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


“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:

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

Cyprus action plan on accessible tourism

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File:20061019 Episkopi Bay.jpg

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

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

UK Airports improving service for children with ASD

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Guest article by Will Davies of Fubra Limited.  Fubra is a small creative technology company located in Hampshire, England.   It runs many websites including Airport Parking Shop and the UK Airport Guides Network.  Recently, it was brought to Fubra’s attention that accessibility at airports for people with disabilities or special needs was something that needed improving and so they decided to create features relating to disabilities and special needs at the airport to spread awareness. So far these have included – looking at facilities across 22 UK airports and adding them to each airport guide, Changing Places Facilities at UK airports and Autism at the airport. This article looks at how UK airports are improving their services for children with autism.


In years gone by, many parents with children on the Autistic spectrum would have avoided airports like the plague! Whilst it may be true that airports (and planes) aren’t a great place for Autistic children, due to the large crowds, long cues and boredom that can occur whilst on long flights; parents whose children suffer from the disorder cannot be expected to never take their child abroad, after all, they need to see the world too!

This is something that a few UK airports have really taken on board, there may still be a long way to go but it’s great to see some of them making an effort! Manchester Airport is probably the stand out – the airport have created individual booklets for each terminal, videos to help guide parents through the whole process and brightly coloured wristbands to help fast track ASD children (beating the long queues that can cause problems). Gatwick have also got on board with the booklets but it’s clear to see that Manchester have really had a good think about the situation and they even managed to get Keith Duffy (former Boyzone member) to feature in a few of their videos! He has been campaigning for Autism awareness since his daughter was diagnosed at 18 months.

Edinburgh Airport have recently partnered with Scottish Autism in a bid to improve the experience for ASD children at the airport. Families can now book pre-flight visits in order for the child to familiarise themselves with the airport and see how things work.

Airport Parking Shop have put together a really handy piece of content that gives parents some tips on how to keep ASD children occupied at the airport and on the plane; it also looks at things you should consider before setting off for the airport. If you’re travelling from the UK with any other disabilities then be sure to check out the Heathrow Airport Guide, they have a dedicated page for special assistance at the airport and other airports can be accessed from the bottom of the page.

Follow on Twitter: @Fubra @airportparkshop @HeathrowTweets @CP_Consortium @manairport @Gatwick_Airport @KeithDuffyExp @EDI_Airport @scottishautism

Brazil focuses its accessible tourism drive on visually impaired visitors

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Overlooking Rio de Janiero

Brazil has launched a set of unique projects based on sensory experiences aimed at visually impaired tourists, reports Tourism Review.   Sensory tourism allows people with visual impairments to enjoy attractions through other senses such as touch or smell.   It is a concept Brazil’s Tourism Ministry has been working on in several of its most iconic cities.  The Botanical Garden of Rio de Janeiro, for example, invites visitors to experience the textures and aromas of plants such as orchids and herbs.  Every second week, Brasilia Zoo offers walks for groups of up to 15 people, where visitors are allowed to touch the animals.  Tour itineraries linked to coffee and the taste and aroma of traditional drinks have also been piloted in Araguari in the State of Minas Gerais.  Visually impaired visitors experience the stages of coffee production: harvesting, drying yards, pulped coffee, the bean selection process, the levels of roasting, and even tasting the quality of the drink.

São Paulo’s Pinacoteca Museum allows 12 bronze sculptures that are part of the museum’s collection to be touched.  Size, shape, texture and aesthetic diversity facilitate understanding and appreciation of these artistic works when felt with hands.  The selection of works took into account recommendations by the people with visual disabilities.   There are also projects aimed at facilitating access to beaches in Pernambuco, Río de Janeiro, Alagoas, São Paulo and Rio Grande do Sul. These sites make provision for equipment such as mechanical belts or amphibious chairs, and also promote activities like sitting volleyball and an adaptation of traditional bowling.

Rosangela Barqueiro, who is part of the Brazilian Association for Assistance of the Visually Impaired, says that minor adaptations are all that is needed in order to include the visually impaired in tourism.  Barqueiro pointed out that the training of guides and assistants to deal with visually impaired visitors can solve most of the problems in this segment.  Also helpful is the provision of audio descriptions and texts in Braille.

For its part, the Tourism Ministry has created the Acessível Tourism website in collaboration with the Human Rights Secretariat of the Presidency of the Republic and the National Council on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CONADE).  On the website you can check the accessibility of tourist sites, hotels, restaurants and various attractions in Brazil. Users can also suggest new facilities or places of interest which will help people with disabilities or reduced mobility to travel around the country with greater independence. This initiative, which is also available on a Smartphone app, won last year’s National Prize for Web Accessibility.

Follow on Twitter: @Tourism_Review @Laramara_Assoc @MTurismo @DHumanosBrasil

Spain: Survey of Accessible Tourism

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ONCE Foundation for cooperation and social Inclusion of disabled people is Spain’s leading disabilities foundation (Fundacion ONCE). Since 2011, the Universal Accessibility Directorate of the Foundation has been running multiple researches on Universal Accessibility in different environments such as urban planning, transport, and beyond. During 2015 and 2016 the Observatory will focus the research on the situation of Accessible Tourism in Spain. Accessible tourism accommodates not only people with disabilities, but families with children, people with trolleys, bags, and with special needs over a lifetime.

Spain welcomes over 53 million international tourists a year and tourist activity is 10.9% of GDP. Current tourism trends show an increased sophistication of supply and demand, the presence of older tourists, and the ever increasing demand for quality.   The Foundation has created a questionnaire for tourists who have travelled to Spain. Data gathered by this research will help analyse consumers’ habits and diagnose the state of accessibility in tourism facilities. The survey has questions about frequency of travel, preferred destinations in Spain, means of transport, and other factors. In addition, there are questions about satisfaction with adaptation of tourist facilities, resources and services regarding the needs of travellers.

This questionnaire is open to ALL TOURISTS, whether having a disability or not, who want to participate in this study and wish to contribute regarding their travelling experience. It can be found here:
Source: Reduced Mobility. Follow on Twitter: @ReducedMobility @Fundacion_ONCE @ILUNION

EC grant helps VisitEngland to expand its Access For All initiative

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Dover (62)

VisitEngland has a grant of €125,000 from the European Commission to expand its “Access for All” initiative.   This follows a successful pilot project in 2013-14 with four destinations: VisitBath, goLeicestershire, NewcastleGateshead, and VisitBrighton.   The current project is partnering with Visit Kent, Marketing Birmingham, Visit Lincoln, Visit Northumberland, Visit Peak District and Derbyshire, Experience Nottinghamshire and VisitBrighton to develop and promote their destination for visitors with access needs.  The project has been running for almost a year now.  It comprises two phases: product development, where businesses are supported in improving their accessibility with the help of access advisors Access New Business , and a national consumer marketing campaign.

Over 50 tourism businesses are being directly supported as part of the project to improve their accessibility. Each business has received:

A second national marketing campaign will be launched in this month (September 2015).   The campaign aims to raise awareness of accessible destinations and businesses in England, improving perceptions of Accessible England.

Source: press release.  Follow on Twitter:  @VisitEnglandBiz @VisitEngland @BrianMSeaman

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

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Map of Europe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lonely Planet wants your accessible travel information

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Tourist in a wheelchair having her photo taken

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

Follow on Twitter: @lonelyplanet @Martin_Heng

Welsh working hard to improve access in the arts

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Arts Council of Wales banner from their website

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

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

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

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

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

Edinburgh Airport hosts guide dog training day

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Puppy handlers at airport picture from Edinburgh Airport website

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

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

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

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

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

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

WTM London 2015 award for accessible accommodations

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Untitled (2)

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

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

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

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

Travel businesses missing out on huge market: WTM

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

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

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

New “Accessible Japan” website for visitors

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


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

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

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

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

I just started a month or two ago, so we still have a ways to go, but I would enjoy having people come along for the trip!  My goal is to have a searchable database on the site in the near future – like, but with disabled users in mind.  Most information will come from translating the Japanese information first, but Accessible Japan intends to make detailed site visits in the future.  I currently have no planned order of doing such visits, so if there are any requests, please ask via email (, Facebook (, Twitter (, Google+ ( or Pinterest (!

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

New app: Accessible NYC subway and places

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Wheelie map of NYC

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

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

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

Sources: Follow on Twitter: @wheelynyc

AccessAble Leicester app: 24/7 access guide

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Leicester city centre

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amsterdam: New Accessible Routes city guide

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Amsterdam canal

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

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

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