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

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