Guest post: New Zealand missing out by failing to accommodate travellers with mobility challenges.

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Reflections on a recent holiday in Alaska and Canada.  Guest post by Roger Loveless.  Roger is a New Zealander who uses an electric wheelchair and recently spent a month travelling with it overseas. He has muscular dystrophy and lives in Hamilton.  He retired from the electric power industry in 2008 and now works part time as an access coordinator for CCS Disability Action ( He has always enjoyed travel and experiencing different cultures with his wife Mary.  Next year they will be visiting their son’s family, including two grandchildren, in Britain which will include a weeks “glamping” in a Mongolian Yurt in Dorset.  Picture: Roger and his wife Mary

Taku Helicopter


 I have just returned from my first overseas holiday with my electric wheelchair. My wife Mary and I went to the USA and Canada using planes, ships, a helicopter, cable car, taxi cabs, trains, buses and coaches. We did a 14 day Alaskan cruise out of Seattle, the Rocky Mountaineer train from Calgary to Vancouver and some other sightseeing.  At some cruise ship ports of call I couldn’t get off the ship, and at Sitka I had to use a hired manual wheelchair to be able to use the tenders. Some places required advance warning of my needs but what really was far better than New Zealand was the availability of tour buses with hoists for wheelchairs at the back, where they could push a few rows of seats together to make space. We used these in Ketchikan, Juneau, Anchorage, and Vancouver (for a journey to Victoria including a ferry trip).  Then there was the real highlight, with a helicopter ride to the Taku Glacier. I boarded the helicopter using a special lifting seat. 

Really an eye opener as to what can be done if there is a will, supported by at least some legislation. It makes you wonder how much New Zealand is missing out on by failing to accommodate the traveller with mobility challenges. 

I also holiday most years in Paihia (NZ) and note that in 2013/14, 44 cruise liners called in, carrying 73,366 passengers and 32,695 crew. How many of those passengers had mobility issues and didn’t bother to come ashore? As passengers tend to be older people, perhaps 5% (close to 4000 people) had mobility issues and if their companions also stayed on the ship, that would be quite significant. Perhaps these figures are wrong because persons with disabilities merely avoid New Zealand entirely in favour of places where access is treated seriously and they are welcomed.  Wouldn’t it be great if we had shore experiences and tour buses that were accessible? We could even make the effort, advertise the fact and, if we get it right, see positive comments on social media.  Apart from tour buses, Paihia has ferries, boat trips, helicopter rides and even a train from Kawakawa. 

Follow on Twitter: @ccsdisabilitya


Tourism Business magazine NZ says Accessible Tourism increasingly important

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Senior tourist at Tekapo church New Zealand

Tourism Business magazine is New Zealand’s premier magazine for the tourism industry.  Edited by Annie Gray, it brings important news and tips to the industry every second month.  In the latest issue (Dec-Jan 13/14), a “Something to Ponder” article points out that Accessible Tourism is going to be increasingly important to the NZ tourism industry, and that businesses need to cater to the older demographic.  The proof, says the article, can be found in the results from the 2013 NZ Census.  In a snapshot about the age of NZ’s population, one of the most startling aspects is that people aged 50-69 make up more than 23% of the population and number nearly one million (up by 21.5% since the last 2006 census).  The article goes on to say that those aged 65-69 show the biggest increase (32%0, followed by those 60-64 years old (almost 30% increase).

Why does this mean the NZ tourism, travel, and hospitality industry should improve access?  Because disability increases with age.  Not only that, but it is older generations who have the time and money to spend on tourism.  And, more than 40% of NZ’s international visitors are in the older (50+) age groups, with the fastest growth rate for international visitors occuring in the 60-69 year-old demographic.  According to NZ MED, this trend will continue.

Follow on Twitter: @tourismbusiness @MBIEgovtnz

VisitEngland and others write about the importance of the ageing market

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Picture of beach cabins on the front of the Visit England report

In a new publication on “Domestic Leisure Tourism Trends for the next Decade”, VisitEngland (England’s National Tourism Board) identifies 5 trends influencing domestic tourism in the next ten years.  The first on the list is demography, with a concurrent trend in the need for accessibility.  The report states that:

Changes in the population and demographic make-up of England over the next decade will have a transformative effect on society – and significant implications for consumers’ leisure choices. Common to many of the trends in this section is the changing shape of the family – something evident in the rising number of older people and grandparents’ increasing involvement in childcare, and also in the diverse structures and types of family. Overall, the population of England will grow, but this growth will not be spread evenly across age groups. There will be a very well understood trend is the growth in the number of older people and rise in the average age of the country – referred to as the ageing society. Not every section of society is growing; there will actually be a decline in the number of people aged 35-49 over the next few years, leading to a ‘squeezed middle’ generation. The medium term future will also see a rise in the number of younger people, as a result of a sustained rise in fertility rates since the mid 1990s – a baby boom.

The report goes on to say that the implications of these shifts on domestic leisure tourism will be profound. The rising number of older people not only signals a change in the needs of this particular group – there is an implication, for example, for all types of business to meet accessibility needs – but also a shift in their attitudes. The next retired generation will be heavily comprised of the baby boomer cohort, who differ greatly from previous older generations in their attitudes to leisure – they are generally more affluent and far more leisure focussed than previous generations of older people.  Businesses and destinations in the tourism market will need to adapt to cater for an increasing number of intergenerational family holidays.  The ageing population will intensify – in three decades time, there will be more than 9 million over 75s in England (twice as many as there are currently) making the importance of catering for both older and intergenerational groups a crucial implication for decades to come. The appetite for travel and tourism amongst the oldest groups in society is likely to increase over time (‘healthy life expectancy’ is increasing, as well as overall life expectancy), but
accommodation and travel options that can cater for people with reduced mobility will be in great demand.

Of course, an ageing society is not going to just affect English domestic tourism.  Access Tourism New Zealand has for a long time been publishing blogs about the need for the New Zealand tourism and travel sector to sit up and take notice of demographic trends.  New Zealand is getting older.  According to the 2013 NZ Census, the median age (half are younger, and half older, than this age) of the population continued to increase, reaching 38.0 years in 2013 compared with 35.9 years in 2006.  The number of people aged 50–69 years rose to 989,364, an increase of 21.5% since 2006. People in this age range made up 23.3% of the population in 2013, compared with 20.2% in 2006. The number of people aged 65 years and over continued to increase. In 2013, there were 607,032 people in this age group, making up 14.3% of the population. This was an increase from 12.3% of the population in 2006 and 12.1% in 2001.  Over 73,000 people were aged 85 years or over at the time of the 2013 Census. There was a 29.4% increase in this age group since 2006.

In the USA, Mark Bradbury (senior director, Insights and Integrated Marketing, AARP Media Sales) explain why 50+ travellers will rule the airways, railways and hotel hallways into 2014 and beyond.  According to Bradbury, the 50+ traveller is the lifeblood of the travel industry.  They are responsible for 48% of all vacation expenditures, up from 42% just five years ago—a trend that will continue as 50+ population growth outpaces that of 18-49 by a 3:1 margin over the next decade, according to the U.S. Census. People 50+ consider travel more of a necessity than a luxury, as evidenced by a post-recession increase of 25% in their travel spending. Since 2007, 50+ vacation spending is up nearly $20 million, compared to a $1.7 billion drop among 18-49. 50+ travellers spend 23% more on domestic vacations and 22% more on foreign vacations than younger travellers, and spend more high-end. With more time and money at their disposal, older Boomers eager for new experiences are growing the 60+ segment of the travel market. Since Boomers started turning 60 just seven years ago, the 60+ travel market has grown by 24%, or 3.6 million travellers.  Younger Boomers value gratification that can be realized today.  Boomers are at the core of several travel trends, including: ecotourism, adventure travel, medical tourism, multigenerational travel, passion/hobby vacations (that is, combining a vacation with a passion, such as biking, language learning, food, wine, etc.), and spiritual travel. They are also increasingly switched on to digital media.  In summary, no one travels more than Boomers, and no age group is wealthier.

Worldwide, older people are also increasingly switched on to digital media.  In New Zealand 77% of those aged 55-64 are connected to the internet, 61% of those aged 65-74, and 32% of those 75+.

In other areas, SilverGroup reports that those 50+ comprise 35% of all travel and 80% of all cruises in the EC,  Japanese 50+ will comprise 80% of the total tourism dollar across key Asian Markets by 2015, and Chinese 50+ will comprise 39% of total overseas travel and 66% of spending this year (2014 – MasterCard Asia Pacific and ING).   By 2015, those 65+ will spend US$129bn on travel and leisure (SilverGroup).

For tips on travelling as a senior, visit Tourism Review.

@VisitEnglandBiz @VisitEngland @Tourism_Review @SilverGroup @StatisticsNZ

Auckland conference on understanding and marketing to older consumers

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Senior couple on the beach from the conference brochure

 A two-day conference in Auckland next March will discuss targeting and marketing to older consumers.  Young at Heart will be chaired by Doug Lloyd, senior lecturer in marketing and advertising at Auckland University of Technology. Lloyd recently gave a presentation (The Great Ignored:  How the Media Industry Fails to Embrace the Mega-trend of Ageing) at the Third International Conference on Ageing and Society in Chicago.  Subjects to be discussed at the conference will include defining market potential, knowing market needs and behaviour, tactics for success, and strategies for customer retention.  There will also be post-conference workshops.  Speakers include those from business, marketing firms (such as Senioragency, which is dedicated to 50+), organizations like the NZ Symphony Orchestra, NGOs, and one from one of New Zealand’s few accessible tourism companies (Kasteel Craw, Accessible New Zealand).

This is an important market sector.  In New Zealand for example, the over 50s are responsible for purchasing:

  • 45% of all new cars sold, and 80% of top end cars
  • 50% face care products
  • 55% of coffee
  • 40% yoghurt and dairy products
  • 25% toys
  • 35% of total travel and 80% of all cruise bookings

In addition, they have an  intangible influence on both younger and older family member purchasing decisions

Worldwide, the seniors economy ranks No. 3 after the United States and China. In the USA, there are more than 100 million consumers who are 50 or older.  They:

  • generate $7 trillion a year in goods and services
  • are generally better off financially,
  • have special interests in leisure travel, health, exercise, internet shopping and digital gadgets
  • growing in number yearly
  • are one of the country’s prime engines of commerce and jobs whether working or spending retirement dollars
  • account for close to half of all spending in entertainment, apparel and other important sectors
  • hold 80% of the country’s personal net worth

As has been pointed out on this website many times before (1, 2 etc), the New Zealand tourism industry ignores this market at its peril.

New Zealand still mostly ignores the important older-tourist market

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sam 028

There are some in New Zealand who recognize the importance of older people to New Zealand’s tourism industry.  For example, Professor Ian Yeoman (Victoria University Wellington) noted at the recent New Zealand HAPNZ holiday parks conference that wealth and power is now in the hands of senior citizens (Inside Tourism 937/11/7/13). Yeoman also talked about the importance of extended family holidaying, saying that today, grandparents have more contact with their grandchildren than in the past. “Grandparents are extremely important to society. They are spending three times as much time with their grandchildren than grandparents did 40 years ago because they are living longer and are wealthier, and are caregivers because both parents are working”.  This often means that it is grandparents who actually take their grandchildren on holiday.  AA Tourism CEO Moira Penman notes that  “empty nesters” tend to have more disposable income and more time up their sleeves after their children leave home and many are keen to try new experiences.  “Health and fitness is also high on their radar, so activity-based holidays are attractive amongst this demographic,” said Penman.   “Many tourism operators have already recognized this interest and have tailored more active holiday packages and products to this age group and we can only encourage this positive approach.”  In addition, says Penman, New Zealanders in older age groups are exploring more domestic holiday destinations and  22% planned on travelling somewhere new in 2013, compared with only 15% in 2012.

Meanwhile, the New Zealand tourism industry in general still maintains disproportionate focus on the youth market.  For example, Tourism New Zealand (TNZ – the official marketer of New Zealand) has had a lot of projects recently targeting youth.  In fact, the youth market is one of five sector markets on the TNZ website (the others being Film and Hobbit, Business Events, Cruise Sector, and Rugby World Cup), and there is also a dedicated Youth Market team at TNZ .  However, there is no such dedicated team for older visitors in spite of the fact that the most recent data available (for October 2013) shows that 46% of visitors to New Zealand where aged 45 or older.  This negelect is also in spite of the fact that TNZ GM tourism operations Paul Yeo thinks the older market segment will grow.   Active boomers are a “distinct segment that we believe will grow and as people remain healthy and wealthy then there will be plenty of 80 year old bungy jumpers and skydivers and it is a segment we really think and hope will continue to grow,” Yeo told the Great Adventure conference in Wellington recently.  Why no dedicated team for older visitors?

Certainly, other countries have not been neglecting the older age bracket.  The Australians, for example, have been aware of demographic issues affecting their tourism industry for some time.  Like many Western countries, the Australian population is ageing. It is predicted that by 2050 around a quarter of the population in Australia will be over 65 years because the large Baby Boomer segment, declining fertility rates, ageing families, and increasing life expectancies.  The way Baby Boomers “use their time and money when they retire will affect the domestic tourism industry and their choice to travel domestically, internationally or not to travel at all is an important consideration for the industry”, states a recent Tourism Australia report.  The report goes on to describe how Gen X and Boomer Australians spent the most on tourism per capita between 2000 and 2006, and gives other analyses by age group.

And of course, when considering the older market, attention must be paid to access in tourism, travel, and hospitality, because disability increases with age.  While the New Zealand pays little attention to the older visitor market, it pays almost none to the huge market of people with disabilities.  Compare that to Australia, where  regionally, the State of Victoria has encourages accessible tourism by issuing an Accessible Business Toolkit for tourism businesses, Queensland and New South Wales have also worked on improving tourism access, and Western Australia and other states have  Access Tourism Strategies.  We have none.

New Zealand: Inaugural Universal Design Conference, Auckland, May 24

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Banner from the UD Conference website showing woman with pushchair.Photo Credit: Auckland Council/Jay Farnworth

New Zealand’s Inaugural Universal Design Conference will take place in Auckland on 24 May.  The conference is supported by Auckland Council, Lifemark, and the Ministry of Social Development.  Universal Design (UD) is a design concept that aims to create environments, products, learning programmes and systems that can be used by as many people as possible. “Universal Design makes things more accessible, safer, and convenient for everyone….[It] is a philosophy that can be applied to policy, design and other practices to make products, environments and systems function better for a wider range of people. It developed in response to the diversity of human populations, their abilities and their needs” (IDeA Center, University at Buffalo, State University of New York). In the tourism, travel, and hospitality  environment, using UD concepts leads to activities and attractions, restaurants, and cafes, and all forms of transport that are usable by all people, able bodied and those with a disability, seniors who are not as agile as they once were, travellers with heavy bags, parents with pushchairs and so on. 

There are several good reasons to think about Universal Design in New Zealand.  Firstly there is much talk in central and local government circles about inclusiveness and liveable communities but a lack of understanding of what this really means.  Secondly, the rebuilding of earthquake-damaged Christchurch is a great opportunity to build a city for all people.  Thirdly, New Zealand has a high rate of accident and injury.  A growing population means that medium and high density housing is the way of the future.  Finally, as with most countries, New Zealand’s population is ageing.  In addition, tourism is a major industry in New Zealand, and already about 43% of our international visitors are 45 years old or older.  Using universal design in developing our tourism industry is a must if we are to retain and grow this visitor sector.

The aims of the conference are to raise awareness of universal design and how it can benefit society and businesses, and to inspire individuals and organisations within the built environment industries to take the initiative and lead New Zealand towards creating places that are enjoyable and safe.  The conference is aimed at people involved in the built environment industries (design, development and construction), business, planning, infrastructure, economic development, human resources, environmental design, residential facilities, community service, policy, strategy and anyone interested in creating liveable and inclusive communities.

Discussion topics will include UD theory, demographics and the ageing community,  human rights, social and economic benefits, future proofing, local government policies, strategies and plans, housing, and commercial development, building codes.

NZ Tourism Guide still getting it wrong about access for guide dogs

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Dog at rest

It is heartening to see that, in a new article about “10 Tips to Improve Business” on the New Zealand Tourism Guide (NZTG) website, that Number 5  is ”If your business caters especially well for disabled visitors, make sure you sing out about it – promote it online, in print and to specialist websites and publications”.   However, it is disheartening to see that on an “Accessible Accommodation” page, the NZTG website  STILL (March 2013) has the statement:

For travellers with visual impairment, it is important to check whether accommodations welcome your guide dog”.

Access Tourism NZ first pointed out in May 2010 that under NZ legislation, guide dogs are legally protected from discrimination by three Acts: The Human Rights Act 1993, Dog Control Act 1996, and Transport Services Licensing Act 1989. This legislation entitles guide dogs to go into any public place and on any public vehicle including: motels, hotels, restaurants, shops, beaches, cinemas, hotels, buses ferries, domestic and international flights, ships, taxis, trains, and so on.  Denying access to a person with a guide dog is a serious offence under NZ law, and – as recommended in 2010 –  it would be well if NZTG changed this statement to better reflect the legal obligations of accommodation providers.

It is also disheartening to still see a page headed People with Special Needs, which is an unfortunate use of language.  NZTG is part of the Yellow Pages Group.

Nice to see information about travellers with disabilities being highlighted by NZ’s tourism industry association

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Lovely sunset

A recent poll on the website of New Zealand’s main tourism industry body (TIA) concerned tourism businesses self-assessing for how well they “look after disabled travellers”.   Access Tourism NZ (ATNZ) wrote about how negatively worded this survey was and pointed out that no useful conclusions could be drawn from the results.  The comments of ATNZ,  and comments by New Plymouth Accessibility NZ blogger Nic Steenhout were carried in a story by New Zealand’s most important weekly tourism Ezine “Inside Tourism “, along with comments from TIA communications manager Ann-Marie Johnson.   Johnson said that TIA’s weekly website polls aim to highlight an issue of interest to members and provoke discussion on the topic inside their businesses. Like similar informal polls it makes no claims to being a scientifically accurate survey.  “In this case, we used the poll as a way of drawing attention to a useful study by the New Zealand Tourism Research Institute on the tourism needs of people with hearing loss. A link to this study was included in TIA’s December Insights Quarterly.  To further encourage members to read the study, we also decided to run a poll on the issue.  The format of the poll limits the detail we are able to include in the question and answers. It was certainly not our intention to offend, but rather to highlight the issue to TIA members and we believe it has helped in that aim.”

The study on the tourism needs of people with hearing loss was lead by ATNZ director Sandra Rhodda for the National Foundation for the Deaf (NFD) through the Tourism Research Institute.  ATNZ is heartened by the fact that a short summary of the study was included in the TIA Insights Quarterly and a link to the full report was given.  Hopefully TIA members have not been put off reading the full report by the negative wording of the poll.  The NFD report is in fact the only report to date on the tourism needs of people with disabilities in New Zealand – in this case, people with hearing loss.  We have no information at all in New Zealand on how many people with disabilities currently travel in or to our country, how many would like to do so, what prevents them from travelling here, and what would encourage them to visit.  We have no understanding of the potential of this market for New Zealand as the research has not been done.  For a summary of the state of accessible tourism in New Zealand, see this overview and Chapter 8, Volume Two, “Accessible Tourism in New Zealand”.   For a summary of the kinds of supply and demand research needed in accessible tourism in New Zealand, see this research agenda.

TIANZ survey of operators on how they “look after disabled travellers” wrong in so many ways

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A couple of days ago we at Access Tourism NZ  noticed a survey on the Tourism Industry Association of New Zealand home page aimed at NZ tourism operators (screenshot below).

Screenshot of TIANZ survey 13 December 2012

The survey was headed “How well does your tourism operation look after disabled travellers?”  There were 4 choices from which operators could choose one.  They were:

  1. We make a real effort
  2. We try but it’s challenging
  3. Not enough of them to bother
  4. Dont know

There was some conversation about the negativity and poor language of the survey on Twitter, and Nic Steenhout of Accessibility NZ wrote a blog about the survey.  Nic rightly criticised the use of the term “them” in selection 3 and said “THEM? I assume the survey author meant “people with disabilities” when they wrote “them”. What a sure way to build a barrier between tourism operators and customers with disabilities. I am disappointed that such language is still used by major organisations in 2012.”  He went on to point out that this survey asked operators to assess themselves, when TIANZ should ask visitors with disabilities to assess tourism services to get an accurate picture of how well they are looked after.  Indeed, my research has shown that NZ tourism operators often say their businesses are accessible to people with disabilites when they are not (see this research).

Now TIANZ has replaced the survey with another.  We are not sure if this is due to the criticism of the survey or because TIANZ is satisfied by the number of responses they received and hope to analyse the input from those (the number was 13 resposes last time we looked).   Whatever the reason for pulling the survey, we at Access Tourism NZ believe that no person with a disability was consulted for the constructing of this survey, and no useful information can be gained from it.

TIANZ CEO highlights “active”, “healthy” Boomers as having potential for NZ tourism

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Photo of a Boomer couple at a restaurant

Nice to see that Tourism New Zealand (TNZ) has mentioned the growing importance of the Baby Boomer tourist, – albeit concentrating on healthy, active ones.    TNZ CEO Kevin Bowler told delegates at a recent TIA summit that if tourism operators are to pick one segment to concentrate on it should be active Boomers.  He said that Boomers aged 48-68 are healthier, more active and more wealthy than in the past, have the time to travel, prioritise travel among their expenditure choices, and are (along with Gen X) high spenders.    Boomers  are aware they have to tackle their bucket list now and get the most out of their time by travelling and doing the things they want.     Bowler told delegates that the seniors market is really two markets – the younger, active, healthier one of those under 68, and older less healthy and less active seniors.  He said that TNZ is thinking about how to promote to the active Boomer segment.

Bowler’s acknowledgement of the importance of Boomers is very welcome as it is  only very recently that this market has received passing acknowledgement by upper levels in the tourism industry in New Zealand. To Access Tourism NZ’s knowledge, the first brief mention of the fact that “travellers in the older age groups will become even more significant in the future” occurred in the Ministry of Tourism* report, Tourism sector profile: International visitors (2009). In 2010, the Ministry recognized not only that Boomers are already New Zealand’s largest domestic market segment, but also recognized the role that disability may play in travel by this group. The Domestic Tourism Market Segmentation report notes that for New Zealand’s largest market  segment (Boomers) the “major barriers to travel are health or disability….” (MED 2010 p. 30).   Unfortunatley, by saying this, the report reinforces the idea that it is a person’s disability that is a barrier, rather than environments such as inaccessible transport and accommodation that are disabling, and which therefore reduce tourism and travel opportunities for people who are not as agile as they once were or who have disabilities.

Access Tourism NZ is unsure why TNZ is to concentrate on “active” and “healthy” Boomers.  What we need is to respect all Boomers for the economic force they are rather than disregarding the increasing number who will be less active and/or have disabilities as they age, but who will still want to travel. We need to talk about – and be ready to welcome – ALL Baby Boomers and seniors, “active”, “healthy”, or otherwise. Not to do so is to ignore a large – and growing – market.  After all, as Boomers age and begin to experience increased disability, their travel and tourism needs will dovetail into those of the already-present huge disabilities sector, which New Zealand essentially ignores.  Currently, about 1 billion people worldwide have a disability – this is equivalent to the population of China!  Add to this figure the family or others who travel with the person with a disability and the market is even larger for accessible tourism.  We ignore this market to our peril.

*The Ministry of Tourism is now part of Economic Development in the The Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment.

Accessible tourism in New Zealand: a summary of developments in the last five years

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Wheelchair visitor at Shantytown West Coast New Zealand

Accessible and inclusive tourism has been little researched or developed in New Zealand (NZ).  One study published in 2007  showed that tourism operators do not understand this market, think it insignificant, and think their businesses accessible when they are mostly not.  Erroneous access information is often given to potential visitors with disabilities, buildings housing tourism information sites are often inaccessible, and tourism websites – including a government-run website – are often difficult or impossible to access.  In addition accessible tourism is not part of NZ’s tourism strategy.  This is in spite of the fact that comparatively rich Baby Boomers and seniors were- recently recognized by the Ministry of Tourism (MoT – now part of the Ministry of Economic Development) as NZ’s largest domestic market, and recognized by them as a market with members who may not travel because of health and disability concerns (Segmentation Report).

On the local level, while two or three councils have begun to include considerations of access in tourism information (albeit mostly through business self-assessment of access), most councils have no plans to develop accessible tourism (council survey).  Only about half of Regional Tourism Organizations (RTOs) know of the few accessible tourism businesses in their area, and few promote these businesses as accessible.  Only two of the  approximately 30 RTOs (and one of the approximately 80 councils) sent a representative to the first NZ accessible tourism conference in October 2010, showing that there is still little interest in this sector.

While no-one from the MoT –  or from its promotional agency Tourism NZ – attended that inaugural  conference, the central government – spurred on by holding the Rugby World Cup in 2011 – funded an NGO called Be Accessible to (amongst other things) create and administer access assessments of businesses.  In a major step forward, about 20 accommodation businesses, 70 activities and attraction), and 50 eateries and retail outlets have been assessed and listed on their website.  These are predominantly Auckland businesses, but the Auckland council tourism website does not carry or link to this information.   Be.Accessible has also posted access tips, a toolkit, and checklists.

The most recent NZ research – funded by the NZ National Foundation for the Deaf (NFD) and undertaken by the NZ Tourism Research Institute (NZTRI) and by AccessTourismNZ – examined the tourism, travel, and hospitality experiences and needs of local and international people with hearing loss.  The research shows that they travel for the same reasons as others, mostly travel with others, and would like to travel more but are prevented from doing so by cost and concern that their hearing needs will not be met.  Their most important access travel needs are good customer service, staff who have a “can-do” attitude, and reliable information about access for people with hearing loss, which they often find wrong or misleading.  The majority (90%) of NZ respondents and over half (55%) of international respondents feel that the level of service in the NZ tourism industry for visitors with hearing loss needs to be improved.

Apart from the work mentioned above, no other research on accessible tourism in New Zealand has been carried out.  In fact, there is more interest overseas in what NZ accessible tourism is like than there is in this country.  For example, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) sponsored AccessTourismNZ to talk about the NZ situation at an internationa conference in Japan in 2010, and ENAT and Fundacion ONCE did so for an international conference in Spain in 2011.  In NZ, there is little will to understand, discuss, attract, and accommodate this large and growing market.

An older, more extensive report on the state of accessible tourism in New Zealand is available here.

NZ NFD provides “Yellow Cards” to improve communication between businesses and people with hearing loss

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National Foundation for the Deaf counter cards

The New Zealand National Foundation for the Deaf (NFD) is an NGO which promotes the interests of nearly half a million deaf and hearing-impaired New Zealanders. It has seven member groups.  Recently, it supported research into the tourism experiences, wants and needs of people with hearing loss.  It has now produced “Yellow Cards”, which provide clear, concise information to businesses on how to communicate with people with hearing loss.  The cards – in their plastic holder –  can be displayed  on public reception counters.   Currently, with funding from the ASB Community Trust, they are being distributed free in the Northland/Auckland region.  The cards help both the person on reception and the hearing impaired person to communicate effectively.  For the hearing impaired person, they are a reminder to tell reception that they have trouble hearing.  They remind the person on reception to:

  • Face the person who has a hearing loss
  • Speak slowly
  • Not shout
  • If necessary, write down the points they are trying to make.

Enquiries about the cards can be made on the NFD website.

New research report on tourism, travel, and hospitality for people with hearing loss

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In 2011, the New Zealand National Foundation for the Deaf (NFD) commissioned the New Zealand Tourism Research Institute (NZTRI) to conduct research into the tourism, travel, and hospitality experiences and needs of people with hearing impairments.   Hearing impairment ranges from slight hearing loss to total loss. The research was led by Dr. Sandra Rhodda, Research Programme Leader in Access Tourism. The research included two surveys, one for residents of New Zealand (“NZ”) and one for residents of countries other than NZ (called Internationals, or “Int”) who are deaf or have hearing loss.   The aim of the research was to find out what it is like to travel with hearing loss, how the travel experiences of hearing impaired people can be improved, to establish what people with hearing loss want in terms of tourism products and services, and to offer a better understanding of Access Tourism as a legitimate tourism market.  It also evaluated the case for the development of a ‘Hearing Tick’ for tourism businesses that cater for people with hearing loss.

In summary, the survey found that

  • The top four reasons why NZ and Int respondents travel in general are: for enjoyment (84%/91%), to connect with friends, family or partner (84%/59%), to have new experiences (65%/72%), and for relaxation (53%/57%).  In other words, for the same reasons as people without hearing loss travel.
  • NZ respondents on average took 7.18 overnight domestic trips during 2010; this is more than the number of domestic overnight trips (4.2) taken by NZers in general. NZ respondents took either one (30%), two (11%), or three or more (10%) international trips during 2010. Forty-nine percent did not travel internationally.
  • The primary reasons NZ respondents took their most recent domestic trip were to be with friends and family (31%), to holiday (25%), for business (11%), or to attend conferences (10%).
  • The majority (82%) of NZ respondents travelled with at least one other person on their most recent domestic trip – mainly a spouse or partner (73%). Eighteen percent travelled alone.
  • On their most recent domestic trip, NZ respondents stayed an average of 4.6 nights away from home, and spent on average $107 per person per day on transport, accommodation, activities and attractions, and food and beverage.
  • Thirty-three percent of Int respondents took between three and five domestic overnight trips in their own country. The mean number of domestic overnight trips taken by Int respondents was 6.8.
  • Forty percent of Int respondents did not take any international trips during 2010. Of those who did travel internationally, the majority (83%) took between one and three trips.
  • Forty-three percent of Int respondents have previously visited NZ, 47% have never visited NZ but plan to do so one day; 10% have never visited and have no plans to do so.
  • For those Int respondents who have been to NZ, the main reasons for their last visit were ‘holiday’ (42%), to be with friends and/or family (15%), and to attend a conference or similar event (13%).   The majority (83%) of Int respondents who visited NZ travelled with at least one other person on their  last visit – mainly their spouse or partner. Seventeen percent of Int respondents travelled by themselves to NZ.  On their last visit to NZ, Int respondents stayed an average of 13.2 days.
  • Just under half (46%) of NZ respondents are somewhat dissatisfied with the number of domestic overnight trips they currently take. Factors that prevent these respondents from travelling more domestically are cost (74%), a concern that their hearing needs will not be met (37%), and difficulty finding information about access for visitors with hearing loss (24%).  Fifty-nine percent of NZ respondents ‘agree’ or ‘somewhat agree’ that they would take more domestic overnight trips if the level of service for people with hearing loss across the tourism industry in NZ was improved.
  • Just under half (43%) of Int respondents are somewhat dissatisfied with the number of international trips they currently take. Factors preventing Int visitors from taking more international trips are cost (73%), time constraints (54%), concerns that their hearing needs will not be met (33%), and difficulty finding information about access for visitors with hearing loss (25%).
  • Both NZ and Int respondents agree (mean 4.4-4.6 out of 5) that the most important access needs when travelling away from home include customer service staff who have a ‘can-do’ attitude and the provision of reliable information. This includes information about safety in clear print, emergency alarms in public areas that are visual as well as audible, public audio announcements also provided in text on TV screens, and customer service staff who are knowledgeable about serving guests with hearing loss.
  • When asked what other things would make their travel more enjoyable and accessible, both NZ and Int respondents highlighted the importance of understanding, patient staff trained to know how to accommodate people with hearing loss, how to meet their needs, and what to do in an emergency.
  • Over two-thirds (70%) of NZ and half (52%) of Int respondents indicated that it is difficult to find information about NZ tourism products that are accessible to people with hearing loss.
  • Forty-two percent of NZ and 29% of Int respondents agreed with the statement that ‘information about services for the hearing impaired is often wrong or misleading’.
  • The reasons most often stated by both NZ and Int respondents for not seeking information about NZ tourism products were: a lack of knowledge on how to seek information and a perception that it is too hard to find. Some also think the information does not exist, and that businesses do not cater for people with hearing loss.
  • The majority of NZ (90%) and over half (55%) of Int respondents feel that the level of service in the NZ tourism industry for people with hearing loss needs to be improved.
  • Nearly two thirds (60%) of NZ and three quarters of Int respondents indicate they would ‘often’ return to a tourism business that has good services for people with hearing loss; 64% and 76% would tell friends and family about such a business.
  • The majority of both NZ (88%) and Int (89%) respondents think it is a good idea to have a hearing-rating symbol that NZ businesses could use to show they are accessible to people with hearing loss.
  • The main reasons given by both domestic and Int respondents for saying the use of a ‘hearing tick’ is a good idea are: to show that people with hearing loss are accepted and provided for, to reduce anxiety and frustration, to make the business easily recognisable, to promote awareness by businesses of people with hearing loss, and to improve first time and repeat patronage by people with hearing loss.
  • The majority of NZ (83%) and Int (91%) respondents indicate that they would visit a website that had reliable information on tourism businesses in NZ that cater for people with hearing loss.

The full report can be found on the NZTRI site and on the NFD site.

Two-volume publication on international accessible tourism includes New Zealand chapter

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Two new text books on accessible tourism are available through the European Network for Accessible Tourism (ENAT) from Channel View Publications. The first is “Concepts and Issues” (eds: Dimitrios Buhalis and Simon Darcy), which sets out to  explore and document the current theoretical approaches, foundations and issues  in the study of accessible tourism.  Professor Nigel Morgan, The Welsh Centre for Tourism Research states that this volume harnesses “the best conceptual  developments on the topic” and that it will “take accessible tourism and universal design debates into the mainstream of academic enquiryand industry practice“

The second volume is “Best Practice in Accessible Tourism” (eds: Buhalis, Darcy, and Ivor Ambrose).  It focuses on policy and best practice in accessible tourism, reflecting the ”state-of -the-art” as expressed in a selection of international chapters. It brings together global expertise in planning, design and management to inform and stimulate providers of travel, transport, accommodation, leisure and tourism services to serve guests with disabilities, seniors and the wider markets that require good accessibility. Chapter 8, written by Sandra Rhodda of Access Tourism New Zealand, describes the state of accessible tourism in this country.  Overall, the book gives ample evidence that accessible tourism organisations and destinations can expand their target markets as well as improve the quality of their service offering, leading to greater customer satisfaction, loyalty and expansion of business.  Accessible tourism is not only about providing access to people with disabilities but also it addresses the creation of universally designed environments that can support people that may have temporary disabilities, families with young children, the ever increasing ageing population as well as creating a safer environment for employees to work. Noel Scott, of the University of Queensland, Australia says that the volume “provides a ‘state-of-the-art” assessment of both theory and practice. This book establishes a new field of study and provides the benchmark against which other contributions will be judged. It integrates the work of all the key players and should be read by academics, managers and government policy makers.”

New Zealand Galleries and Museums: Accessible to People with Disabilities?

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An event held during New Zealand Sign Language Week (May 2-8) has highlighted the fact that more deaf people would more often attend sign language interpretation of art in galleries if it was on offer. So says NZ Sign Language interpreter Brydee Jenkins Strang.  The Dunedin Public Art Gallery (DPAG) held a tour of the Beloved collection last Sunday, with Strang translating guide Eryn van Dijk’s discussion. This tour was the only interpreted gallery tour in New Zealand for Sign Language (NZSL) Week, and was the second time it was run. The Beloved collection shows popular works in the DPAG collection such as pieces by New Zealanders  Colin McCahon and Reuben Paterson, and by Claude Monet.  Deaf Aotearoa New Zealand (DANZ) community relations officer Jenna Holland attended the tour, and said deaf attendees enjoyed the event and would like more translated events. “Deaf community members like visualising and describing things,” said Holland.  She would like to see an exhibition of work by deaf artists with a related workshop to introduce people to sign language and the deaf arts community.  DANZ focuses on promoting awareness of, access to, and advancement of NZSL and provides information and resources on D/deaf New Zealanders, and D/deaf culture.  DANZ held a workshop on sign language for
gallery staff during Sign Language Week. NZSL is NZ’a third official language –
the other two are English and Maori.

DPAG visitor host Rosemary Jackson-Hunter said the gallery would like to hold more events like the interpreted tour. “We are considering doing something for people with impaired sight,” said Jackson-Hunter .

A search of the DPAG website reveals that there is no information about access to the gallery for people with any type of disability, and no way to search for such information on the website.  While a few other galleries (and museums) in New Zealand do have such information, an extensive search for disabled access at other galleries and museums throughout New Zealand shows that their websites lack access information about their premises.

Dear Karen, I am Sorry I Cannot Give You Much Information to Help you Plan Your Hoped-For Trip to New Zealand

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Last week, Karen M wrote to Access Tourism New Zealand seeking information about a hoped-for trip to New Zealand.  Karen lives in New South Wales, Australia, and experienced a stroke in May 2009, from which she is recovering.   She wants to visit our shores – particularly the south island, but maybe Rotorua in the north island too – with her husband, and – like several dozens of other people every year – sought advice about a possible trip from Access Tourism New Zealand.  Just over six months ago, we published a response to a similar request from one of the many people  seeking accessible tourism information.  Access Tourism New Zealand has again decided to post a public response as the situation in NZ remains almost the same as that of six months ago.

Direction sign at an airport

Dear Karen,

It would be so great to see you and your husband (who is willing to wheel you anywhere accessible) in New Zealand, and I really wish I could offer you advice about where to get information about accessible places that you could visit or stay at, but that information is essentially non-existent.  At least reliable information is virtually non-existent.  The most reliable is the newly set up website “Be. Accessible”, which has assessed some accommodations, eateries, attractions and so on for access but so far only in the Auckland City area, so not of much use to you I am afraid.   Another source of reliable information is the newly-released Taupo District Council brochure which has accommodations and attractions etc that have been assessed by a person with Barrier-Free training.  I say reliable because these are accommodations and so on that have actually been independently assessed for access for people with a disability, and their accessibility is described.  If you do visit Rotorua, you could then head south to Taupo with this brochure.  There are a couple of other websites which list accessible accommodations, attractions etc, but may I advise caution? The businesses  listed have been rated as accessible by the owner or operator, but my research has shown that operators do not often know what true access for people with disabilities is and so often claim their premises are accessible when they are not.

 As I don’t know the full extent of your access needs, I can’t advise you to “wing it” in New Zealand as you suggest.  I really have not myself checked out the accessibility of tourism products along the routes you describe and would hate to give you misleading advice.  And there is nowhere you can go to for such advice that I know of I am afraid.  I do not have the knowledge about accessible accommodations and walks that you so desperately need.   I see you have tried to download the brochures about “Easy Access Walks” put out by our Department of Conservation and could not do so.  I am not sure why.   I would in any case suggest caution using these guides as some of the walks that I have checked myself in the past were really not that accessible for a person in a chair, or with mobility disability, even though they are stated as wheelchair accessible.  I have to confess though that I have not checked them all.   In case you do want to depend on these, the north island walks can be found here, and the south island here.

There are a handful of operators in New Zealand who offer accessible tours (I will email you a list), but I have not checked these out personally and so can not speak with authority about them.  As we have no quality rating system for Access Tourism products, it is hard to tell.  One thing you could do is write to them and lay out your needs so you can be quite clear that those needs will be met.  Another thing you could do is to have a look at the Access Tourism NZ website for descriptions of trips others have taken in New Zealand (for example, Jim Llewellyn, Bruce Mumford, etc).  And then, if you do travel around New Zealand, it would be helpful to others if you were to let Access Tourism New Zealand know of your experiences so that we can pass on that information to others.

 I wish that information about Access Tourism in New Zealand was more easily available and relaible, but until more funding is forthcoming for research, quality rating, and description in this area, I am afraid all I can do is offer you my apologies for not being more helpful.  The Be. Accessible Foundation is to receive NZ$4 million from the government over the next four years to advance their access programme so I am hopeful that that will lead to more reliable information about Access Tourism products throughout New Zealand in the future.

Regards, Sandra.

New campaign launched to make New Zealand more accessible

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At a time when New Zealand is focused on recreating the built environment of ita second-largest city (Christchurch), a new enterprise has launched with two significant and potentially contributory new initiatives: New Zealand’s first nationwide accessibility programme, Be. Accessible, and the first nationwide disability leadership programme of its kind, Be. Leadership.

At its launch event at the Auckland War Memorial Museum, Be. Institute formally presented the two programmes and outlined the vision for what the institute, through its initiatives and partnerships, can do to foster accessibility and enable a 100% accessible society for all New Zealanders.

The mission is social change: to improve the accessibility of the physical environment, enable better access to information, promote the inclusion and leadership of disabled people in employment and the community, and change social attitudes and behaviours.

In many respects, the timing of the launch is optimal. One Be. Institute project, the Be. Test Match, will be rolled out through the Be. Accreditation programme (part of Be. Accessible) to the 12 New Zealand cities hosting Rugby World Cup 2011.

In the first phase, the Be. Assessors will visit key locations in each of the 12 cities and assess stadia, fan zones, i-SITES and other relevant locations such as hotels.

However, the organization’s aims for its programmes reach beyond this sporting event. By the end of May 2011, Be. Accessible will have trained 40 Be. Assessors, who will be equipped with the tools and know-how to perform holistic assessments of the aforementioned sites, and thousands of others over time.

They will be able to cover the whole accessibility journey, asking questions like: how accessible is the organisation’s website,  what is the level of customer service, how accessible is the building entrance, interior and products, and are the business / organisation’s marketing materials accessible to all people?  Any business can book an accessibility assessment from a Be. Assessor and learn how they can change their practices or structure to make their organization more accessible.

The Be. Institute was founded through a partnership between the Auckland Council, the Auckland University of Technology (AUT) and the Auckland District Health Board.  Be. Institute is led by chief executive Minnie Baragwanath, who before founding Be. Institute worked for 10 years in the disability sector, advising to the former Auckland City Council.

NZ Govt Recognizes Growing Importance, Economic Power of Older People

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Boomers on tour

In a positive step forward, the New Zealand Government has recognized the skills, knowledge and economic power of older people and how these will benefit New Zealand’s economic competitiveness in the next 40 years.  Minister for Senior Citizens John Carter – in releasing a report called The Business of Ageing, Realising the economic potential of older people in New Zealand: 2011-2051   – said that in less than 20 years, one million people in New Zealand will be over the age of 65, compared to about 560,000 today. And in 40 years, one in four people will be aged over 65, compared to one in eight today.  “People over 65 are predicted to be our only growth market in terms of demography. They will become one of the most significant consumer markets in New Zealand. They will have their own needs and preferences that are quite different from earlier generations of older people, and also quite different from younger people.  Baby boomers will be healthier, better educated and have more spending power than any other generation reaching 65 in New Zealand’s history.  They want to stay active and keep working. Flexible work options could drive job growth and help us respond to projected skill and labour shortages.  Government cannot work in isolation to develop priorities for older people, so buy-in from the business sector, employers and people of all ages is essential to capture the possibilities this report outlines” said Carter.

That the mature market is hailed as a good example of an opportunity for New Zealand, both domestically and internationally is a major step forward.   The report mentions tourism amongst other things.  Certainly, in tourism, there has been little recognition of the growing importance of this market.  The first mention of the fact that “travellers in the older age groups will become even more significant in the future” occurred in the Ministry of Tourism’(now part of the Ministry of Econmic Development) report, Interenational Visitors Tourism Sector Profile, in June 2009.  Then last year (2010), Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism John Key said that moteliers should not be surprised if their market becomes increasingly retired people. “They will travel around New Zealand as they will have more time on their hands and will want see the West Coast or whatever and you will get more of them as at the moment New Zealand has 535,000 over 65 and in 40 years it will have a million.” said Key.    Also in 2010, the government released a report which recognized the importance of the older market.  The report – Domestic Tourism Market Segmentation – went on to state that major barriers to this group travelling are “health and disability (their own or that of a travelling companion) as well as lack of travelling companions”.    

This latest report states that ”A tourism industry that responds to the changing demands of baby boomers over 65 could have spin-off effects for other industries and stimulate regional economic growth”. As Access Toursm New Zealand has pointed out on numerous occassions, if New Zealand is to seriously market to and cater for older travellers (or indeed, older markets in general), it has to take into consideration that disability increases with age, and must improve its access tourism offer.  Instead of seeing a person’s disability as a barrier (as the Segmentation Report does), it must look at  environment factors such as inaccessible tourism websites, transport, accommodation and other innaccessible products as disabling.

Fire Safety of Hearing Impaired in Hotels, Motels, at Home

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In a press release, the New Zealand National Foundation for the Deaf (NFD) have called for the government to come up with innovative ways to help people with hearing disabilities afford alarm systems that would alert them when they’re activated.  Louse Carroll, NFD Chief Executive stated that people who are deaf cannot hear audio alarms, and nor can many hearing impaired people who take their hearing aids out when they go to bed.  “And that includes people staying in hotels and motels, as well as people in their own homes. Getting an alarm that links with the lights or to a vibrating pad that goes under a pillow is expensive, and we need to look at how we can make these more affordable.”  Mrs Carroll said governments overseas were moving to deal with the issue, and it was time for the New Zealand government to do the same.  A 2003 study of small accommodation businesses in four areas in New Zealand showed that there are a number of factors that impact on the small business owner’s compliance with fire safety regulations.  These include access to resources

The New Zealand Tourism Research Institute at Auckland University of Technology is currently conducting a survey of people who have slight to total hearing loss to find out what their tourism, travel, hospitality, and leisure experiences and needs are.  Included in the survey is a question about visual and vibrating fire alarms.  Tourism is New Zealand’s largest export earner, and we can expect that more and more of our guests – both national and international – will have hearing impairments due to the ageing of the world population.  There have been numerous examples of fatal fires in travel accommodation worldwide, so there is no reason to believe it could not happen in New Zealand.  For example, in 2007-2008, the New Zealand Fire Service reported 139 fires in hotels, motels, and lodges, 1, 147 calls to places of public recreation, and 1, 238 calls to commercial premises such as food and beverage outlets.

Turning Point for Access Tourism? Bill Forrester Thinks So

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Bill Forrester, of Travability Australia, who gave a presentation at the first New Zealand conference on Access Tourism (AT) in October 2010 about how tourism businesses may comply with access legalities, but not promote this fact, also spoke recently on this topic at the Society for Accessible Travel and Hospitality (SATH) conference in Florida.  Forrester thinks that we are at a critical turning point in the future of AT.  Over the past 20 years the advocacy concentration has been on breaking down the physical barriers that prevented People with Disabilities (PwDs) from accessing holiday destinations.  Now the problem lies in the fact that the travel industry has failed to move beyond a compliance model.  Facilities are built but are poorly understood if they are understood at all, and even where facilities are excellent the accessible tourism sector is not regarded as a valuable market segment, or not understood as a market segment at all. “The result is that those facilities are never disclosed, never advertised and never published in a way that the travellers who need those facilities ever get a chance to know where they are.”  Now, it is recognized that progress will result if the mainstream industry understands the economic benefit AT can bring the tourism sector.  Forrester cites The Shotover Jet in Queenstown New Zealand as an example of a business that accommodates PwDs by offering accessible services but which does not publish this fact.   “….they are providing a service because they believe “it is the right thing to do” not because they see a valuable market. It is accommodation of a traveller with a disability not true inclusion.” 

Forrester points out the current and growing economic importance of the PwD market, and the folly of continuing to treat it as disabilities rights issue.   “Too often the provision of accessible information, like the provision of the facilities themselves, are regarded as an afterthought or part of a special marketing project to provide information out of a perceived community service. The results are often “special” brochures or special web portals that are forgotten about or become out of date once the project that created them has finished. While the intention may good the results will always fail as that information is not mainstream, further unless the person for whom it is intended actually knows about it, then it can be as hard to find as the actual facilities themselves” (Travability).  He cites another New Zealand example where this type of thinking fails. “The Department of Conservation in New Zealand recently produced two guides to wheelchair accessible and easy walks, one for the North Island and one for the South Island. Both of those brochures were never properly displayed and hence most people didn’t realise they existed. The far better solution would have been to incorporate the information into the mainstream trail information in their main National Parks brochure.”  Elsewhere, Forrester sees things improving. “The tide is changing and a great example of a truly inclusive culture is Parks Alberta with their “Push to Open” initiative, but unlike a lot of other disability projects this one is embedded into the vision statement of the organisation.”