Conference: Innovative approaches to accessibility and heritage protection in Accessible Tourism

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The European Foundation Centre (EFC  http://www.efc.be/news_events/Pages/SAVE-THE-DATE!-Accessible-Tourism-Innovative-approaches-between-accessibility-and-heritage-protection0624-3730.aspx ) will hold a conference at the European Economic and Social Committee venue, Brussels examining approaches to accessibility and heritage protection in accessible Tourism.  The meeting will be held on 5/12/14, and will focus on four aspects of access and heritage protection, namely, services, partnerships, cultural heritage, and technological solutions.  Because tourism is seen as an important source of growth for the economy of Europe, investment in the accessible tourism sector will benefit everyone.  The conference will tackle the issue of challenges in protecting historical heritage while making it accessible to all.  Examples from the work of the League of Accessible and Historical Cities (LAHC http://www.lhac.eu/ ) will illustrate the discussion. LACH is a practical and innovative project carried out in the framework of the European Foundation Center Consortium of Foundations on Human Rights and Disability, which has been implemented in six European cities.  In these cities, eleven foundations are collaborating with local and national authorities, civil society, architects, and experts to improve the accessibility and protection of historical heritage.

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New app to help Blind navigate London transport

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A new phone app being developed by London charity The Royal London Society for Blind People (RSLB http://www.rlsb.org.uk/and digital product studio ustwo (http://ustwo.com/ )  could help blind and vision-impaired passengers by using Bluetooth iBeacons to map out London’s transport systems, writes Kate O’Sullivan in The Londonist (http://londonist.com/2014/08/new-transport-app-for-vision-impaired-londoners.php).  For many vision-impaired Londoners, difficulty navigating the capital’s huge and complex network of busy Tube, bus and rail systems can be a permanent barrier.  The new Wayfindr app will use existing Bluetooth iBeacon technology (BLE) to digitally map out locations. The beacons send out an electronic pulse that allow it to locate the user by comparing signal strengths. Once it has this information, it can send out directions through bone-conducting headphones which carry sound to the inner ear through the skull, making navigating transport systems solo possible for vision impaired passengers. Bone-conducting headphones sit on your cheek, meaning that you are still able to hear what is going on around you: essential if you are vision-impaired.

Transport for London (TfL) already offers assistance to blind or vision-impaired passengers by meeting them at ticket barriers and arranging for someone to meet them at the other end, and at any interchange. It’s a process that can easily involve three, four or more members of staff. This ‘turn up and go’ system is a welcome change to the old one, which required passengers to book in advance for assistance, and communication often breaks down between stations, leaving people stranded.

There is still site testing to be done and, for the new app to be implemented successfully, iBeacons would need to be installed across London’s vast transport network, starting with the Tube. This will clearly come at substantial cost. For it to become a reality, TfL needs to jump on board and fully support this new project, says O’Sullivan.

Source:  adapted from the Londonisthttp://londonist.com/2014/08/new-transport-app-for-vision-impaired-londoners.php .  Follow on Twitter: @Londonist @ustwo @RLSBcharity

Yorkshire tourist attractions praised for accessibility

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Silver Travel Advisor logo from their website

A number of Yorkshire tourist attractions have been praised for being accessible to older travellers. The National Railway Museum, in York, RHS Garden Harlow Carr, near Harrogate, Fountains Abbey, near Ripon, Ampleforth Abbey, near Helmsley and Malton’s Eden Camp Museum, all received plaudits from Silver Travel Advisor which is a review and advice website for mature travellers.

Silver Travel Advisor managing director Debbie Marshall is very impressed with the level of consideration and detail that Yorkshire’s tourist attractions have gone to in order to accommodate older or less able guests.   “Many of them offer mobility scooters, lifts and ramps, and all the sites visited have gone to great lengths to ensure the comfort and welcome of the UK’s aging population” she said.

Silver Travel Advisor is a website run by a team of mature travel industry professionals.  Members can join for free and are invited to contribute to the site’s growing collection of impartial mature travel reviews, travel advice and travel tips – all written exclusively by and for mature travellers.

Follow on Twitter: @SilverTravelAd @Welcome2Yorks

SFO Unveils Mobile App for Visually-Impaired Passengers

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Exterior of the San Francisco Inteernational Airport building

San Francisco International Airport (SFO http://www.flysfo.com/ ) has unveiled a prototype version of a smartphone application which can help visually-impaired passengers to navigate through an airport terminal.  The app was developed through San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee’s Entrepreneur-in-Residence Program (http://entrepreneur.sfgov.org/), which paired SFO with the Indoo.rs (http://indoo.rs/), a leader in indoor navigation technology, and was developed in a relatively short span of 16 weeks.

The prototype app works in conjunction with approximately 500 beacons located throughout the terminal to audibly call out various points of interest, including gate boarding areas, restaurants, and even power outlets. The prototype version will undergo additional testing and refinement before being released for use by the traveling public.

Source: Press release http://www.flysfo.com/media/press-releases/sfo-unveils-mobile-app-visually-impaired-passengers Follow on Twitter: @flySFO @indoors_rs

Accessible Flanders

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One hundred years after the start of the First World War, Flanders Fields has prepared for the expected influx of visitors during the centenary by being – as one of the Visit Flanders tourist board brochures puts it – “Accessible to Everyone”.  So write John Oates and Rob Crossan in The Telegraph (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sponsored/travel/great-war-flanders/10980195/accessible-travel-flanders-fields.html).    

In Ypres, the Gothic-style Cloth Hall on the town square is now home to the In Flanders Fields museum, which was recently renovated and has level floors and lifts for wheelchair access. Overall the museum provides an informative and accessible introduction to wartime history and sites. There are a number of companies in Ypres offering car and minibus tours.  It is important to book ahead and talk to the companies about any access needs.

Inevitably some places are more accessible than others. Take the famous Menin Gate in Ypres, an arch which bears the names of almost 55,000 missing Commonwealth  soldiers. The steps on two sides of the gate would be impossible by wheelchair, which means that you couldn’t get close to some of the inscribed panels or the places where wreaths of poppies are left.  On the other hand, the main area beneath the arch is flat and that’s where the poignant Last Post is sounded at 8pm every day in honour of the fallen. The space gets very crowded with tourists, so it’s a good idea to arrive by around 7.15pm, but there’s space in the middle where people with disabilities can get a spot away from the throng.

While there’s no substitute for making personal enquiries, the authors found the “Accessible to Everyone” brochure both detailed and accurate. Perhaps most importantly it doesn’t gloss over potential problems. At Tyne Cot, for example, it mentions an accessible entrance but also warns that “there is an adapted toilet, but it is difficult to reach because of the path’s pebble stones”.

The tour is exceptionally accessible and effective to blind and visually impaired visitors.  Visit Flanders has a huge roster of walking guides, all of whom were excellently prepared for dealing with a who needed extra assistance with stairs, roads and with reading some of the hugely informed visual elements to museums such as the In Flanders Fields museum in the centre of Ypres.  This is one of the best examples in Europe of a museum which has embraced the interactive approach to commemorating history without the usual concomitant dumbing-down.

The audio recordings (made by actors) of real diary entries written by soldiers, nurses and doctors, detailing the horror of life on the front line with a notable lack of sentiment or emotion are particularly good.  Visiting the battlefields themselves is no less affecting. The Memorial Museum in Passchendaele (actually in the nearby village of Zonnebeke) has a re-creation of a trench.  With detailed descriptions by a guide, people with visual disability can feel their way around the contorting narrow alleyway.  It’s impossible not to be affected by the feeling of suffocation that immediately manifests the moment you step inside the warren of bunkers where thousands of men would spend months enduring the near-constant ear-splitting sound of exploding shells.

It’s clear that, by providing accurate information – alongside training staff and working with sites to upgrade facilities – Visit Flanders is taking access seriously. Indeed, Visit Flanders recently won the ‘Amadeus and World Travel Market (WTM) Travel Experience Award’ for its provision in Accessible Tourism. Download Flanders Fields – Accessible to Everyone at www.accessinfo.be. It includes listings of hotels and restaurants with accessible facilities.

Sources: John Oates, Rob Crossan, The Telegraph; Visit Flanders; Access Tourism NZ.  Follow on Twitter: @VisitFlanders @valiesje @john_oates @crossantravels 

International NGO Naturefriends promoting Accessible Tourism

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Nature Friends Barrier free tourism brochure front cover showing wheelchair user

Naturefriends International is the global umbrella organisation and a member of the Green 10, the platform of the ten largest European environmental organisations.  They have 500,000 members in approximately 50 member and/or partner organisations throughout the globe, and are therefore one of the largest non-governmental organisations (NGOs) worldwide.  Naturefriends supports tourism and leisure activities that are socially equitable and in tune with nature, the protection, preservation and dynamic interpretation of our natural and cultural heritage, and the promotion of sustainable mobility as a contribution to climate protection.

Mindful of the 2011 World Health Organisation/World Bank publication which pointed out that there are more than one billion people with disabilities globally, and mindful of the worlds ageing (and therefore increasingly disabled) population, Naturefriends is getting behind Accessible Tourism.  They have produced a brochure – “Accessible Tourism for All” (Barrierefreier für Alle/Tourisme sans barrièrs pour tous– which demonstrates that there are different ways of rendering access to tourism and leisure­ time activities as barrier­-free as possible. They are all intended to serve as models, as inspiration and as incentive to Naturefriends activists and tourism experts.

Source: Naturefriends (2014). Accessible Tourism for All. http://www.nfi.at/dmdocuments/NFI_BarrierefreierTourismus.pdf

Follow on Twitter: @NFI_Brussels @annagl42

Tourism Guides for People with Learning and Intellectual Difficulties in Europe

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T GuIDE logo from website

The Tourist Guides for People with Learning and Intellectual Difficulties in Europe programme (T-GuIDE)is an initiative of nine organisations supported financially by the European Union’s Lifelong Learning Programme, ”Leonardo Da Vinci”.  The aim is to produce an EU training model and Manual for training Tourist Guides in guiding people who have learning difficulties or other intellectual impairments.  Many tourism destinations and businesses recognise that they must diversify and increase the quality of their products in order to reach new and wider markets. A re-orientation of the tourism sector is taking place with a focus on  ”Accessible Tourism for All”, which aims to deliver safe, comfortable and enjoyable tourism experiences for the entire tourism market, including people with disabilities, seniors and others with specific access requirements.   Tourism providers in all parts of the tourism service chain need targeted training to develop their skills, so that they can meet the particular needs of guests with learning difficulties or intellectual disabilities.  There are 8 European countries involved, as well as networks for Accessible Tourism, Social cooperatives and Foundations involved in tourism, the Federation of Tourist Guides, and several universities.

Main T-GuIDE outputs include:  A discussion document on methodologies for tourist inclusion of intellectually disabled people;  Draft T-GuIDE Manual with good practices and methodologies for intellectually disabled;  Training of 18 tourist guides in the EU, using the Draft T-GuIDE Manual (test and refine);  An  EU training model and T-GUIDE Manual (final version);  A framework of skills for training and skills assessment of “T-GuIDEs” at EU level;  A Trial of a Tourist Itinerary for visitors with intellectual disabilities/learning difficulties.

The T-GuIDE project is supported through the European Commission’s Lifelong Learning Programme, “Leonardo da Vinci”, Transfer of Innovation.   Source: T-GuIDE.  Follow on Twitter: @EUaccesstourism

Economic Impact and Travel patterns of Accessible Tourism in Europe

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The final summary report of one of three studies commissioned in Accessible Tourism in Europe has been released.  The report is by the European Commission, DG Enterprise and Industry (DG ENTR) in 2012-2013 and aims to build a comprehensive picture of Accessible Tourism in the European Union (EU). The survey was conducted by GfK Belgium, the University of Surrey, NeumannConsult and ProAsolutions. The main aim of the study is to better understand demand for Accessible Tourism in order to guide policy-making in this field. For this purpose, five main research objectives were identified:

  1.  To examine the current and future demand for Accessible Tourism in Europe and beyond
  2.  To investigate the travel patterns and behaviours of, and information provision for people with access needs
  3. To evaluate the tourist experience across different tourism sectors from demand and supply-side perspectives
  4.  To estimate the current and future economic contribution of Accessible Tourism and its impact on employment
  5. To propose recommendations and success factors to improve the supply of Accessible Tourism offers.

The study results show that the accessible tourism demand by people with special access needs from the EU currently generates a total economic contribution of 786 billion Euros in terms of total output and 356 billion Euros in terms of gross value added or 394 billion Euros in terms of GDP within the EU. This scale is equivalent to about 3% of total GDP of EU27 in 2012.   In addition, the people with special access needs from the 11 key international inbound markets generated a total economic contribution of 34 billion Euros in terms of total output and 15 billion Euros in terms of gross value added or 17 billion Euros in terms of GDP to the EU.

The objectives of the study were translated into five key tasks whose key findings are presented.  Key predictions include that by 2020 the demand for EU accessible tourism by people within the EU will continue to grow to about 862 million trips/year, while demand  by the key international inbound market will reach 21 million trips/year.  If EU tourism destinations were improved so that almost complete accessibility of buildings, hotels, restaurants, museums, and various accessible services were available, the study showed that demand would increase almost 44% against the baseline, so that trips by EU residents would by 2020 rise to 1, 231 million trips/year.  The rise amongst people from key international markets would rise by almost 77%.  This could potentially result in 36 million trips/year by 2020.  In economic terms, this rise could translate into a rise of 39% in economic contribution. 

 Source: Miller, G (2014).  Economic Impact and Travel patterns of Accessible Tourism in Europe   Service Contract SI2.ACPROCE052481700 European Commission, DG Enterprise and Industry.  https://www.academia.edu/7606067/Economic_Impact_and_Travel_Patterns_of_Accessible_Tourism_in_Europe

 Follow on Twitter: @UKguchan

Glastonbury praised over access for deaf and disabled fans

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The huge Glastonbury Festival has been praised for its access for deaf and disabled fans in a BBC report (Tom Bateman).   The event is a five-day music festival that takes place near Pilton, Somerset, England. In addition to contemporary music, the festival hosts dance, comedy, theatre, circus, cabaret, and other arts.   This year’s Festival was the first ever to be awarded “gold” status by campaigners who want better access for deaf and disabled people at concerts and music venues.  The festival site includes accessible showers and toilets and is staffed by volunteers who provide wheelchair hire and a minibus service to help people move around the festival site.  It also has a “high-dependency” unit which can give people with serious illnesses access to sterile toilet, washing and medical facilities.  Festival organisers said the award was a sign of how “society is changing the way it thinks and acts towards disability”.  The event had a bespoke campsite for deaf and disabled festival-goers, uses raised “viewing platforms” for wheelchair users at 11 stages and employs sign language interpreters to allow deaf people to understand lyrics during live acts.  Gideon Feldman from the charity Attitude is Everything, which made the award earlier this year, says Glastonbury has taken disabled access “incredibly seriously”.  “There are an awful lot more deaf and disabled people [than there used to be] who feel that this is a festival they want to come to.”

One of Glastonbury’s regular features is its DeafZone area, which offers lessons in British Sign Language and a team of interpreters for deaf people to access acts across the festival site.  This year two sign language interpreters were used during Blondie’s performance on the Other Stage on Friday afternoon.  Jo Stevens, a support worker for deaf people in Bath, has been working at the festival and says she has a hearing problem which means she struggles to understand lyrics in music.  “I really like to be able to understand what is going on, what is happening,” says Ms Stevens.

The biggest changes to accessibility for deaf and disabled people at Glastonbury have taken place over the past seven years.  Claire Elsam, the festival’s access co-ordinator, says Glastonbury is working to make more progress but thinks it has helped “change attitudes” towards disability.  “It amazes me that there are still venues that could quite easily be changed and still aren’t being changed,” she says.  “Certainly when it comes to other festivals there are far smaller and easier sites that people can make accessible but they don’t necessarily do that.  Campaigners acknowledge that cost is often a barrier to music venues becoming more accessible to disabled people.  But Attitude is Everything argues that venues may be missing out on ticket sales, with four out of five deaf and disabled people saying they are put off going to events as they lack confidence in sites being accessible.

Source: BBC Radio 4.  Follow on Twitter: @GlastoFest @BBCr4today @attitudetweets

EU opens Access City Awards 2015

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The European Commission has opened the competition for the fifth ‘Access City Award 2015′, the European Award for Accessible Cities. The annual prize recognises and celebrates cities for their efforts to make it easier for the disabled and older people to gain access to public areas such as housing, children’s play areas, public transport or communication technologies.   Making Europe more accessible to those with disabilities is a key part of the EU’s overall disability strategy 2010-2020, which provides the general framework for action in the area of disability and accessibility at EU level to complement and support Member States’ action .  Since 2010, 171 cities have participated so far in the 4 previous Access City Award. The Award is part of the EU’s wider efforts to create a barrier-free Europe: improved accessibility brings lasting economic and social benefits to cities, especially in the context of demographic ageing. Cities with at least 50,000 inhabitants have until 10 September 2014 to submit their entries for the award.   EC Vice-President Viviane Reding, Commissioner for Justice said that people with disabilities still face too many barriers in everyday life, which is why the EU has placed accessibility at the centre of their strategy for building a barrier-free Europe.  “The Access City award allows cities across Europe to showcase their efforts in making life more accessible for all!” said Reding.  “I am pleased to see that there are so many good practices shown by European cities – accessibility offers new business opportunities and can be a real stimulus for innovation and growth. I encourage all European cities to participate in this excellent European initiative and help make Europe more accessible for all”

The Access City Award is given to the city that has demonstrably and sustainably improved accessibility in fundamental aspects of city living, and that has concrete plans for further improvements. The Award covers actions in the areas of:

1. Built environment and public spaces; 2. Transport and related infrastructures; 3. Information and communication, including new technologies (ICTs); and 4. Public facilities and services.

Previous Access City Award winners include Avila Spain,  Salzburg Austria,  Berlin Germany, and Gothenburg (Sweden).  

Source:  EU release.   Follow on Twitter: @EU_Justce @VivianeRedingEU 

EU Commission ‘Mainstreaming Accessibility’ Across All European Tourism Policies

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At the EU Tourism Stakeholders’ Conference, “Mind the Accessibility Gap“, Pedro Ortún, Director for Service Industries, Directorate General Enterprise and Industry declared that accessibility is to be a permanent element of the EU’s future tourism policies.  Speaking to an audience of over 200 tourism professionals and representatives of NGOs,  Ortún laid out the Commission’s vision for tourism policy development and actions in the coming years.  “The ‘Key Enabling Themes’ (KETS) for the future of European Tourism include accessibility, as a permanent element”, said  Ortún.   He pointed to the Commission’s continued focus on quality, sustainability and reaching new tourism markets, particularly the seniors market.   As the fifth largest sector in the European economy, tourism should be seen as a key driver of growth and jobs – and therefore deserving of wide recognition and support from Member States and the European Union as a whole.  “Mainstreaming accessibility means that access for all citizens has to be integrated in all our tourism activities at every level”, Ortún concluded.

 Source: European Network for Accessible Tourism (ENAT).  Follow on Twitter: @EUaccesstourism  @EU_enterprise

United Nations to participate in first World Summit “DESTINATIONS FOR ALL”

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Logo Destinations for All

Ms. Daniela Bas, Director of the Division for Social Policy and Development (DSPD) of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), will inaugurate the first World Summit Destinations for All, to be held in Montreal October 19-22, 2014. Bas was appointed Director of UNDESA’s DSPD in May 2011.  She is a specialist in international politics, human rights, and social development.  The summit aims to identify and implement the necessary measures to establish international tourism that is inclusive and accessible to everyone.  More specifically, the event is expected to:

1) Make progress in determination of a set of international norms and standards with regards to accessible tourism and transportation

2) Highlight the economic benefits for destinations to be completely inclusive and accessible, and to develop and enhance accessible tourism products

3) Establish a world partnership and a common international strategy to develop universal accessibility for infrastructures, tourism services, transport, and to increase the availability of information on the accessibility of different destinations

The main driver of the conference is Keroul, a key consultant for Tourisme Québec regarding accessibility.  Many prestigious international organizations support the Summit, including the World Tourism Organization, the International Organization of Social Tourism, the World Centre of Excellence for Destinations, the European Network for Accessible Tourism, the ONCE Foundation in Spain, and Association Tourisme et Handicaps France.  Members of the steering committee and programme committee come from around the world, including Australasia (Access Tourism New Zealand being one), Asia, Northe America, Europe and the UK, and the Middle East.  The co-chairs of the summit are André Vallerand of Keroul and Ivor Ambrose of ENAT.

Edinburgh Airport first in Scotland to develop support toolkit for passengers with additional needs

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Logo of Edinburgh airport from the airport website

In the first project of its kind in Scotland, Edinburgh Airport has launched a support package to help passengers with autism and other additional support needs travel through the airport.  Working closely with the charity Scottish Autism, the airport’s corporate charity partner for 2014, and disability equality group Wideaware, Edinburgh Airport has developed the ‘Travelling with Additional Needs’ toolkit as part of a wider support package to help passengers and their families better cope with the what can be a daunting task of navigating their way through a busy airport.  The toolkit is made up of a series of factsheets, each tailor-made to focus on the different parts of the airport journey which may be particularly stressful, for example checking in and going through security. The factsheets are available to view, download and print from the airport’s website at edinburghairport.com/prepare.

The factsheets provide an easy step-by-step airport guide and aim to help passengers prepare for what to expect within an airport. The toolkit will be supported by hands-on initiatives including advance walk-throughs for passengers who may be on the autism spectrum, in a wheelchair, or even someone who may not have been in an airport before.   If passengers feel that they would prefer to discuss their journey in more detail, they can contact the team at Edinburgh Airport who can help familiarise them with the airport and its usual operations.   Text versions of the factsheets are also available for passengers with visual and hearing impairments and work is underway to develop a wider support package for wheelchair users.

The airport is also working with airlines, such as easyJet and British Airways, to help facilitate bespoke courses for people with a fear of flying.   David Wilson, Chief Operating Officer at Edinburgh Airport, said: “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.   We’ve taken on board expert advice so we can remove these barriers and show that travelling through Edinburgh Airport can be an enjoyable experience. Our specially designed toolkit and the wider support package have been specifically designed for those passengers who may need a little bit of help or reassurance before they fly, whether that is information on where to find their check in desk or how to use a self-service machine.”  Wilson went on to say “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.”

Charlene Tait, Director of Development at Scottish Autism, said: “We know of many people living with autism who, along with their families, are disenfranchised from air travel because they simply cannot cope with the stress and trauma of an airport.  The busy nature of airports with crowds, queues, security checks and the accompanying noises can be overwhelming for people with autism who often have an adverse reaction to a unique and unpredictable environment which they cannot control.  This new initiative with Edinburgh Airport is a great starting point in trying to change this situation. The toolkit and other support measures have the potential to really help people with autism and other support needs by making them more aware of what they can expect in an airport environment and help them prepare in advance.”

Maria Zedda, Director at Wideaware, said: “”At Wideaware we’ve had the opportunity to work with many transport providers but this is the first time we’ve been able to provide advice on the production of disability-friendly factsheets. This is a fantastic initiative from Edinburgh Airport.   The factsheets will help passengers with a range of impairments and provide crucial information on what to expect when arriving at the airport and using its facilities.   I am so impressed with this initiative. In a profit-driven world of public transportation that often excludes disabled people, it’s great to see Edinburgh Airport working so hard to ensure all of their passengers have a good experience.”

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: Press release.  Follow on Twitter: @EDI_Airport @scottishautism @wideaware @easyJet @British_Airways

New Universal Design Guide for Inclusive Tourism

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Front cover of Universal Design Guide for Inclusive Tourism showing a range of people needing better access

A new guide to designing for Inclusive Tourism has been produced by Scott Rains and Sarah Pruett. The “Universal design guide for inclusive tourism“ opens with a description of Inclusive Tourism (with a discussion why the authors reject the term “Accessible Tourism”), and Universal Design (UD), and discusses why  UD in Inclusive Tourism  makes social and economic sense.  UD is a way of thinking about design to eliminate barriers and make things easier to use for the entire population.  The guide goes on to discuss basic considerations in access, then considers in more detail access to transportation and parking, pathways and roads, ramps and steps, entrances and doors, interior access (including multi-story access), access in restrooms, guest rooms, and bathrooms, access in food service and retail, and accessible lighting .  It also discusses access in leisure venues and locations, and access to beach and sea, and concludes with a section on education and training and communication to the public.

Follow on Twitter: @UDPartners @SRains

Half of NYC cabs to be wheelchair-accessible by 2020

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New York City cabs Public Domain Image

Congratulations to New York City (NYC) for changing the rules so that by 2020, 50% of yellow cabs will be accessible to people who use wheelchairs.  The rule changes by the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission are the first of their kind in the country, and will make NYC’s yellow taxi fleet the most accessible in the nation and one of the most disability-friendly in the world.  “This is a historic victory affirming the civil rights of New Yorkers with disabilities,” said Julia Pinover of Disability Rights Advocates (a nonprofit legal centre), and “a real civil rights victory for all New Yorkers”.  Wheelchair-user Ronnie Raymond said at the hearing where the changes were announced that reliably accessible transport would change his life.  “I would no longer be relegated to staying home or spending hours trying to get somewhere that takes everyone else 20 minutes,” said Raymond.  Another wheelchair user – Simi Linton – echoed these statements.  “Having an accessible taxi fleet is essential to me.  My livelihood, my well-being, and the well-being of my family depend on being able to use taxis.”  Linton is a writer, consultant, and public speaker, and one of the USA’s foremost experts on disability and the arts.

Follow on Twitter: @nyctaxi @dralegal

Greece to develop accessible tourism

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Wheelchair user at the Parthenon photo from ENAT

The Greek Tourism Ministry (GTM) and the Greek National Confederation of Disabled People (ESAmeA) will work together so that people with disabilities will have access in cultural life, recreation, leisure and sport.  GTM and ESAmeA signed a cooperative protocol at a meeting on 28 March to promote and implement actions – on a national level – to ensure the accessibility of infrastructure and services to people with disabilities and other social groups with similar characteristics.

“This agreement aims to coordinate actions so that the (Greek) tourism product is accessible to people with disabilities of all categories,” Greek Tourism Minister Olga Kefalogianni said.  According to the tourism minister, potential foreign visitors with a disability currently do not choose Greece as a holiday destination as not all of the country’s services are accessible.  “We want to change this,” she said.  The agreement will also aim to ensure that people with disabilities will have access to reliable tourism information and communications.

ESAmeA President Ioannis Vardakastanis suggested during the meeting the creation of an access and information guide for people with disabilities, an idea that Kefalogianni found excellent.  The tourism ministry intends to inform Greek tourism professionals of the potential benefits of accessible tourism. Actions for accessible tourism in Greece will be coordinated at both the government level and at the level of regions and municipalities.

Source: Press release. Follow on Twitter: @OKefalogianni

 

EU free June conference on Accessible Tourism: registration open

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Mind the Accessibility Gap conference logo

The European Commission, DG Enterprise and Industry, is organising a conference with the title: Mind the Accessibility Gap for all tourism stakeholders as Europe strengthens its efforts to make Europe a destination Accessible For AllAt the conference, the results of three specially commissioned studies on Tourism Accessibility in Europe will be presented and discussed by a panel of tourism practitioners and stakeholders.  The aim of the conference is to have an open debate about the evidence presented, and seek ways to bridge the many accessibility gaps that have been identified, by drawing on proven good practices from around Europe and establishing concrete actions, using the support mechanisms which the European Commission has at its disposal.  The three studies have made a ‘360 degree’ review of accessible tourism in Europe, looking at the economic opportunities and factors which influence the demand, the quality and extent of supply, and the need for training and skills improvement in the tourism sector.  Within the framework of the Commission’s “Preparatory Action on Accessible Tourism, 2012 – 2014”, which was requested by the European Parliament, recommendations will be presented for possible Commission’s actions, designed to tackle the current accessibility gaps in supply and skills and to chart a course towards achieving Tourism for All in Europe within as short a time-frame as possible.

The European Network for Accessible Tourism (ENAT) is assisting the Commission with the organisation of the event.  Registration for the free conference is now invited and must be completed by 2nd June in order to attend.

Source: Press release.  Follow on Twitter: @EU_enterprise  @EUaccesstourism

Bucks Accessible Tourism workshop attended by European experts

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Twenty-five of Europe’s leading lights in the Accessible Tourism Field gathered for an Accessible Tourism Workshop at the Oculus in Aylesbury on March 1st to share best practice and to see how new standards relating to more inclusive visitor standards could be delivered as the norm.  The workshop was organised by the Buckinghamshire Legacy Board in partnership with the Buckinghamshire Disability Service who aim to make Buckinghamshire the most accessible visitor destination in Britain. To do this they aim to encourage through a new Buckinghamshire wide Destination Management Organisation, attractions, accommodation providers, transport and hospitality providers to all aspire to the “Stoke Mandeville Standard” around accessible tourism visitor experience.

Ross Calladine, Accessible Tourism Manager for Visit England helped set the scene by outlining the national context where Visit England have secured regional growth funding to work alongside a number of destinations to develop new visitor guides and promotional material based on the visitor experience rather than any perceived barriers to services. This approach was supported Brian Seaman of Accessible Outlook who explained that the most important skill for a tourism business was to listen to its customers and to make sure it adapted its services to their needs.  Seaman said  the most important message he could provide to any tourism business looking to make its service more accessible was:  “customer service, is what the customer thinks it is.”  This ethos became a recurring theme of the workshop with many speakers saying how they had benefitted from taking personal care with all of their customers and how by doing the right thing they had also benefitted their overall profitability. Geraldine Lundy, Head of Accessibility at Virgin Atlantic explained their philosophy which was based on a total customer experience and highlighted how by employing people with different disabilities had given the company a competitive edge and better insight into all of its customers

Magnus Berglund from Scandic Hotels, one of the fastest growing hotel chains in Europe, said simply that “I can get you more business”  He explained that award winning Scandic had adopted a simple 110 point standard, many of which were mandatory for all of its hotels. Many of the standards such as providing a stick holder in all receptions were extremely cheap to implement but had proved instrumental in increasing the profitability for the hotel chain.  Scandic offers free web training for best serving guests with disabilities.   Damiano La Rocca, the director of double award winning tour operator Seable Holidays, shared his passion for making exciting accessible holidays, creating a fully accessible offer that includes sport activities, cultural excursions and gastronomic experiences.

The delegates agreed that 10 themes had emerged from the  workshop:

• Always listen to and ask questions of your customers
• Don’t be fearful
• Often, accessibility costs very little
• Where possible, keep it simple
• Embrace innovation
• Share knowledge and involve all of your staff
• Doing the right thing can also be financially rewarding
• In the UK many aspects of visitor accessibility are done very well
• We need to share and celebrate best practice more widely throughout the UK and internationally

At the end of session, delegates agreed to work together to start planning for a much larger event linked to the Paralympic Heritage Flame Lighting for the 2016 Rio Summer Games.

Source: Seable and BucksLegacy.  Follow on Twitter: @BucksLegacy @BuDs_UK @RossCalladine @VisitEngland @BrianMSeaman @VirginAtlantic @ScandicGlobal @SeableHolidays

UNWTO, EC endorse accessible tourism at recent meeting in Vicenza Italy

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From Wikipedia A collage of Vicenza showing: the Villa Capra "La Rotonda", the classical temple in the Parco Querini, a panorama of the city from the Monte Berico, the Piazza dei Signori and the Renaissance Basilica Palladiana.

Delegates at a recent meeting of MITA (International Meeting for Accessible Tourism) in Vicenza, Italy heard a video message from United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Secretary General Taleb Rifai.  Rifai highlighted the importance of accessible tourism.  “Accessibility is the across-the-board element of a policy of responsible and sustainable tourism. Accessible Tourism is both an ethical imperative and a business opportunity: everyone benefits from it, not just people with disabilities or specific needs” said Rifai. “That’s why Accessible Tourism, as stated in the UNWTO Advice 2013, has become an important Mission for our future”.

Also at the meeting, Massimo Baldinato of the Cabinet of Antonio Tajani, confirmed the willingness of the European Commission to work on the development of Accessible Tourism in a speech highlighting that “giving more quality to tourism means increasing the satisfaction of all tourists, developing a tourism that seeks excellence”.

Other speakers at the meeting included Victor Calise, New York City Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD), Igor Stefanovic, UNWTO Ethics and Social Dimensions of Tourism Program, Ivor Ambrose and others from the European Network for Accessible Tourism (ENAT), and Karen Staley, VP, International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (Iaapa).   The meeting was organised by VillageForAll (V4A®), Regione del Veneto and Fiera Di Vicenza in cooperation with UNWTO, and with the sponsorship of the European Commission (EC), European Network for Accessible Tourism (ENAT) and EXPO 2015.

Source: Press release.  Follow on Twitter: @Villageforall @UNWTO @EUaccesstourism @NycCalise @NYC_MOPD @IAAPAHQ @IAAPAEuropeVP

 

Lonely Planet’s Travel for All project

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Guest article by Martin Heng, Accessible Travel Manager & Editorial Adviser, Lonely Planet (Australia).  Guest article reprinted with permission from Lonely Planet.Martin Heng and family at the beach photo courtesy of Martin Heng

The 3rd of December 2013 was the International Day of People with Disability, a United Nations–sanctioned day that aims to promote an understanding of people with disability and encourage support for their dignity, rights and well-being.  Om that day, Lonely Planet launched a project that seeks to make travel possible for more people.

Our core belief is that travel is a force for good when practised responsibly, that travel enriches those who are touched by it either directly or indirectly. Travelling with a disability requires a lot of organisation, but information on accessibility is often hard to find. Around 50% of people with a disability would travel more if they could be sure more accessible facilities were available. With almost a billion people in the world — that’s almost 15% of the world’s population — having a physical, mental or sensory disability, we believe it’s important to ensure their access to travel opportunities is not limited.

What is the aim of Lonely Planet’s Travel for All project?

Our goal is to make Lonely Planet the world’s premier provider of accessible travel information, the first port of call for all accessible travel needs, not only for those with a disability, but for anybody with access issues.

So what exactly do we intend to do?

We believe that this is all about community. Lonely Planet already hosts the world’s largest, most well-known, highly respected and frequented online travel community; we want to extend that to the accessible travel community. There is no group of people better qualified to assess the accessibility of venues than those themselves affected by access issues and none more highly motivated to provide advice and recommendations for their peers. We intend to give our community the platform to share their information and experiences, through our existing Thorn Tree forum, and via social media channels such as Google+, Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest.

The first thing we intend to do is listen! There are few, if any, degrees of separation between you and somebody who may have difficulties accessing the same travel opportunities as others because of physical frailty, health issues or disability. Let us know what you think we can do to help them reap the benefits from travel, whether planning, on the road or from the comfort of their own home. Simply send us an e-mail to community@lonelyplanet.com.au with the subject header Travel for All or post on our Google+ page (see below).

While we’re waiting for your ideas to flow in, we’ll publish a series of articles on lonelyplanet.com written by people affected by different access issues.

Our pilot project will be an Accessible Melbourne & Victoria e-book since this format is the most affordable and appropriate medium for many with access issues. Melbourne is also where Lonely Planet has been headquartered for most of our existence and where the lead for the project, Martin Heng (formerly Editorial Manager of Lonely Planet and himself a quadriplegic), is based. Again, if you have any ideas specifically related to this project, drop us a line to community@lonelyplanet.com.au with the subject header Accessible Melbourne.

Introducing our new community on Google+

There has long been a Travellers with Disabilities branch on Thorn Tree, but it is little used. We believe that part of the reason for this lies in the fact that much of the information needed by people with access issues should be shared in a different format to a standard forum, particularly in the digital age where it is so easy to share photos and videos, and where blogging has become so commonplace.

So we are delighted to invite you to join our new community on  Google+ to share your experiences and to SHOW other people what they can expect when they visit a particular attraction, hotel, cafe etc. Every person’s access issue is different, according to their level of ability and type of disability, and the only way for them to truly judge whether a place is suitable for them is for them to see it or to read about it in detail. Come and join us and help us build a community that can change the lives of millions of travellers worldwide.

Accessible Tourism for All: UN recommendations

We are far from alone in our commitment to accessible travel. The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) recommendations on “Accessible Tourism for All” (2013) have been approved by the General Assembly. The recommendations outline a form of tourism that will enable people with access requirements to travel independently through universally designed tourism products and services. These recommendations were developed within the framework of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities of 2007, the first human rights convention adopted in the 21st-century, signed by 158 countries and ratified by 138 (though not yet by the United States).

A manual on “Accessible Tourism for All” has been designed to guide tourism stakeholders to improve the accessibility for tourism destinations, facilities and services worldwide. The development of the manual is a joint effort between UNWTO, the European Network for Accessible Tourism (ENAT) and two Spanish institutions, the ACS Foundation and the ONCE Foundation.

As UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai says, “We must come to appreciate that accessible tourism does not only benefit persons with disabilities or special needs, it benefits us all.” More and more tourism bodies around the world are beginning to realise this. Spurred on by hosting the Olympics, VisitEngland and VisitScotland have led the way by providing concrete support and guidelines for businesses and by sponsoring the Open Britain website.

The wind of change has begun to blow and we at Lonely Planet are riding its current. Join us as we embark on new journeys, not necessarily to different places but in different ways. Help us share our journeys with other companions.

Link http://www.lonelyplanet.com/travel-tips-and-articles/travel-for-all-join-lonely-planets-accessible-travel-project  Martin Heng tel.+61 (0) 3 8379 8100 ext.8482; mob.0412 759322; Google+ +Martin Heng Follow on Twitter: @lonelyplanet @Martin_Heng @UNWTO @Fundacion_ONCE