New “Accessible Japan” website for visitors

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

maiko

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

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

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

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

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

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

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New app: Accessible NYC subway and places

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Wheelie map of NYC

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

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

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

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

AccessAble Leicester app: 24/7 access guide

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Leicester city centre

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amsterdam: New Accessible Routes city guide

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Amsterdam canal

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

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

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

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

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

 

Spaghetti junction of roads

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

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

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

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

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

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

Science Museum London tips for improving access

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Science Museum London website banner showing exhibition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VisitEngland conference on accessible tourism

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

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

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

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

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

Follow on Twitter: @VisitEngland @VisitEnglandBiz @AvesoCP

New UNWTO manual: Accessible Tourism for All

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UNWTO Manual on Accessible Tourism for All Front Cover

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

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

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

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

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

Improving access for visitors and locals in York UK

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 York Minster

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

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

Follow on Twitter: @MakeItYork @DisabledGo @CityofYork

Scandic Hotels Germany wins accessibility award

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Accessible room Scandic Hotels website

Scandic Hotels Germany (http://www.scandichotels.com/Hotels/Germany/) was recently given a “Golden Wheelchair” award by the non-profit organisation “Independent Living Centre” in Stuttgart (ZSL http://www.zsl-stuttgart.de/english.html). In the category ‘Hotels and Accommodations’ Scandic convinced the jury by its comprehensive and detailed accessibility programme. “Scandic Hotels Germany is glad about this special award,” said Tobias Albert, Director Sales & Marketing Scandic Hamburg Emporio. “It is an acknowledgement of our belief that hotels should be accessible for everyone and our effort to ensure this within our group.” Scandic’s approach to accessibility is based on a 135 point plan developed by Magnus Berglund, the hotel group’s ambassador for accessibility. Since its implementation in 2003, the standard has had a positive impact not only within Scandic, but on the whole travel industry.

Scandic Hotels is a chain with 155 hotels and around 30,000 rooms across Europe. Started in 1963, it has, over the years, increased accessibility in its hotels. It was the first hotel chain to appoint a Director of Accessibility to work on improving accessibility for disabled guests. Now all the hotels have rooms adapted to guests with special needs. Scandic has also improved online information about access at its hotel. Scandic Hotels has won numerous awards for accessibility over the years. For further information, see here, here, and here.

The “Independent Living Centre” (ZSL Stuttgart) is a registered counselling service for people with disabilities by people with disabilities. With the “Golden Wheelchair” it honors outstanding accessibility travel solutions and programmes. The award ceremony takes place during the CMT in Stuttgart (Germany), the world’s greatest public trade fair for tourism and leisure.

Follow on Twitter: @ScandicGlobal @Messe_Stuttgart

Canada: New accessibility standard for self-service kiosks in air, ferry and train terminals

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Canadian Flag

From December 31, 2016, any newly installed automated self-service kiosks used for such things as check in, printing of boarding passes and baggage tags at Canadian air, ferry and train terminals should be accessible to travellers with disabilities, with the ultimate goal of ensuring that 25% of kiosks are accessible by December 31, 2022.   This is the expectation of the Canadian Transportation Agency’s (CTA) recently amended Code of Practice: Removing Communication Barriers for Travellers with Disabilities. The standard is harmonized with the new United States Department of Transportation (DOT) rule published late last year, providing greater predictability and consistency across North America for travellers with disabilities.

The standard was developed based on input received during consultations with CTA’s Accessibility Advisory Committee, which consists of representatives from associations representing the interests of persons with disabilities, major Canadian airlines, passenger railway companies, ferry operators, as well as with air industry stakeholders and the Canadian Airports Council.  A two-year implementation period gives manufacturers time to design, test and produce kiosks which feature updated hardware and software accessibility standards. The standards address issues such as height, position of monitors, touch screen functions, audio accessories, document readers, and warning tones.

The standard applies to the following terminals and carriers:

  • Airports within the National Airports System linking Canada from coast to coast;
  • Canadian air carriers that operate aircraft with 30 or more passenger seats;
  • Rail carriers and terminals serving 10,000 or more passengers yearly; and
  • Ferry operators and terminals in respect of vessels of 1,000 gross tonnes or more between provinces or between Canada and the United States every year.

“Persons with disabilities have a right to access automated self-service kiosks independently, safely and securely,” said Geoff Hare, Chair and CEO of CTA. “Our experience has shown that the Agency’s voluntary standards approach is effective in increasing the accessibility of the federal transportation network for persons with disabilities.”  The CTA will conduct periodic surveys to monitor the progress in implementing the Code.  Reports on the findings of these monitoring surveys will be provided to the Accessibility Advisory Committee.  In addition to these surveys, the Agency will also undertake periodic reviews of the Code. Any problems identified will be presented to the Accessibility Advisory Committee for consultation and any proposed amendments will be distributed to the public for comment.

Independent of this process, the Agency will also continue to exercise its authority to deal with individual complaints to determine whether there are undue obstacles to the mobility of persons with disabilities.

Source: CTA website; Accessibility News International.  Follow on Twitter: @CTA_gc  @AcNewsca

VisitEngland continues its “Access For All” project

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Tourist in a wheelchair, and with a suitcase, bank of the Thames, London

A VisitEngland-led “Access for All” project is part-way through developing and promoting  7 high quality accessible tourism itineraries.   It is doing this by supporting tourism businesses to improve information, customer service, and facilities for the benefit of people with access needs and by delivering a mainstream national marketing campaign to promote accessible tourism in England.  It will, therefore, increase opportunities for people with access needs to take holidays and inform them of reliably accessible tourism products and services.   Awareness of accessible destinations will be increased improving perceptions of Accessible England and Europe.   A sustainable legacy will be achieved by upskilling and empowering destination organisations  (DOs) to become local champions of long-term accessible tourism development and developing an Accessible Tourism Itinerary Toolkit for other destinations. New partnerships will be forged between key tourism stakeholders and disability stakeholders.

The ‘Access for All’ project is funded by a grant of €125,000 from the European Commission.

VisitEngland’s Destination Partners include Visit Kent and Visit Brighton (coastal), Visit Birmingham and  Visit Lincoln (city), and Visit Northumberland, Visit Peak District and Derbyshire, and Experience Nottinghamshire (countryside).

The work is organised into 4 work packages:

  • WP1 – Designing, including the appointment of Accessibility Experts, introductory workshops for destination organisation partners, and project start up meetings with business partners in each destination.
  • WP2 – Implementation (Access for All Development Process), including inspection of venues, production of improvement plans, staff training, mystery visits, and updating of access information.
  • WP3 – Dissemination, including to people with access needs via a mainstream consumer marketing campaign.  This will involve the production of itinerary guides, campaign creative, and securing advertorial and editorial space in key specialist media channels, dissemination to businesses via B2B communications plan, video case studies and production of ‘Accessible Itineraries Development Toolkit’, dissemination to other EU member states via the web, and social media coverage provided by European Network for Accessible Tourism (ENAT).
  • WP4 – Evaluation, including of marketing campaigns against a set of defined measurement vehicles, project monitoring and reporting, and a post-completion project evaluation.

Main Source:  European Commission http://ec.europa.eu/growth/sectors/tourism/offer/accessible/index_en.htm.   Follow on Twitter: @VisitEngland @RossCalladine @EU_growth  @EUaccesstourism #AccessForAll

Basque developing accessible tourism for all

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Flag of the Basque Country

The  Basque Country is a region at the western end of the Pyrenees on the coast of the Bay of Biscay and straddles parts of north-central Spain and south-western France.  It is currently working to create “Tourism for All in Basque Country“.  This is one of a number of accessible tourism projects funded by the European Commission.  The project involves developing further an already existing accessibility model to include standards for new services and packages in six itineraries in the country.  The undertaking includes consideration of the whole tourism value chain and involves access assessment of each tourism facility, improvement of the skills of tourism providers to cater for people with access needs, creating tourism packages for people with different access needs, and commercialization and promotion of the access offer through standard and also specific channels.

The lead coordinator of the project is the Fundacion Instituto Gerontologico Matia-Ingema, and partners include various tourism bodies within Spain.  Source: European Commission.    Follow on Twitter: @EU_Growth @MatiaFundazioa

Seven European countries join forces to develop accessible tourism

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S Notts 2 056Italy, Belgium, Spain, Bulgaria, Portugal, Germany, and Denmark are joining forces to develop nine fully accessible itineraries into comprehensive tourism packages. The project is one of a number in accessible tourism funded by the European Commission.   The transnational initiative – named  Project STRING – will market the packages as single or multiple customer-selected preferred combination. The packages will include choices in historic monuments, religious interest, gastronomy and wine-tasting, arts, shopping and  entertainment, and more.

The project will select existing accessible tourist sites and facilities to form a continuing, well- linked route with rich attractions and tailored services, then promote and market these.    Project STRING aims  to better exploit the experiences and itineraries realized by some of the partners in the  framework of the League of Historical and Accessible Cities (LHAC);  to provide versatile, high-quality and fully accessible tourist products to all kinds of people with access needs;  to present accessible tourist products to the customers through easily-accessible channels and in a flexible, adaptable and thus more attracting way;  to disseminate at a wider level the best practices and know-how in accessible tourism achieved by the partners as well as by other members of the LHAC; and to foster cooperation among SMEs, public administrations, foundations, associations and other stakeholders to improve accessibility and contribute to a better quality of life for all.

The lead partner is CPD – Consulta per le Persone in Difficoltà ONLUS (Italy).

Source: European Commission. Follow on Twitter: @EU_Growth  @Turismabile

Lonely Planet: New Accessible Melbourne ebook

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Lonely Planets Accessible Melbourne front cover street scene

Lonely Planet’s new Accessible Melbourne free guide provides travellers with disabilities relevant, up-to-date advice on what to see in that city.  It covers Melbourne’s best wheelchair-friendly restaurants and shops, accessible sports, and scenery, food and wine along the Great Ocean Road. As usual with Lonely Planet, the authors visited every establishment reviewed so that reviews are based on personal experience. However, for this pilot project, LP augmented their authors reviews with feedback from users who are people with disabilities, and insider tips from a wide range of travellers to ensure those with mobility, hearing or vision impairment get the most out of a Melbourne holiday.   This is Lonely Planet’s first ebook on accessible travel, and it acknowledges that what is accessible to one may be difficult for another.  The Guide suggests users use the information as a starting point to make their own enquiries for their particular situation.  As usual with Lonely Planet, the authors visited every establishment reviewed so that reviews are based on personal experience.

Lonely Planet welcomes feedback on this project.  Follow on Twitter: @lonelyplanet @Martin_Heng

Website Accessibility: A New Frontier Of Inclusion

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Chris Lona of CL Design is making the web/digital a better, accessible experience for disabled and ageing people. He hopes to help organizations generate more revenue by being more inclusive of this group pf customers online. In addition, he hopes to help organizations improve compliance with accessibility initiatives and mandates.  In this guest blog, he writes about web access.

Website front page with audio

Turn on your sound and visit http://www.sitellites.com/new_Zealand/

Keep your hand down if you’ve ever had a problem accessing a website. After all why make you go through extra effort if you don’t have to… Imagine that the challenges you’ve had accessing websites were compounded by being visually, auditory, physically or cognitively challenged? You would be even more frustrated than you were when you had the original challenges.   If you are a business owner in tourism, travel or hospitality and have gone to great lengths to ensure your destination is accessible, how accessible is your website which is the first impression and gateway to your offerings? If a disabled or older person wants to visit your destination and they cannot access your website, do you think they will book the trip through your company? Does it make sense – since your destination is about a superior, accessible experience – that your site should be as well? Canada, Europe the US and other countries all have legislation, mandates, or initiatives that address the issue of web accessibility.     In 2008 retailer Target had to pay $6 million because their websitewas not accessible. The consensus around a standard for web access generates from the W3C’s WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) which has a goal of providing a single shared standard for web content accessibility. A nice goal to be sure but the realities and “best practices” involved leave a lot to be desired. What has come out of this as “best practices” is a web where it is completely acceptable to build a website and then find ways to make it accessible with assistive technology mostly for the visually challenged. This main assistive technology for the visually impaired is called a screen reader. It is software that reads the information on a web page aloud in a synthetic computer voice. But this assistive technology presents several access barriers of its own—cost, computer requirements, learning curve, lack of accessible websites and a robotic, synthetic voice. There is a new mandate in the U.S. called the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act: It contains (in short) “ground-breaking protections to enable people with disabilities to access broadband, digital and mobile innovations — a study conducted by the FCC revealed that people with disabilities are less likely to use Internet-based communications technologies”.   For the web this will mean that certain videos will be required to be closed captioned for the auditory challenged.   In terms of any mandates for inclusion of the physically and cognitively challenged when they use the internet, there are vague references to inclusion of a variety of people with differing disabilities. What all of this means for businesses and their commitment to (and compliance with) web accessibility initiatives is a lack of access for them. Where will they turn to make their site be able to be read by a screen reader? How will they find the right resource to make sure their online videos are closed captioned? What resources exist to ensure that the physically and cognitively challenged will also be able to access their online and physical world experience? The fact that they will be forced into providing web access as a piecemeal approach will mean that fewer companies will bother due to the difficulties and expense.   The crux of the issue lies with the fact that “best practices” treat web accessibility as an afterthought rather than as an integrated design. A building is built with accessibility as an integral part of the design. What do you think? Should accessibility for websites be integrated from the ground up to create better online experiences for everyone? Contact: cld@cldesign.co. (Contains audio); www.cldesign.co Visit demo at http://www.sitellites.com/new_Zealand/

VisitWales, Welsh tourism embrace Disabled Access Day

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Welsh flag

Visit Wales was one of many tourism organizations around Wales to take part in international Disabled Access Day, a day set aside in January when people with disabilities are encouraged to visit places they have never been before. Disabled Access Day is an international and national campaign to highlight the accessible venues that provide for individuals with any form of disability.   VisitWales said that tourism is an industry that attracts and looks after the needs of all tourists. “ Our objective for the day, with the co-operation of our industry colleagues is to raise awareness of the wide variety of accessible attractions, activities and accommodation establishments that Wales has to offer”, said a VisitWales spokesperson.

In Carmarthenshire, The National Botanical Garden of Wales offered free entry and tours to people with disabilities.  In Aberystwyth, Cardiganshire, the Arts Centre also offered free entry, a BSL interpreter, and film screenings.   The Denbighshire County Council offered an obstacle free walk at Loggerheads Country Park and a chidren’s Treasure Hunt.

Tourism operators from across Pembrokeshire County  gathered at Clynfyw Care Farm in Abercych to celebrate ‘Inclusive West Wales’.     It was supported by a number of tourism operators and organisations who carry an accessible ethos, including the National Trust  Stackpole Mencap Gardens, The Harriet Davis Trust, Pembrokeshire People First, Celtic Quest Coasteering and Pembrokeshire Tourism.   Those who attended found it very beneficial by networking with peers and gaining a wealth of knowledge on what is available to the disabled visitor in Pembrokeshire.   Emily Yates, an accessibility consultant and travel writer who has been employed by the Rio de Janeiro Paralympic Games also attended the event.   She was overwhelmed with the facilities available at Clynfyw Care Farm.   She said: “The thing that really impresses me about Clynfyw is that physical accessibility and community inclusion go hand-in-hand. Not only can visitors stay in a gorgeous cottage to suit all their needs they can also take part in arts and crafts and wheelchair yoga. This inclusion” she added, “is what really creates understanding and brings people together. We need more of it” she said.

Clynyfw has been providing accessible holidays to visitors for more than 30 years and has been recognised for its good practice by winning the Pembrokeshire Tourism Gold Award for Best Access for the Disabled Visitor in 2013.  The manager Jim Bowen said the event was a great success, and that it was a pleasure to see the development of collaborative working amongst some of the leading accessible business in Pembrokeshire.   “It’s hopefully the start of something big for accessible tourism in Pembrokeshire”, said Bowen.

Follow on Twitter: @Access_Day @VisitWalesBiz @EmilyRYates @ClynfywCIC  @nationaltrust @HDavisTrust @pemspeople1st @CQCoasteering @visitpembs  Main source: Disabled Access Day

UNWTO Manual on Accessible Tourism for All: Principles, Tools and Good Practices

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Sams Tower 156

The Manual on Accessible Tourism for All: Principles, Tools and Good Practices (in Spanish), is UNWTO’s second publication on universal accessibility and has been co-produced with the Spanish ONCE Foundation for social inclusion of people with disabilities and the European Network for Accessible Tourism – ENAT.  The manual will be key to the international community in understanding the chain of accessibility in tourism, the economic impact of Accessible Tourism, and steps that can be taken to create accessible destinations according to the principles of Design for All.    The manual provides a framework of interventions, tools and resources in service delivery and management of Accessible Tourism. Through these instruments, UNWTO aims to encourage stakeholders in the sector to implement measures to increase greater participation of different population groups in tourism, including people with disabilities and others.

The publication is divided into five distinct modules that respond to major accessibility issues in tourism: general context, recommendations main intervention areas, indicators for national tourism administrations and good international practices.  It is Module I – the first part of the Manual to be published – and will be followed by 4 remaining technical modules targeting various tourism stakeholders.

Follow on Twitter: @UNWTO @UNWTO_pub @EUaccesstourism @Fundacion_ONCE

Asia Pacific Network on Accessible Tourism to get country chapters

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Hotel Hallway

The Asia Pacific Network on Accessible Tourism (APNAT) will soon see the establishment of country chapters, which would help champion barrier-free travel for all people with disabilities in the region.  This move was agreed upon at the recently concluded 5th International Conference on Accessible Tourism.  APNAT itself was formed after recommendations from participants who attended the first South-east Asia Conference on Accessible Tourism in 2012 (SEACAT).   Sia Siew Chin, protem committee chairman of APNAT, said: “Through APNAT, we would like to be able to reach out to governments, people in the tourism industry and service providers to provide for the access needs of everyone in society, in particular people with disabilities.”   Saowalak Thongkuay, regional coordinator for Abilis Foundation Mekong, said: “APNAT gives us a strong and collective voice to negotiate with governments to include accessible tourism into their development agenda.

It is hoped that all links in the tourism chain will become accessible.  Speaking at the conference,  Annagrazia Laura, president of European Network for Accessible Tourism (ENAT), stressed that providing barrier-free environment means that from arrival to departure, visitors must be guaranteed an unbroken and seamless chain of accessibility.  “If just one link in the chain is broken, such as inaccessible monuments and tourist attractions, the holiday experience will be spoilt” said Laura.

Joseph Kwan, chair, International Commission on Technology & Accessibility, Rehabilitation International also attended the conference.  “Once governments realise that people with disabilities and the senior market are a sizable population with disposable incomes to spend and can contribute significantly to foreign exchange earnings, employment generation and social inclusion, they will be more willing to act, to create barrier-free travel for all” said Kwan.   Kwan stressed the importance of governments to do audits on the current status of tourism accessibility in order to develop policies and plans regarding accessibility and human rights.

Follow on Twitter: @EUaccesstourism