City of Rio’s accessibility improvement plans praised by IPC President‏

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International Paralympic Committee (IPC) President Sir Philip Craven has praised plans to improve accessibility at major tourist attractions in Rio de Janeiro ahead of the next year’s Paralympic Games and said he hopes it is the start of greater things to come.  During a recent visit by Sir Philip to Rio, the city’s Mayor Paes announced Projeto Rotas Acessíveis (Accessible Routes Project). The six month long initiative (started last month) will see 4,000m² of accessible pavements and 5,831m² of concrete resurfacing undertaken at the entrances to 10 popular Rio locations. Attractions that will benefit from nearly EUR 1 million of accessibility improvements include Sugarloaf Mountain, Corcovado (the mountain that hosts Christ the Redeemer) and Copacabana beach.

Sir Philip said “Due to the very nature of the city’s geography, Rio can be a difficult place to get around and realistically it will take more than a generation to transform it into one that is accessible for all. However, thanks to the Paralympic Games heading to the city in 2016, improving accessibility for all is now a hot topic.”  He pointed out that Games act as a catalyst for further improvements to take place after the Paralympics.

Improvements will include the levelling of pavements and roads, installation of ramps and tactile flooring, the removal of obstacles, and improvements to bus stops and car parking areas.   The other areas that will be improved are: Barra da Tijuca beach, Praça XV, Paço Imperial, Cinelândia, Jardim Botânico, Vista Chinesa and Mesa do Imperador.   Away from the city centre a number of other accessibility projects are also taking place.  Rio 2016’s Olympic Park, which will host nine of the 22 Paralympic sports, will be 100 per cent accessible; whilst improvements are being made to all other competition venues ahead of the Games.   Improvements in transport are also being made with the city’s Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system and Light Rail Vehicle (LRV) capable of accommodating all passengers.

Source: Press release.  Follow on Twitter: @paralympic @ipprio @Prefeitura_Rio

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Scandic Hotels– World Travel Market winner for accessible accommodation

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Scandic Hotels – already a world leader in access – is the joint gold winner in the category “Best accommodation for disability access” at Responsible Travel’s World Responsible Tourism Awards.   They received the award at a ceremony at the World Travel Market in London on November 4, 2015, for their work in providing accessible accommodations for travellers of all physical and mental abilities, seniors, and anyone needing better access.

“Scandic Hotels is applauded for their top-down, all-encompassing approach to inclusivity, integrating accessibility into all parts of their hotel business. They address a wide range of disabilities and particularly impressed the judges with their leadership by developing an e-learning course and making this freely available to their peers across the tourism industry,” said Harold Goodwin, Chair of the judging panel for the World Responsible Tourism Awards.

World Travel Market, which is held in London each year on World Responsible Tourism Day, is the largest travel and tourism event in the world. The accessible tourism award is sponsored by Enable Holidays, which was established in 2004 as the first UK tour operator to be accredited for its competence in auditing the accessibility and grading the suitability of accommodation abroad for people with mobility impairments

Scandic’s Accessibility Director, Magnus Berglund said at the awards, “I’m extremely happy that we have won this award. It is proof that the hard work we do to make our hotels accessible to everyone makes a difference and is recognized in the world”.   Scandic consults with organizations for people with disabilities, hotel guests, and team members to improve access.  They have drawn up a checklist of 110 points, their Accessibility Standard. This Standard covers everything offered by Scandic and it is an integral part of all of Scandic’s products and services. Scandic has also implemented smart design features in rooms to make them accessible for people with disabilities. In 2013, Scandic was the first hotel chain in the world to launch online interactive training on disabilities.  This training can be used by anyone who wishes to do so and is on Scandic’s website.

Scandic has featured many times on the Access Tourism NZ website.  Further information about them can be found by searching this website or by contacting Magnus Berglund, Director of Accessibility, Scandic Hotels, +46 70 97 35 077 Anna-Klara Lindholm, PR Manager Scandic Hotels, +46 70 97 35 231, anna-klara.lindholm@scandichotels.com

Follow on Twitter:  @ScandicGlobal @enableholidays @WTM_London @RTAwards

“Map My Day”: an event for anyone to note accessible places anywhere

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MapMyDayLogo

A worldwide event to raise awareness for disability rights and accessibility kicks off on December 3.    The “Map My Day” campaign is designed to improve the availability  of information on the wheelchair accessibility of public places.  Such information is often scarce or hard to find, making it very difficult for people with mobility impairments to participate in communities.  “Map My Day” is being launched by the German NGO Sozialhelden (‘Social Heroes’), the World Health Organization (WHO), and UNESCO on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.   The Day marks the start of a worldwide event to raise awareness for accessibility. For millions of people with wheelchairs, walking aids, or baby carriages the most common obstacles which limit their freedom of movement are stairs.

People around the world can post the accessibility of public places such as restaurants, train stations, tourist attractions and government buildings on Wheelmap.org, a free online map which is also the world’s largest database for wheelchair accessible places. It is hoped that many people in many places around the world will contribute information to Wheelmap, and that a new conversations about accessibility is started, thus ensuring the success of the campaign.

The campaign not only addresses people with a disability. It is really easy for everybody to contribute to the map by adding new local information with a few clicks. In this way users have already rated nearly 600,000 public places, making the map the world’s largest database for wheelchair accessibility.   Wheelmap is available as an app for iPhone, Android Smartphone and Windows Phone   (Windows 10), as well as on the website www.wheelmap.org/en/map – in more than 20 languages.

Participants can be part of “MapMyDay” individually or in groups, with colleagues, teammates or friends and family.   NGOs, government authorities, businesses, schools, associations and celebrities are invited to help spread the word to their networks and ideally, to organize local mapping events themselves.   There is a checklist on the website to help individuals, businesses, and organizations set up events.

More information: http://mapmyday.org/en/ Follow on Twitter: @SOZIALHELDEN @WHO @UNESCO @wheelmap #Machmitbei #MapMyDay Fabebook: www.facebook.com/mapmyday

Accessible Holiday Guide from Responsible Travel

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Responsible Travel in the UK connects the world’s best small holiday companies with travellers looking for more from their holiday than just a brief stay.  They offer personal holidays or holidays in a small group from over 375 small and specialist tour companies in 190+ countries.   Convinced that small holiday companies are run by interesting people who founded them out of a deep love for destinations, cultures, landscapes and wildlife, their aim is treat local people and places well.   Responsible Travel now has an Accessible Holiday Guide about accessible travel for people with disabilities.   It covers places to stay and things to do, and has advice on travelling with a disability.

As the website points out, the world’s travelling population is getting older, with varying access needs. Many businesses are starting to hear the message that tourists who travel with special needs are increasing in number. The term ‘purple pound’ or ‘dollar’ has even been coined to describe this rapidly growing worldwide market.   Martin Heng, Accessible Travel Manager & Editorial Adviser, Lonely Planet (Australia) is a world-travelled wheelchair user.  He writes on the website that “Baby boomers are now retiring with access issues, whether they identify as disabled or not, they are increasingly subject to varying degrees of disability, whether it is hearing, sight or mobility. And this is a market that I think the smart national tourism bodies are actually thinking about. Examples of these are England, Scotland and Wales, on the back of the last Olympics and Paralympics in London – but also Catalonia and Germany”.

Follow on Twitter: @r_travel @Martin_Heng @lonelyplanet

Derbyshire Peak District tourism businesses improve access with EC grant

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Eight businesses in the Derbyshire Peak District have become part of a project to improve tourism access for disabled people.  Using money from a £93,000 European Commission grant, the businesses have been picked out as leaders in the Visit Peak District and Derbyshire-backed campaign to make it easier for disabled tourists to visit the region.  The businesses are: Hoe Grange Holidays in Brassington, Rivendale Caravan and Leisure Park in Alsop en-le Dale, Chatsworth, Crich Tramway Village, East Lodge Hotel and Restaurant in Rowsley, High Peak Borough Council’s Pavilion Gardens in Buxton, and the Peak District National Park Authority’s Parsley Hay Cycle Hire.  They were subjected to a site audit to review their facilities and pinpoint areas that could be improved while staff were given classroom-based and on-line training to boost customer service.  A mystery shop was also carried out by people with a range of disabilities and tips were then given to improve their accessibility and websites.

The firms taking part also shared a £100,000 print and on-line media and marketing campaign by VisitEngland, which aimed to raise awareness of accessible destinations and businesses across England.   Greg Potter, manager of Rivendale Caravan and Leisure Park, said: “Our involvement has enabled us to work with some wonderful people with a down-to-earth but inspirational approach to helping guests with mobility issues and also to provide the information guests need to assess if our accommodation is suitable for them.  The marketing boost we have received is also helping to ensure we make a return on our investment and that continuing improvements are sustainable in the long run.”

Research by Visit England suggests the accessible tourism market is now worth £3 billion per annum to the English economy, with day visits boosting the figure to £12.1 billion.  Over the past few years, overnight trips by disabled tourists and their companions have increased by 19% and their spending is up by a third.  Lindsay Rae, deputy director and head of industry engagement at Visit Peak District and Derbyshire, said: “Visit England estimates that the overall annual value of overnight accessible tourism to Derbyshire is £45 million, so it makes sense for local businesses to invest in improving their facilities and services for this key sector of the market.

Source:  http://www.ashbournenewstelegraph.co.uk/Project-boosts-disabled-access-Peak-District/story-28105379-detail/story.html#ixzz3qylXFIfB Follow on Twitter: @vpdd @HoeGrange @Rivendale_hol @ChatsworthHouse @CrichTramway @eastlodgehotel  @GardensBuxton @peakdistrict  @AshbourneNews on Twitter

Tourism and Disabled Access Day in Scotland, 2016

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The UK has a Disabled Access Day, an annual national initiative created to raise awareness of the importance of disabled access and started in 2015.  In 2016, it will be held on 12 March.  The day aims to encourage disabled people, their friends and families to visit somewhere new and over 50 venues across the UK, including Westminster Abbey, Tate Modern and The Scottish Parliament, have already signed up to be involved.  In Scotland, a launch event was held in October 2015 at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh with Maureen Watt MSP, Minister for Public Health, in attendance.  This marked the beginning of the lead up to the second annual event, building on the 2015 result when over 200 companies and venues took part, including VisitScotland, BT, Caffè Nero, Caffé Concerto and Barclays. The events attracted over 1,000 disabled people and their families, friends and carers.

Venues can take part in the 2016 event by hosting an event or simply opening their doors to show that they welcome disabled visitors and their friends and families. Whether it is a cinema, hotel or visitor attraction, there are plenty of ways for businesses to get involved. For further information on how to get involved, please visit: http://www.disabledaccessday.com/get-involved/

The Scottish Government is providing VisitScotland with £38,000 (this on top of other funding; this for example) to boost the engagement of disabled and older people in the Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design.  Scotland’s Minister for Business Energy and Tourism Fergus Ewing MSP said that these funds will support a series of new and enhanced partner projects, each of which will contribute to the wider Accessible Tourism Drive, contributing to the Innovation and Architecture themes of the 2016 year and creating a legacy whose benefits will be felt well into the future as the accessible tourism project rolls-out.

Chris McCoy, Head of VisitScotland’s Accessible Tourism Programme, said: “We are delighted to lend our support to next year’s Disabled Access Day as part of our ongoing Accessible Tourism Programme. I would encourage businesses to sign up to take part as we look to make this country a fully accessible destination.”  An overwhelming 94% of disabled people would revisit a venue that has good accessibility, according to a survey carried out by Euan’s Guide, the main sponsors of Disabled Access Day. With the UK’s 12 million disabled people estimated to have a combined spending power of over £200 billion, venues with poor disabled access or information are potentially missing out on gaining a significant amount of revenue.

Euan MacDonald, co-founder of the disabled access reviews website, EuansGuide.com said, “The success of last year’s event has given us a firm foundation to build on. Not only are we raising awareness of disabled access, but also showcasing the venues with good accessibility and highlighting the commercial value held by the UK’s 12 million disabled people and their family, friends and carers.”

Source: Edinburgh Reporter.  Follow on Twitter:  @Access_Day @VisitScotland @EuansGuide   For more information on Disabled Action Day, please visit: www.disabledaccessday.com

Cyprus action plan on accessible tourism

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The Republic of Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO) is preparing an action plan to provide people with disabilities accessible holidays in the country.  CTO recognizes this as a big market.  During a conference held last week, CTO Deputy Director Annita Demetriades said that accessible tourism is not for a small group of people.  “In the EU, there are about 138 million people with increased accessibility needs, usually traveling for holidays during the low seasons. Disabled-friendly infrastructure and services give our island a positive image, enhance the quality of our tourist product and show our tangible respect for our fellow people,” she added.  Demetriades noted that accessible tourism ensures more people get the opportunity to travel. “Undoubtedly Cyprus is an attractive tourist destination, so the tourist industry stands to get more visitors, who prefer to travel off-peak periods,” she said.

According to data, in 2012 direct revenue from accessible tourism in the EU amounted to €352 billion, giving employment to 4.2 million people. Taking into account the multiplier effect, total turnover increases to €786 billion. Studies indicate that improving accessibility could lead to a 24.2% increase in demand and 18% increase in the spending of European tourists by 2020.

The CTO is creating the infrastructure on 37 beaches making swimming experience for the disabled more comfortable. Specifically, 11 of the 37 beaches are fully equipped for this purpose. In addition, the CTO now has a grant scheme for hotel units which upgrade their infrastructure to accommodate guests with disabilities.

Source: In-Cyprus.  Follow on Twitter: @visitcyprus

Be Able Travel: businesses miss customer revenue if inaccessible

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Be Able Travel (UK) was created in 2015 by a wheelchair user with FSH Muscular Dystrophy and a vision impaired person who has been blind since shortly after birth.   In this guest post, Mandy Altoff of BAT describes why reliable information about access is important to people with disabilities.

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At Be Able Travel, we found that despite our best research, what was classed as accessible by websites/other people’s reviews, in reality wasn’t always the case.  There are over 1 billion people worldwide (11 million of those here in the UK) living with a limiting long term illness, impairment or disability.  Much more needs to be done to improve accessibility in the UK and the rest of the world. How many business are missing out on customer revenue because their establishment is simply not accessible!
I recently wanted to meet up with friends for a drink at a local pub (bar) so called ahead to check it was accessible.  A member of staff assured me I would be fine in my wheelchair so off I went. Upon arrival the pub did indeed have a ramped entrance.  Great start! Unfortunately, I couldn’t get to the bar to order as it had 5 stairs up to it, and sadly, the toilets were the same! Something as simple as meeting friends for a drink had suddenly become impossible without having to rely on others for assistance.

Thankfully, not everywhere is like this! Brighton Marina, UK http://www.brightonmarina.co.uk/ is a very accessible place with numerous restaurants along the waterfront, a particular favourite of ours is Zizzi, which has wheelchair access, plenty of space between tables & a Braille menu to hand.
With Be Able Travel we hope to achieve a comprehensive database of reviews from all over the world to enable disabled people to be informed without having to rely on the venues for the information. Who knows, maybe together we can change accessibility for the better, one review at a time!
Please show your support and like our Facebook Page www.facebook.com/beabletraveluk or follow us on Twitter @beabletravel or leave a review at www.beabletravel.co.uk Zizzi on Twitter: @WeAreZizzi

New guide for wheelchair visitors to Paris

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ParisAccessNow

Access Now has launched the first in a series of European wheelchair access guidebooks –  Paris Access Now.  The guide is a comprehensive guidebook written specifically for wheelchair users and travellers with mobility disabilities. It is designed to give readers all the tools they need to plan an accessible trip to Paris, from start to finish.  It includes information about:

  • Getting from the airport into Paris
  • Accessible hotels
  • Accessible restaurants
  • How to get around the city
  • Accessible tourist sites
  • Accessible itineraries and guided tour recommendations
  • Route maps
  • Accessible toilet guide
  • Accessibility resources

Travelers with disabilities are virtually ignored by the travel industry, making it difficult, if not impossible to find the resources needed to plan an accessible trip independently. An overwhelming number of travel resources are available online and in print, but when it comes to specific accessibility information, travellers must rely on informal resources like forums, blogs, or homemade websites.  Other options exist, like traveling with an organization or using a specialized travel agency, but this choice may be expensive to some, and may preclude travelling alone or with family. The accessible travel industry is unfortunately very limited.   Access Now goes part way to addressing this issue, at least for people with mobility disability.

Access Now was founded by Paula Bates.  Its goal is to remove the barriers that may hinder a wheelchair user or someone with limited mobility from planning their own trip to Europe.  Paris Access Now is available for purchase as digital download.

Follow on Twitter: @AccessNowGuides.  For more information, visit http://wheelchairaccessnow.com

UK Airports improving service for children with ASD

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brazil focuses its accessible tourism drive on visually impaired visitors

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Overlooking Rio de Janiero

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

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

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

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

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

Spain: Survey of Accessible Tourism

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

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

This questionnaire is open to ALL TOURISTS, whether having a disability or not, who want to participate in this study and wish to contribute regarding their travelling experience. It can be found here: http://www.reducedmobility.eu/20150909648/TheNews/once-foundation-launch-survey-on-spanish-accessible-tourism
Source: Reduced Mobility. Follow on Twitter: @ReducedMobility @Fundacion_ONCE @ILUNION

CanGoEverywhere: One-stop-shop for accessible tourism in Australia

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Melissa James is the CEO of Inclusive Tourism, the parent of CanGoEverywhere.com.au. in Australia.  She has built up a wealth of knowledge in the accessible tourism space.  She provides advice and support to operators wanting to implement change within their businesses.  By helping them to identify barriers and implement simple, inexpensive improvements she enables them to maximize accessibility.  Melissa is also a sought after speaker who addresses many business groups, educating them on the practical elements, as well as the economic and social benefits of being accessible. CanGoEverywhere logo

Back in 2012 I had some first-hand experience travelling with a person with a disability.  It was quite the eye opener and after listening to many stories of the difficulties my friend had trying to find accessible places I decided to do something to help.    I did some research in my local area and found that 84% of accommodation providers had accessible rooms.  I then followed them up with a short questionnaire and almost 71% of those respondents said they would be interested in listing their properties on a website promoting accessible tourism.

This gave me the impetus to create CanGoEverywhere.com.au.  It has been designed to be the ‘one stop shop’ for accessible tourism in Australia.  It caters to seniors and baby boomers, the less mobile, people with disabilities as well as families and groups.  It provides information on accommodation, restaurants, tourist attractions, service providers and more.     The database has basic information on over 9,000 records of accommodation and restaurants that say they are accessible, but the level of accessibility is unknown.

However, the real value is with the businesses that have chosen to become ‘Premium Providers’.   Premium providers undergo an assessment and the information gathered is included in their listing on the website.  This is the key to making it easy for people to choose the best fit for them.  The website is growing steadily with more and more tourism providers taking up premium listings and more and more people using it to help them plan their holidays.

We’re also keen to hear from people who have been travelling and would like to share their experiences with others.   If you’d like to send in a story just email to travel@cangoeverywhere.com – we may even feature it on our blog.

Source: CanGoEverywhere.com.au Follow on Twitter: @CanGoEverywhere

Lonely Planet wants your accessible travel information

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Tourist in a wheelchair having her photo taken

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

Follow on Twitter: @lonelyplanet @Martin_Heng

Edinburgh Airport hosts guide dog training day

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Puppy handlers at airport picture from Edinburgh Airport website

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

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

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

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

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

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

WTM London 2015 award for accessible accommodations

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

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

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

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

Tips for travelling in Barcelona for people with disabilities

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Guest blog: Julian Montero is a full time wheelchair user who is part of the management team at Barcelona Zero Limits(BZL).  BZL is an inbound travel operator (ITO) based in Barcelona, created to encourage inclusive cultural and gastronomy tourism in Barcelona and its surroundings.   They specialize in tourism for people with mobility problems, seniors and people with food allergies, and for anyone interested in a fabulous tour!  In this guest blog, Julian shares some tips for helping you to enjoy your travel to Barcelona. Julian wheeling in Barcelona

Tips for travelling in Barcelona for people with disabilitieshttp://www.accesstourismnz.org.nz/ #A11y #Trava11y @bcnzerolimits @VisitBCN_EN

1. How can I get to the city from the airport?  From the airport to downtown, you can easily get public transport without needing to take the shuttle airpot or taxi. With the 46 bus that leaves from Terminal 1 and at Terminal 2 you will reach “Plaça Espanya” in 20 minutes and from there you can move around the city quickly. Another alternative is the train from Terminal 2 and goes directly to Plaza Catalunya, the center of the city.

2.How can I move around the city?

Barcelona has an extensive metro and bus network that will take you to every corner of the city. A metro or bus ticket costs 2.15€ per trip, but the Barcelona Metropolitan Transportation (TMB) service offers discount travel cards. Travel cards can be purchased from metro ticket booths or Tourist Information offices.    Most of the buses on the bus network are wheelchair accessible. However the metro is a quicker way to move around the city. Most of the stations are wheelchair friendly, however we recommend you to get a metro map with the accessible stations information. You can download the map from the following link:  http://www.tmb.cat/ca/c/document_library/get_file?uuid=c8996f6c-8ad5-4d21-b59b-faf9fceebd80&groupId=10168

3. When is the best time of the year to visit Barcelona?

The best time to visit Barcelona is the month of November, after the all saints bank holiday and before the end of the month. This is the time of year when there are fewer tourists (be realistic, there are always many tourists in Barcelona, do not expect to be the only one!).  The prices of the hotels in Barcelona then are usually cheaper than during the rest of the year. Moreover you will find shorter queues!

4. Where to eat?

Avoid eating in crowded tourist areas, especially in the Ramblas, where everything is much more expensive. Just move a little to find much better prices especially for drinks. Neighbourhoods like Gracia and Borne offer alternatives with a much better price / quality deal than Las Ramblas or Plaza Catalunya.   Another good option is to eat in La Barceloneta, a neighbourhood with a port atmosphere built in the 18th century to provide shelter for the inhabitants of La Ribera. This neighbourhood is frequented by locals on weekends for eating and accessing its popular beach, Playa de la Barceloneta.

5. What to eat?

In Barcelona we like to walk and eat. It’s a local tradition to go from bar to bar enjoying the best snacks while drinking a beer or a classic vermouth, a drink  we recommend you to taste …it is sweet but bitter, stimulates the appetite and prepares the stomach to enjoy anchovies, pickles, and finally, a few colourful tapas.    Barcelona offers its streets and terraces to enjoy a few hours of one of its most deeply rooted and beloved culinary traditions.

6. Can I go to the beach?

Do not forget to to visit the beaches and enjoy the sun and the food.  Barceloneta is the first of Barcelona’s beaches, the one closest to the city and usually the liveliest.   The beach is fully accessible with a bathing assistance service. This service is intended for people with mobility problems, and aims to facilitate the entry and exit of the water to enjoy bathing time using – if necessary – an amphibious chair.   This area has walkways to the water, a suitable changing area, sit-down shower and a lifting crane. This allows anyone to swim in the Mediterranean with the help of volunteers.

7. Free Museums:

The first Sunday of the month, some local Barcelona museums offer free entry.   Some are free on Sundays ( Barcelona City History Museum at Plaça del Rei, Picasso Museum on Montcada 15-23,  Maritime Museum of Barcelona Avenida Drassanes).

8. What to do that is different?

If you want to see Barcelona from a different perspective and enjoy the city like you’ve never done it, you can book a tour of Barcelona, such as a gourmet tour, and enjoy the Mediterranean Cuisine and Tapas. Learn about the city by participating in all kind of cultural tours. And if you are more adventurous you can also live an unforgettable experience flying in air  balloon over the mountains of Catalonia or dive in the Mediterranean Sea and discover its breath-taking seabed with Barcelona Zero Limits.

Follow on Twitter: @bcnzerolimits

Tourism in Italy for people with disabilities

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Guest blog by Cristiana Campanella of Rome and Italy Tourist Services, an incoming tour operator specialized in tours and services dedicated to people with disability.

Rome and Italy Tourism Service showing wheelcahir tourists

The idea to create a tourist service dedicated to people in wheelchair who wish to spend a holiday without worries, was born in 2007 thanks to the friendship that Stefano Sghinolfi (the owner of Rome and Italy) has with Carlo Rossetti, who is the president of Aisa (Italian Association for Ataxic Syndromes) who is disabled.   Stefano, before starting the business with Rome and Italy, was a tour leader who for many years went around Italy with groups of tourists.  One of the main problem during the tour, when travelling with people in wheelchairs, was that the wheelchair users often had to wait outside the major archaeological sites, or visit only a small part of them because of lack of access.  Unfortunately, in some of these sites, municipalities have built routes that are accessible to wheelchairs but that allowed a person to see only a quarter of the archaeological site. That is why he decided to make “accessible” the inaccessible sites. The only way to do that was to make an investment in the purchase of “special equipment”.

Rome is known as the largest open museum in the world, one of the most visited cities and one of the must-see wonders. But it isn’t what one would consider accessible to wheelchairs, at least not all of it. In Rome, a must is undoubtedly to visit the Roman Forum, which is full of cobblestones, steps and arduous paths; the same is true for the excavations of Pompeii,  Ostia Antica, and many more such. Thanks to collaboration with Ferriol Matrat, which is a French company  who produce the “Joelette”, a special one-wheel chair carried by 2 assistants, (originally used for the disabled while trekking), Rome and Italy has e made it possible to see these sites.

In regards to accommodation, nowadays in Italy, despite the existence of laws by which hotels are obliged to have rooms equipped for people in wheelchair, unfortunately often the rest of the buildings it is not.  This is in spite of the fact that hotels must be fully accessible not just in the room but from the entrance, with access to the breakfast room, with a large elevator, public accessible toilets, and rooms with bathroom equipped with grab bars, roll in shower etc.   That is why Rome and Italy  studied and then create a section on our web site dedicated to the disabled tourists where they can easily find accessible hotels in several Italian cities. We have visited and tested personally all the hotels shown on our website, documenting with picture and information the accessibility. All this information is now available on our website where the disabled can check, according to their needs, which accommodation would be the most suitable.

Rome and Italy also have wheelchair accessible vehicles, and can hire every type of equipment needed by wheelchair travellers.  Follow on Twitter: @RomeandItaly @joelette_sport http://www.romeanditaly.com/wheelytrekky-la-sedia-speciale/

Travel businesses missing out on huge market: WTM

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

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

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

New “Accessible Japan” website for visitors

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

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!