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


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

Website Accessibility: A New Frontier Of Inclusion

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

Website front page with audio

Turn on your sound and visit

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

San Francisco Airport directions app for the Blind, visually impaired

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Using indoors app

San Francisco Airport (SFO)  is testing out location-aware beacons, a program it could roll out to the rest of the airport if successful.   The beacons deliver location-sensitive, voice –based directions via smartphones to help people who are Blind, have vision loss, or find it difficult to navigate.  At the moment, the system uses Apple iOS devices, but SFO plans to make it available for Android users and eventually expand the system to provide information for those who can see.  The beacons are provided by indoor mapping firm, who have installed 300 of them at various points around Terminal 2 including stores, restrooms, boarding gates, baggage claim and even power outlets. The beacons use triangulation to determine exactly where the passenger is within the vicinity and to relay nearby facilities using voiceover technology.  Each beacon will connect to the phone app to provide information when a user gets within range.

Location beacons are in their infancy in terms of adoption, but are beginning to show up in retail spaces, museums, movie theatres, and some sports venues around the world.  SFO and say they plan to continue testing this system over the next month with a live version of the site, and public availability of the software in the fall. 

Follow on Twitter: @flySFO @indoo_rs

New Zealand Tourism Guide still getting it wrong

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seeing eye dog from deaf foundation nz website


The New Zealand Tourism Guide ( which is part of the Yellow Pages Group, has recently advised that it has updated its website.  In spite of this update, and in spite of the fact that Access Tourism New Zealand has been pointing out certain misinformation on the site since 2010, no improvements to this aspect have been made.   The Guide still carries on an “Accessible Accommodation” ( page the statement:

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

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

It is also disheartening to still see a page headed People with Special Needs, which is an unfortunate use of language.

New app to help Blind navigate London transport

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Little India 057

A new phone app being developed by London charity The Royal London Society for Blind People (RSLB digital product studio ustwo ( )  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 (  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 Londonist .  Follow on Twitter: @Londonist @ustwo @RLSBcharity

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 ) 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 (, which paired SFO with the (, 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 Follow on Twitter: @flySFO @indoors_rs

Winners in the Travel for London accessible app competition

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London Bus on the street

Four winners have been announced in the UK government Transport for London accessible app competition.  Here is a description of the apps from the developers (press release):

Best visually impaired app: London’s Nearest Bus. Big Ted Ltd

Standing at a London Bus Stop, wondering when the bus is going to show up? Nearest Bus will find the stop you are at, and tell you when the next bus is going to arrive.  If you are near a number of bus stops, just swipe to find the one you are actually at – you can even use the local bus stop codes (eg HK, WA) to make sure you are looking at the right information. Nearest Bus will load up to 16 bus stops, 250m in all directions around you.

Nearest Bus is designed to be super quick to use – get in, find out where you bus is, and get out. And if you use VoiceOver on your iPhone, Nearest Bus is designed to get you the information you need as quickly as possible.  Nearest Bus uses the same bus arrival data that the official red-on-black TfL Countdown displays use, which means that you can be assured of the same accuracy even if you are in the back end of Barnes or the middle of Trafalgar Square.  Except it’s in your pocket, and at every bus stop.

Best app for accessibility / step free information: Station Master.  Matthew Frost & Geoff Martiall

Station Master makes travel in London easier for everyone!  If you’re one of the millions of people who use London’s Underground every day, you’ll know it’s not only the trains that can be really crowded, but you have to pick your way along platforms and corridors too.  As well as carriage and door positions for the exits and interchanges, the facilities, history and fun facts and figures for each station, Station Master shows complete information for those with accessibility requirements collected from every station on the Tube map, including Overground and DLR networks.

We know that accessibility can vary with individual personal needs so we show how accessible a station really is, telling you about every staircase, step, ramp, lift and escalator that you might have to navigate.  e.g. some people can manage a small number of steps (up to 10), but no more. There are those who can walk down stairs, but not up them.  Others can only manage steps if there is a rail to hold on to.  We’ve also measured the gap between the train and the platform and the height of the step-up or step-down to the train – wheelchair users find this really useful as they can manage a step down but not a step up when boarding or exiting a train.

Station Master presents you with these facts and lets you make your own accessibility choices based on the information provided for the stations you use.

Best all-round app: Tube Tracker. Andy Drizen

Tube Tracker is focused on providing a fluid user experience for every Tube passenger. From able-bodied, to partially sighted, to those who have difficulty hearing, Tube Tracker is an ideal companion.   For partially sighted users, Tube Tracker presented with high colour contrast, and is fully compatible with VoiceOver – a feature of iOS that speaks information displayed on the screen. For example, if a passenger is unable to see the dot matrix indicator board, or read the destination from the front of the train, Tube Tracker can audibly inform the passenger of the where the next train is heading, and its arrival time, just by tapping on the screen. The same is true for every other section of the application, including line status information and journey planning.

Tube Tracker can also be beneficial to those passengers who have trouble hearing station announcements. In the “Lines” section of the App, a passenger can very quickly read about any issues that are occurring on problematic lines, or problematic stations.  For those passengers who find it easier to process images, rather than text, Tube Tracker has a few unique features. For example, if a passenger taps on a train, they will find an engaging, animated map view where the train can be seen progressing along its route. This picture also displays departure times of past stations and approximate arrival times for future stations.

Judges’ Award: Colourblind Tube Map: 232 Studios and Ian Hamilton

London underground map redesigned for easier viewing by people with all forms of colourblindness, and other vision impairments such as cataracts, loss of contrast sensitivity and myopia. If you have difficulty using the London tube map, either in print or in other apps, this could be the answer.

  • Official licensed London tube map, modified with permission from TFL
  • Designed for and tested with people with a range of vision impairments
  • Combination of colour and pattern for colourblindness
  • Increased contrast and reduced glare for other vision impairments
  • Large detailed maps that allow a high level of zoom
  • Simple easy to use interface with no fiddly gestures
  • Choice of text size

This app (1, 2) has been designed for people with mild-moderate vision impairment, key features being alternative colour schemes, a high level of zoom, and a large font option.  Considerations have also been made for people with impaired motor ability, with large well-spaced buttons, and use of zoom buttons instead of pinch/zoom. The interface is simple, settings have visual previews, copy is clearly styled and as jargon-free as possible, and the choice of interface colours can be beneficial for irlen-related dyslexia.

Follow on Twitter: @232Studios @stnmasterapp @TubeTracker @fastchicken @ianhamilton @TfLAccess

Good practice guide to creating an accessible stadium and matchday experience

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Soccer ball in front of a goal public domain image

The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) based in Switzerland has produced a guide entitled Access for all: UEFA and CAFÉ good practice guide to creating an accessible stadium and matchday experience.  The 115 page publication has extensive information on what makes good access at football venues, including approaching and leaving the stadium, moving around in the stadium, access to information, access in viewing areas, and amenities, and training in disabilities issues.  It also discusses why good access is important, the different models of disability, equality legislation, accessibility auditing and planning.

There are more than 80 million disabled people living in the European Union alone (equivalent to the populations of Belgium, the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, and the Netherlands combined).  The UEFA estimates that about 500,000 of these are likely to be active football spectators, a number the charity CAFÉ  (Access to Football in Europe) thinks will rise considerably with improved stadium access.  In addition, one in four Europeans has a family member with a disability, while 60% know someone who is disabled.  This is a big fan base and a big market.  In 2009, the UEFA donated its Monaco Charity Award to the National Association for Disabled Supporters (now known as the Level Playing Field) to help establish CAFÉ.  CAFÉ was created to “ensure disabled supporters across the UEFA’s 53 member associations can enjoy attending football matches and to make it a problem-free and inclusive experience for all”.  CAFÉ cooperated with organisations such as the European Commission Committee for Standardization (CEN) to ensure a pan-Euro approach to building standards and good practice for sports stadiums.

Follow on Twitter: @UEFAcom @cafefootball @lpftweets @Standards4EU

American museums increasing access for people with disabilities

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Exterior of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

In an article for the New York Times, Tanya Mohn describes how American museums are increasing access for people with disabilities.  The Metropolitan Museum of Art in NY for example, runs programmes for people with disabilities almost every day.  These include tours in American Sign Language (ASL), displays of art created by people with disabilities, and multisensory exhibits.  The Whitney in Manhattan finds that its video tour blogs (vlogs) in ASL are popular with hearing people because they are captioned.   The Guggenheim’s mobile app includes closed captioning for videos, enlarged text capability, verbal tours and other technology.    The Smithsonian – which has many adaptations to overcome barriers – has definitive guidelines to accessible exhibition design which are used globally.  The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston has a universal approach to its mobile multimedia guide, and devices can be used by disabled and nondisabled visitors.  The Art Institute of Chicago plans to try 3-D printing of artworks so that visitors can explore sensory elements of objects.

Such efforts by museums are likely to increase, writes Mohn.  In 2010, about 56.7 million Americans had a disability (18.7% of the population).  This number will increase because of America’s ageing population, increased longevity, and more cases of certain types of learning disabilities.

Smaller museums offer services for the disabled also.  For a description of these, see the full article by Mohn.

Travelling for the blind, visually impaired

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Shynx and pyramid in Egypt

Travel, especially independent travel, is one of the pleasures that many might think becomes unavailable after vision loss. After all, navigating unfamiliar locations is something that can be complicated enough already for anyone no matter their level of sightedness, and vision loss can be an extra hurdle.  However, it’s far from an insurmountable obstacle, writes the San Diego Center for the Blind (SDCB).  Travel and tourism are becoming more accessible all the time as businesses and destinations realize the sense (not to mention the cents!) of offering accommodations such as adapted menus, guide services, and more. And there are many travel companies that cater almost exclusively to people with disabilities, including blindness or low vision (VIs). The SDCB describes two USA-based travel companies that specialize in tours for VIs ( Mind’s Eye Travel, Outta Sight Travel) and one from Denmark (VisionOutdoor ).

The SDCB blog also lists a company specialising in VI travel from the UK.  There are some 157,000 people registered blind in Britain, and 155,000 registered visually impaired (VIs). Only 8% were born with their condition.  When it comes to holidays, beyond travelling with friends and relatives, people with vision disability have shockingly few options, writes Jon Henley in The Guardian.   There is however, Traveleyes, a company set up by Amar Latiff, a 36-year-old Glasgow-born entrepreneur  seven years ago. Amar has been without 95% of his sight since his first year at university, thanks to an incurable eye condition called retinitis pigmentosa.   Not all clients come from Britain: 30% of Traveleyes’s VIs come from abroad, mainly North America, Australia and New Zealand.   Traveleyes pairs up sighted people and people with visual impairments who may or may not have known each other beforehand. The sighted travellers provide descriptions and guidance in exchange for reduced fares, and the pairings rotate daily, so meeting new people is built right into the tour.

For the blind business traveller (or any traveller with vision loss), there is also online help on how to manage negotiating airports more effectively (J.J. Meddaugh), and what to expect when going through airport security (Janet Ingber).


City of Madrid promotes accessible tourism

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Exterior of Royal Palace Madrid

Madrid (Spain) has made a strong commitment to making tourism accessible for everyone.  A history of what Madrid has done in the last ten years in order to advance accessible tourism is available here.

Recently, the city published its 6th Accessible Tourism Guide to Madrid. This publication offers up-to-date, detailed information on the accessibility of a wide range of tourist attractions in the city, including 161 accommodations, 129 places of interest (such as museums, restaurants and theatres), as well as seven emblematic routes for exploring the Spanish capital.  It is part of Madrid’s 2012-2015 Strategic Tourism Plan.  The guide provides information on accessibility – gathered in situ by experts from the State Representative Platform of the Physically Challenged (PREDIF).  It is available on CD, can be accessed via the city of Madrid’s official tourism portal, and can be accessed on mobile phones thanks to the Tur4all app, promoted by PREDIF.

A free app also provides accessibility information on more than 1,500 tourist establishments throughout Spain.   It allows searches for information on nearby establishments, their distance from the user, and how to get to them.   Search criteria can be personalized, and places of interest can be bookmarked.

Accessible Tourism initiatives have been made possible through the support of PREDIF, Fundacion Vodafone Espana, the Region of Madrid Federation of Associations of Persons with Physical and Organic Disabilities (FAMMA-Cocemfe Madrid),  Fundacion ONCE (Spanish Organization for the Blind), the Federation of Organizations in Support of Persons with Intellectual Disabilities (FEAPS-Madrid), the Region of Madrid Federation for the Deaf (FESORCAM) and the State Centre for Personal Autonomy and Technical Aids (CEAPAT).

The Guide is not the only initiative through which Madrid makes it easier for everyone to visit the capital city. Madrid is also the first city in Spain to have a tourist office (its main Tourist Centre, located in Plaza Mayor) awarded the Universal Accessibility certification by the Spanish Association for Standardization and Certification (AENOR). This accessibility system, introduced in 2010 and upgraded annually, covers not only the physical accessibility of a location, but also of the services provided at the Tourist Centre.  The Centre has a high-relief map in Braille showing the services available, a description of them, and their location. There are also many informative signs designed with large text and contrasting colors to make them easier to understand. Madrid Visitors & Convention Bureau is committed to offering a standardized tourist service accessible to all.

Podotactile bands have been installed for persons with visual disabilities, along with hip supports for persons with reduced mobility and a magnetic loop that reduces background noise to make it easier to communicate with persons that have impaired hearing. The Centre also has a Spanish sign language service, available every day of the year, and the staff at all tourist centers and information points are specially trained in the protocols for assisting persons with disabilities.

Another initiative that reflects the city’s standing commitment to accessible tourism is the creation and adaptation of guided tours for persons with disabilities. Since 2004, the Official Guided Tours Program has been both increased and enhanced by a number of standardized guided routes available to everyone, regardless of whether or not they have a disability, such as the three “Essential Madrid” tours, as well as the creation of free guided tours specially adapted for persons with physical, visual, hearing or intellectual disabilities.

Source: Mainly eTurboNews

Australia: HRC, CCAN announce new accessible app challenge

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Photo of two girls one of whom uses a wheelchair from the AHRC website

The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) and the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) have announced a new accessible app challenge, Apps For All.  This award recognizes that while many Australians with disabilities are harnessing gadgets, apps and websites to improve their lives, millions are potentially missing out on the digital revolution because app developers and manufacturers are failing to accommodate the needs of people with disability and older consumers. The prestigious annual competition, announced at the M-Enabling Australasia 2013 conference earlier this month, will award the best mobile and tablet apps submitted in the following categories:

Most accessible mainstream app

  • Most  innovative app designed for people with disability
  • Most  accessible children’s app
  • Most  accessible game app

An accessible app is one which has been designed from the ground up to cater to all consumers. This can range from properly labelling buttons so they can be read by screen reading software used by people who are blind or vision impaired, to innovative apps specifically designed to improve the lives of people with disability or the elderly.  “We hope these awards will inspire new and innovative apps that harness the enabling benefits of mobile technology to improve the lives of Australians with disabilities,” said ACCAN CEO Teresa Corbin.  Currently, about one in five Australians has some form of permanent disability, but this figure will increase as the population ages and people experience more disability.  Locking this demographic out is both “bad ethics and bad business”, said Corbin. Prizes and entry deadlines will be announced at a later date with the winners to be revealed at ACCAN’s annual conference next year.

The two-day M-Enabling Australasia 2013 conference, held on 14-15 August in Sydney, brought together local and international experts on accessible technologies, mobile service providers, developers, manufacturers, retail and business groups, regulators, policymakers, and organisations representing people with disabilities and older people.

Launch of world-first technology to enable blind and vision impaired Australians to enjoy live theatre

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Theatre stage

Australian Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers Amanda Rishworth recently launched a cutting-edge new app that will enable people who are blind or vision impaired to enjoy live theatre by providing high-quality audio descriptions on their mobile devices, including smart phones and tablets.  The GoTheatrical! mobile app was  developed by award-winning Australian company The Captioning Studio.  “People with disability have the right to the same opportunities as other Australians,” Rishworth said.  “This new app will allow users to access the audio description delivered during gaps in the dialogue, and visualize the action taking place from detailed descriptions of costumes, body language, set design and scene locations.   This technology replaces the old portable FM systems, which could be frustrating for theatre-goers as users often experienced interference from radio stations and technical failures such as batteries dying.  By using WiFi and Voice Over IP, this technology allows a much higher quality audio signal with a greater degree of reliability.”

The Australian Federal Government has committed $500,000 to improve access to cinemas for people who are deaf, blind, or visually or hearing impaired, which will see captions and audio description available in 242 screens by the end of 2014.  “Through our National Disability Strategy, which includes $11 million in community initiatives, we are delivering a range of accessibility measures to make it easier for people with disability, their carers and families to participate in community life, including going to the cinema, attending conferences, using public libraries and accessing public buildings”, said Rishworth.

European Blind Union survey of access to culture

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Guest blog by Anastasia Kalou, an access consultant and advisory panel member at the European Blind Union’s ATC project.

Symbol of a person walking with a cane

The European Blind Union (EBU) is the united voice of blind and partially sighted people in Europe, protecting their rights and promoting their interests for full participation in social, economic, political and cultural life, in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with a Disability (UNCRPD), and the the Council of Europe Action Plan (2006-2015) on “Full Participation of People with Disabilities in Society”.  Recently, EBU conducted a small scale pilot survey regarding access at cultural venues and activities for the Blind and partially–sighted people in Europe.  Access to Culture (ATC) Project 2011-2012 aimed to describe

  • current levels of access
  • good practice
  • national legislation and policies for access to culture
  • barriers and scope for improvement

The survey focused on the accessibility at a range of cultural venues and activities, such as theatres, cinema, opera, dance performances, concerts, museums, galleries, heritage sites, and visitor attractions in six countries.  One survey was sent to EBU national member organisations, and another to cultural organisations known to have developed good practices in accessibility for visually impaired people. Survey results show that:

  • the cultural rights of people with visual disability are poorly implemented
  • many cultural sector funding and project development practices discriminate against people with a disability

The report concludes with a Call for Action for cultural policy and strategy change at European, national and local levels in order to urgently address the over-riding conclusions of the survey.  Findings of the survey will be widely disseminated in Europe and serve as a tool for advocacy and lobbying for change.

Tourism Barcelona adds extensive access information to website

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Barcelona cathedral roof interior

Tourism Barcelona (Turisme Barcelona Twitter: @BarcelonaInfoEN) was set up in 1993 by the Barcelona Municipal Council, the Barcelona Official Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Shipping, and the Foundation for the Promotion of Barcelona.  It is responsible for promoting the Catalan capital as a tourist destination.  Its website has recently been upgraded to include information about visiting Barcelona for people with disabilities. Museums adapted for the blind and partially sighted, hotels without barriers, accessible beaches and sign-language tours are just some of the options available.  The website uses pictograms and icons for ease of use, and a search engine for accessible places of interest for each type of disabilities.  These include museums, parks, beaches, unique buildings, monuments, and World Heritage sites.  There is also a list of accessible transport facilities (metro, bus, tram), tourism information offices, accommodations providers, activities, tours, and adaptive sports.  There is also a FAQ page.  All information is available in English, French, Catala, and Catellano.

German National Tourism Office in UK to promote accessible tourism in Germany

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German flag

Tourism for All UK reports that guests from some of the UKs most experienced organisations representing disability were given a preview recently of the German National Tourist Office’s (GNTO) forthcoming campaign promoting ‘barrier free’ travel in Germany.  The campaign will be launched later this year.  The term ‘barrier free’ (barrierefrei) is widely known in Germany and applies to any form of restricted mobility, including for families, elderly people, or those with  restricted sight or hearing.  The campaign was outlined during a presentation and follow-up discussion and received a warm welcome from Deutsche Bahn (Europe’s biggest online travel booking tool), Lufthansa and DFDS Seaways, plus specialist UK travel organisations and advisory sites. Some of the main topics discussed included practicalities such as travelling on public transport in Germany, and which regions offer the most choice to anyone with restricted mobility.

Klaus Lohmann, Director for the GNTO, UK and Ireland said “The most important thing is that anyone who travels to Germany should be able to do so with ease and confidence. Restricted mobility could be due to a sporting injury or visitors may be in a wheelchair – our aim is to try and make their experience as enjoyable as possible. Germany is open to all”. He added: “This is a long-term campaign for Germany and the input and feedback we have received today from people who can help us to gain from their expertise is invaluable”.

The rollout comes after GNTO hosted a product workshop and round table discussion in February in London to establish the requirements for promoting accessibility travel from the UK to Germany.  Representatives from tour operator companies, disability charity organisations, travel website specialists, the Deutsche Bahn and the Germany Embassy were all involved in the discussions. These included subjects such as methods of assisted travel, different levels of accommodation, and inspiring activities for all ages and for a wide variety of needs.  At the meeting, Lohmann said: “The London Paralympics set a dynamic and vital example to the world in helping to bring the subject of disability into the mainstream. We want to keep this dynamism going, which is why we will be doing all we can to show that holidays in Germany can offer something for everyone in the most straightforward and rewarding way”.

Spain’s National Parks improve access for people with disabilities

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Wheelchair visitor from Spain Info website

Following on from many recent developments in accessible tourism in Spain (for example, see here,  here, and here), that country is working to make sure its National Parks offer nature for all. Installations are being adapted for people with disabilities, including adapting information panels and leaflets for the blind, having handrails and double-height windows, and having guides who use sign language.  More spacious facilities have been developed, paths have non-slip compact materials that are non-reflective, and trails are suitable for all.

Spain has fourteen national parks with a total of over 325,000 hectares.  The Spanish office of Europarc (the European Federation of Nature Reserves and National Parks) has published a catalogue of good practices carried out in Spain’s parks. These initiatives have removed barriers and continue to operate to make Spain’s National Parks a natural resource for everyone to enjoy.

The Timanfaya National Park in Lanzarote, one of the seven Canary Islands, is an excellent example of an accessible park. Improvements carried out have made the park into a volcanic paradise which is accessible to anyone with a disability. Educational material includes information in Braille in several languages, and audiovisual productions incorporate sign language.  In Tenerife, also in the Canary Islands, the Teide National Park, which has UNESCO World Heritage designation, has a guide service for disabled people. By booking in advance, disabled people can discover the park’s huge biodiversity and enjoy spectacular views of the Teide from its viewing point. The Tablas de Daimiel park in Castile–La Mancha offers a similar service. Its La Laguna observatory adapts each group visit according to members’ disabilities.  The Picos de Europa National Park in the Region of Asturias has a room called ‘the cave’, where visitors can experience the different sounds and textures to be found in the ecosystems of the park. At the Sierra Nevada National Park in the province of Granada, Andalusia, you can recreate the realities of nature at a range of workshops on astronomy, ecology, textile production… all adapted for the disabled.

Some of  Spain’s National Parks offer direct vehicular access, such as Doñana (Andalusia), which also has UNESCO World Heritage designation, and Aiguestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici Park, in Catalonia.

Australian government fund for improving access for PwDs at conferences

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Picture of a kangaroo from WPClipArt

The Australian Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers, Jan McLucas says that conference organisers can now apply for grants of up to $12,000 to improve access for people with disability and their carers at nationally-focused disability conferences held in Australia during 2013-2014.   Organisations can apply for funding under the Australian Government’s National Disability Conference InitiativeGrants can be used to assist people with disability and their carers with the costs of attending the conference, such as conference fees, accommodation or travel.  Services such as Auslan interpreters, live captioning services, hearing loops or note-takers for people who are deaf and hearing impaired can also be covered.  “Attending a conference is something that many of us don’t think twice about but the fact is there are many Australians who face barriers when doing so,” said Senator McLucas. “It is through initiatives like this that we can help ensure that people with disability have the same opportunities as other Australians to fulfil their potential and participate in community life.  The Australian Government is working hard to ensure people with disability have the same opportunities as other Australians.”

Through the National Disability Strategy, the Australian government is delivering a range of accessibility measures to make it easier for people with disability, their carers and families to participate in community life, including going to the cinema, using public libraries and accessing public buildings.

Eligibility requirements and application forms for the National Disability Conference Initiative are  available at: Applications close at 2pm AEST on Friday 26 April 2013.

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

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Dog at rest

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

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

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

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