Srin co-founded in 2011. It has since become the fastest growing disability-related lifestyle publication with over 40,000 regular readers and over 200,000 unique visits a year.   Accomable was supported by a grant from the Skoll Foundation, a charity founded by Jeffrey Skoll, eBay’s first president, which supports start-ups with a social purpose.

Source: Cambridge News and Accomable website.  Martyn can be contacted at or by calling 0779 874 6551.  Follow on Twitter: @Accomable @martynsibley @ Srin Madipalli @SkollFoundation

Scandic Hotels– World Travel Market winner for accessible accommodation

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Scandic Hotels – already a world leader in access – is the joint gold winner in the category “Best accommodation for disability access” at Responsible Travel’s World Responsible Tourism Awards.   They received the award at a ceremony at the World Travel Market in London on November 4, 2015, for their work in providing accessible accommodations for travellers of all physical and mental abilities, seniors, and anyone needing better access.

“Scandic Hotels is applauded for their top-down, all-encompassing approach to inclusivity, integrating accessibility into all parts of their hotel business. They address a wide range of disabilities and particularly impressed the judges with their leadership by developing an e-learning course and making this freely available to their peers across the tourism industry,” said Harold Goodwin, Chair of the judging panel for the World Responsible Tourism Awards.

World Travel Market, which is held in London each year on World Responsible Tourism Day, is the largest travel and tourism event in the world. The accessible tourism 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

Scandic’s Accessibility Director, Magnus Berglund said at the awards, “I’m extremely happy that we have won this award. It is proof that the hard work we do to make our hotels accessible to everyone makes a difference and is recognized in the world”.   Scandic consults with organizations for people with disabilities, hotel guests, and team members to improve access.  They have drawn up a checklist of 110 points, their Accessibility Standard. This Standard covers everything offered by Scandic and it is an integral part of all of Scandic’s products and services. Scandic has also implemented smart design features in rooms to make them accessible for people with disabilities. In 2013, Scandic was the first hotel chain in the world to launch online interactive training on disabilities.  This training can be used by anyone who wishes to do so and is on Scandic’s website.

Scandic has featured many times on the Access Tourism NZ website.  Further information about them can be found by searching this website or by contacting Magnus Berglund, Director of Accessibility, Scandic Hotels, +46 70 97 35 077 Anna-Klara Lindholm, PR Manager Scandic Hotels, +46 70 97 35 231,

Follow on Twitter:  @ScandicGlobal @enableholidays @WTM_London @RTAwards

New Zealand Accessible Tourism website launched

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Congratulations to Richard Fanselow and team on the launch of the New Zealand-wide  accommodation and activity guide especially designed for anyone who has mild to major mobility difficulties.  Access4all ( uses specially positioned photos so people can check out bathrooms, entrance areas, bedrooms and living areas and find places to stay that are suitable. All accommodation listed has a combination of at least one access unit and other easily accessible standard units. It also uses photos so people can choose suitable attractions and activities at their destination.

The ACCESS4ALL Accommodation Guide has been developed by Fanselow, Websight Architects, Profitsense, and Gorilla Business Advisors, with assistance from the Ministry of Social Development.   Fanselow has been in a wheelchair for 14 years and travelled extensively during this time in New Zealand and overseas. His personal travel experiences are the inspiration behind this guide.

The guide is a major advance in its use of photographs as well as reviews of places visited.  The website encourages any kind of feedback on the guide itself and their approach to providing information.  It is fully functional, meaning people can book directly from it in the same way as other guides like the AA, and Expedia.  Using the website will help it to increase listings and further expand throughout New Zealand next year.   More northern destinations will be added in the coming weeks before Christmas. For news and updates check out

Follow on Twitter: @access4allNZ @websitearch @SenseProfit @msdgovtnz

“Map My Day”: an event for anyone to note accessible places anywhere

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A worldwide event to raise awareness for disability rights and accessibility kicks off on December 3.    The “Map My Day” campaign is designed to improve the availability  of information on the wheelchair accessibility of public places.  Such information is often scarce or hard to find, making it very difficult for people with mobility impairments to participate in communities.  “Map My Day” is being launched by the German NGO Sozialhelden (‘Social Heroes’), the World Health Organization (WHO), and UNESCO on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.   The Day marks the start of a worldwide event to raise awareness for accessibility. For millions of people with wheelchairs, walking aids, or baby carriages the most common obstacles which limit their freedom of movement are stairs.

People around the world can post the accessibility of public places such as restaurants, train stations, tourist attractions and government buildings on, a free online map which is also the world’s largest database for wheelchair accessible places. It is hoped that many people in many places around the world will contribute information to Wheelmap, and that a new conversations about accessibility is started, thus ensuring the success of the campaign.

The campaign not only addresses people with a disability. It is really easy for everybody to contribute to the map by adding new local information with a few clicks. In this way users have already rated nearly 600,000 public places, making the map the world’s largest database for wheelchair accessibility.   Wheelmap is available as an app for iPhone, Android Smartphone and Windows Phone   (Windows 10), as well as on the website – in more than 20 languages.

Participants can be part of “MapMyDay” individually or in groups, with colleagues, teammates or friends and family.   NGOs, government authorities, businesses, schools, associations and celebrities are invited to help spread the word to their networks and ideally, to organize local mapping events themselves.   There is a checklist on the website to help individuals, businesses, and organizations set up events.

More information: Follow on Twitter: @SOZIALHELDEN @WHO @UNESCO @wheelmap #Machmitbei #MapMyDay Fabebook:

Accessible Holiday Guide from Responsible Travel

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Responsible Travel in the UK connects the world’s best small holiday companies with travellers looking for more from their holiday than just a brief stay.  They offer personal holidays or holidays in a small group from over 375 small and specialist tour companies in 190+ countries.   Convinced that small holiday companies are run by interesting people who founded them out of a deep love for destinations, cultures, landscapes and wildlife, their aim is treat local people and places well.   Responsible Travel now has an Accessible Holiday Guide about accessible travel for people with disabilities.   It covers places to stay and things to do, and has advice on travelling with a disability.

As the website points out, the world’s travelling population is getting older, with varying access needs. Many businesses are starting to hear the message that tourists who travel with special needs are increasing in number. The term ‘purple pound’ or ‘dollar’ has even been coined to describe this rapidly growing worldwide market.   Martin Heng, Accessible Travel Manager & Editorial Adviser, Lonely Planet (Australia) is a world-travelled wheelchair user.  He writes on the website that “Baby boomers are now retiring with access issues, whether they identify as disabled or not, they are increasingly subject to varying degrees of disability, whether it is hearing, sight or mobility. And this is a market that I think the smart national tourism bodies are actually thinking about. Examples of these are England, Scotland and Wales, on the back of the last Olympics and Paralympics in London – but also Catalonia and Germany”.

Follow on Twitter: @r_travel @Martin_Heng @lonelyplanet

Derbyshire Peak District tourism businesses improve access with EC grant

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Eight businesses in the Derbyshire Peak District have become part of a project to improve tourism access for disabled people.  Using money from a £93,000 European Commission grant, the businesses have been picked out as leaders in the Visit Peak District and Derbyshire-backed campaign to make it easier for disabled tourists to visit the region.  The businesses are: Hoe Grange Holidays in Brassington, Rivendale Caravan and Leisure Park in Alsop en-le Dale, Chatsworth, Crich Tramway Village, East Lodge Hotel and Restaurant in Rowsley, High Peak Borough Council’s Pavilion Gardens in Buxton, and the Peak District National Park Authority’s Parsley Hay Cycle Hire.  They were subjected to a site audit to review their facilities and pinpoint areas that could be improved while staff were given classroom-based and on-line training to boost customer service.  A mystery shop was also carried out by people with a range of disabilities and tips were then given to improve their accessibility and websites.

The firms taking part also shared a £100,000 print and on-line media and marketing campaign by VisitEngland, which aimed to raise awareness of accessible destinations and businesses across England.   Greg Potter, manager of Rivendale Caravan and Leisure Park, said: “Our involvement has enabled us to work with some wonderful people with a down-to-earth but inspirational approach to helping guests with mobility issues and also to provide the information guests need to assess if our accommodation is suitable for them.  The marketing boost we have received is also helping to ensure we make a return on our investment and that continuing improvements are sustainable in the long run.”

Research by Visit England suggests the accessible tourism market is now worth £3 billion per annum to the English economy, with day visits boosting the figure to £12.1 billion.  Over the past few years, overnight trips by disabled tourists and their companions have increased by 19% and their spending is up by a third.  Lindsay Rae, deputy director and head of industry engagement at Visit Peak District and Derbyshire, said: “Visit England estimates that the overall annual value of overnight accessible tourism to Derbyshire is £45 million, so it makes sense for local businesses to invest in improving their facilities and services for this key sector of the market.

Source: Follow on Twitter: @vpdd @HoeGrange @Rivendale_hol @ChatsworthHouse @CrichTramway @eastlodgehotel  @GardensBuxton @peakdistrict  @AshbourneNews on Twitter

Tourism and Disabled Access Day in Scotland, 2016

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The UK has a Disabled Access Day, an annual national initiative created to raise awareness of the importance of disabled access and started in 2015.  In 2016, it will be held on 12 March.  The day aims to encourage disabled people, their friends and families to visit somewhere new and over 50 venues across the UK, including Westminster Abbey, Tate Modern and The Scottish Parliament, have already signed up to be involved.  In Scotland, a launch event was held in October 2015 at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh with Maureen Watt MSP, Minister for Public Health, in attendance.  This marked the beginning of the lead up to the second annual event, building on the 2015 result when over 200 companies and venues took part, including VisitScotland, BT, Caffè Nero, Caffé Concerto and Barclays. The events attracted over 1,000 disabled people and their families, friends and carers.

Venues can take part in the 2016 event by hosting an event or simply opening their doors to show that they welcome disabled visitors and their friends and families. Whether it is a cinema, hotel or visitor attraction, there are plenty of ways for businesses to get involved. For further information on how to get involved, please visit:

The Scottish Government is providing VisitScotland with £38,000 (this on top of other funding; this for example) to boost the engagement of disabled and older people in the Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design.  Scotland’s Minister for Business Energy and Tourism Fergus Ewing MSP said that these funds will support a series of new and enhanced partner projects, each of which will contribute to the wider Accessible Tourism Drive, contributing to the Innovation and Architecture themes of the 2016 year and creating a legacy whose benefits will be felt well into the future as the accessible tourism project rolls-out.

Chris McCoy, Head of VisitScotland’s Accessible Tourism Programme, said: “We are delighted to lend our support to next year’s Disabled Access Day as part of our ongoing Accessible Tourism Programme. I would encourage businesses to sign up to take part as we look to make this country a fully accessible destination.”  An overwhelming 94% of disabled people would revisit a venue that has good accessibility, according to a survey carried out by Euan’s Guide, the main sponsors of Disabled Access Day. With the UK’s 12 million disabled people estimated to have a combined spending power of over £200 billion, venues with poor disabled access or information are potentially missing out on gaining a significant amount of revenue.

Euan MacDonald, co-founder of the disabled access reviews website, said, “The success of last year’s event has given us a firm foundation to build on. Not only are we raising awareness of disabled access, but also showcasing the venues with good accessibility and highlighting the commercial value held by the UK’s 12 million disabled people and their family, friends and carers.”

Source: Edinburgh Reporter.  Follow on Twitter:  @Access_Day @VisitScotland @EuansGuide   For more information on Disabled Action Day, please visit:

Cyprus action plan on accessible tourism

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The Republic of Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO) is preparing an action plan to provide people with disabilities accessible holidays in the country.  CTO recognizes this as a big market.  During a conference held last week, CTO Deputy Director Annita Demetriades said that accessible tourism is not for a small group of people.  “In the EU, there are about 138 million people with increased accessibility needs, usually traveling for holidays during the low seasons. Disabled-friendly infrastructure and services give our island a positive image, enhance the quality of our tourist product and show our tangible respect for our fellow people,” she added.  Demetriades noted that accessible tourism ensures more people get the opportunity to travel. “Undoubtedly Cyprus is an attractive tourist destination, so the tourist industry stands to get more visitors, who prefer to travel off-peak periods,” she said.

According to data, in 2012 direct revenue from accessible tourism in the EU amounted to €352 billion, giving employment to 4.2 million people. Taking into account the multiplier effect, total turnover increases to €786 billion. Studies indicate that improving accessibility could lead to a 24.2% increase in demand and 18% increase in the spending of European tourists by 2020.

The CTO is creating the infrastructure on 37 beaches making swimming experience for the disabled more comfortable. Specifically, 11 of the 37 beaches are fully equipped for this purpose. In addition, the CTO now has a grant scheme for hotel units which upgrade their infrastructure to accommodate guests with disabilities.

Source: In-Cyprus.  Follow on Twitter: @visitcyprus

Be Able Travel: businesses miss customer revenue if inaccessible

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Be Able Travel (UK) was created in 2015 by a wheelchair user with FSH Muscular Dystrophy and a vision impaired person who has been blind since shortly after birth.   In this guest post, Mandy Altoff of BAT describes why reliable information about access is important to people with disabilities.

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At Be Able Travel, we found that despite our best research, what was classed as accessible by websites/other people’s reviews, in reality wasn’t always the case.  There are over 1 billion people worldwide (11 million of those here in the UK) living with a limiting long term illness, impairment or disability.  Much more needs to be done to improve accessibility in the UK and the rest of the world. How many business are missing out on customer revenue because their establishment is simply not accessible!
I recently wanted to meet up with friends for a drink at a local pub (bar) so called ahead to check it was accessible.  A member of staff assured me I would be fine in my wheelchair so off I went. Upon arrival the pub did indeed have a ramped entrance.  Great start! Unfortunately, I couldn’t get to the bar to order as it had 5 stairs up to it, and sadly, the toilets were the same! Something as simple as meeting friends for a drink had suddenly become impossible without having to rely on others for assistance.

Thankfully, not everywhere is like this! Brighton Marina, UK is a very accessible place with numerous restaurants along the waterfront, a particular favourite of ours is Zizzi, which has wheelchair access, plenty of space between tables & a Braille menu to hand.
With Be Able Travel we hope to achieve a comprehensive database of reviews from all over the world to enable disabled people to be informed without having to rely on the venues for the information. Who knows, maybe together we can change accessibility for the better, one review at a time!
Please show your support and like our Facebook Page or follow us on Twitter @beabletravel or leave a review at Zizzi on Twitter: @WeAreZizzi

New guide for wheelchair visitors to Paris

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Access Now has launched the first in a series of European wheelchair access guidebooks –  Paris Access Now.  The guide is a comprehensive guidebook written specifically for wheelchair users and travellers with mobility disabilities. It is designed to give readers all the tools they need to plan an accessible trip to Paris, from start to finish.  It includes information about:

  • Getting from the airport into Paris
  • Accessible hotels
  • Accessible restaurants
  • How to get around the city
  • Accessible tourist sites
  • Accessible itineraries and guided tour recommendations
  • Route maps
  • Accessible toilet guide
  • Accessibility resources

Travelers with disabilities are virtually ignored by the travel industry, making it difficult, if not impossible to find the resources needed to plan an accessible trip independently. An overwhelming number of travel resources are available online and in print, but when it comes to specific accessibility information, travellers must rely on informal resources like forums, blogs, or homemade websites.  Other options exist, like traveling with an organization or using a specialized travel agency, but this choice may be expensive to some, and may preclude travelling alone or with family. The accessible travel industry is unfortunately very limited.   Access Now goes part way to addressing this issue, at least for people with mobility disability.

Access Now was founded by Paula Bates.  Its goal is to remove the barriers that may hinder a wheelchair user or someone with limited mobility from planning their own trip to Europe.  Paris Access Now is available for purchase as digital download.

Follow on Twitter: @AccessNowGuides.  For more information, visit