New study shows that disabled and older consumers want better customer service

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Oxfordshire (17)

The Research Institute for Consumer Affairs (Rica UK) focuses on issues of concern to disabled and older consumers.  Rica’s consumer panel members were surveyed earlier this year to identify current consumer issues and tips. Analysis of the results show that – to summarise – the primary concerns of respondents centred around customer service and accessible environments and services. Respondents stated that services can be made more accessible and acceptable by organisations that train their staff to respond positively and flexibly to disabled consumers, and design their facilities and services to be accessible to all. This training and design would be successful if it involves disabled people closely at every stage. Respondents also said they need good information about products and services, and often look to community groups and peer networks to provide it. However, they want and expect suppliers and service providers to give better information.

These results echo the findings of a 2011 study in New Zealand of New Zealand and international travel consumers with hearing loss. That study found that for about 90% of these travellers, the most important access needs when travelling away from home include customer service staff who have a ‘can-do’ attitude and the provision of reliable information.  Both NZ and international respondents highlighted the importance of understanding, patient staff trained to know how to accommodate people with hearing loss, how to meet their needs, and what to do in an emergency.

Follow on Twitter: @RicaUK


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.

NZ National Foundation for the Deaf calls for better access for Deaf in Christchurch rebuild

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Building crane

The New Zealand National Foundation for the Deaf (NFD) points out that as the rebuild if Christchurch (after the earthquakes) gains momentum, designers and planners are still not including listening support systems in public buildings.  “This oversight contradicts the Building Code caluse G5.3.5, and Article 9 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which says that such spaces should be able to be enjoyed by all people regardless of their age, ethnicity, and disability” writes NFD (p. 7).  “Communal areas, theatres, cinemas, aged care facilities, and other built environments should all support the needs of the hearing impaired” continues the article.  NFD have written to the Christchurch City Council urging them to consider the needs of thousands of local citizens, and consistently incorporate listening systems and other technology when giving building consent.

Follow on Twitter: @theNatFdnDeaf

Brazilian study of the tourism behaviour and needs of people with disabilities

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Front cover logo of the Brazil Accessible Tourism report

Brazil has over 45 million citizens with disabilities, and the Federal Government of that country is intent on promoting the rights of people with disabilities.  To this end, the Ministry of Tourism launched an Accessible Tourism programme in partnership with the Human Rights Secretariat of the President of the republic and EMBRATUR (Brazilian Tourist Board or Brazilian Tourist Institute) because tourism is a sustainable economic activity with an important role in employment generation, foreign exchange, and social inclusion. For the development of an effective policy in the area of accessible and inclusive tourism, knowledge of the profile of tourists (both current and potential) with disabilities is seen as critical.  Therefore, research was conducted by CP2 Research in 2013 involving a survey of people with disabilities and tourism.  The results have been presented as a white paper: Estudo do Perfil de Turistas – Pessoas com Deficiência Documento Técnico – 2013The following selective summary of what people with disabilities think of tourism and what their tourism activities are is taken from a translation (Study of the Profile of Tourists with Disabilities) by Scott Rains of the Rolling Rains Report and a global leader in the field of accessible tourism research and promotion.  Continue reading here:

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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.

UN General Assembly holds first-ever high-level meeting on disability

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UN Enable logo

United Nations General Assembly High-Level meeting adopts document seeking to promote disability-inclusive development, redress absence of disability Rights from the Millennium Development Goals

The UN General Assembly has adopted a landmark outcome document ( A/68/L.1) aimed at promoting disability-inclusive development during its first-ever high-level meeting on that topic (23/9/2013).  Assembly President John Ashe (Antigua and Barbuda) underlined the text’s significance as the instrument to guide efforts towards the creation of a fully inclusive society through 2015 and beyond.  “Given the size of such a marginalized group, the onus is on us all to ensure that any future sustainable development goals include the disabled,” said Ashe.  He pointed out the absence of any reference to people with disabilities in all eight Millennium Development Goals. The international community had now realized that it would be impossible to meet development targets, including the Millennium Goals, without incorporating the rights, well-being and perspective of persons with disabilities.

By the text adopted, Heads of State and Government reaffirmed their resolve to work together for disability-inclusive development and for the international community’s commitment to advancing the rights of all persons with disabilities, which was deeply rooted in the goals of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  World leaders also underlined the need for urgent action by all relevant stakeholders towards the adoption and implementation of more ambitious disability-inclusive national development strategies, while expressing their resolve to undertake various commitments to address barriers, including those relating to education, health care, employment, legislation, societal attitudes, as well as the physical environment and information and communications technology.

The text urged the United Nations system as well as Member States to stay engaged in efforts to realize the Millennium Development Goals and other internationally agreed development targets for persons with disabilities towards 2015 and beyond. It encouraged the international community to seize every opportunity to include disability as a cross-cutting issue on the global development agenda, including the emerging post-2015 United Nations development framework.

Ashe noted that people with physical, sensory, mental and intellectual disabilities were “the world’s largest minority”, numbering more than 1 billion. “They are a diverse and varied group, each with unique gifts and abilities, and each with unique challenges,” he said. “They teach us not only lessons about love and respect, but also about persevering against the odds.”  He went on to say that 134 countries had ratified or acceded to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, adopted by the Assembly in 2006.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon quoted International Labour Organization (ILO) statistics showing that excluding disabled persons could cost economies as much as 7% of gross domestic product (GDP).

Following the opening segment, the Assembly held two round-table discussions, the first on “International and regional cooperation and partnerships for disability inclusive development”, and the second on “The post-2015 development agenda and inclusive development for persons with disabilities”.  The General Assembly  reconvened  on 24 September, to begin its general debate.

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

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 report: hearing loss on the increase

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Photo of an ear

A report from Australian Hearing, ”Is Australia Listening?”, predicts that one-in-four people will have hearing loss by 2050 and up to one quarter of those will have problems caused by listening to MP3 players at “excessive and damaging” levels. This represents a 50% increase as today, one-in-six adults have a hearing loss.  Hearing loss is most prevalent in older people and the incidence of hearing loss increases with age. Currently, over 60% of Australians 60 years old or older have hearing loss. However, the next most likely group to hearing loss are teenagers: researchers have found that hearing damage is common among young adults and that 70% of young people have experienced tinnitus — ringing, buzzing or crackling noises in their ears.

England National Tourism Board and Action on Hearing Loss launch access guide for tourism businesses

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National tourist board VisitEngland has joined forces with UK charity Action on Hearing Loss to launch Listen Up! – a new guide for tourism businesses. Designed to help businesses become more accessible for customers with hearing loss, the free resource is available online at  More than 10 million people in the UK (6% of the population) have some form of hearing loss, and Listen Up! is packed with information, advice and examples of best practice for providing these customers with a warm welcome and an excellent visitor experience. It also highlights key issues for business owners when accommodating deaf or hard of hearing visitors, including:

• Safety – How to put adequate evacuation procedures in place to alert guests with hearing loss in case of an emergency.

• Communication – Advice for staff when speaking to someone with hearing loss, and information on disability awareness and sign language training courses.

• Facilities – Information on equipment that can assist guests with hearing loss (available at, such as hearing loops and text phones, as well as advice on completing an Access Statement – a written description of a venue’s facilities and services, to inform people with access needs.

The new guide adds to a wealth of free tools and resources VisitEngland has developed with a range of partners to help attractions, accommodation operators and other tourism business across England offer the best possible experience to disabled visitors. The national tourist board has also released a series of short videos highlighting the experiences of deaf guests when staying in hotels in England. The videos are designed to alert business owners to a range of issues affecting deaf guests, from wake up calls to ordering room service. They can be found on the VisitEnglandBiz YouTube channel: .

As well as partnering with VisitEngland to produce Listen Up!, Action on Hearing Loss also recently assisted the national tourist board in offering hearing loop testing to quality assured attractions as an extra part of their annual VAQAS (Visitor Attraction Quality Assurance Scheme) assessment.

Ross Calladine, VisitEngland’s Head of Business Support, said: “Visitors who have a health condition or disability – and their companions – spend over £2billion a year in England, so it is vital that we integrate the needs of visitors with physical and sensory access requirements into our everyday service provision. Listen Up! is designed to help tourism businesses become more deaf aware, and attract even more of these loyal and valuable customers, and Action on Hearing Loss is the ideal partner for this project.”

Chief Executive of Action on Hearing Loss, Paul Breckell, says: “People with hearing loss are a significant force in the economy, travelling both for business and pleasure. We are delighted to be working with Visit England to publish the Listen Up! guide. It will help tourism businesses improve the accessibility of their services for people who are deaf or hard of hearing, invest in hearing loss support and generate more income.”

For more information contact: Sarah Long, Head of Corporate Communications Tel: 020 7578 1452, Email Emma White, Corporate Communications Executive Tel 020 7578 1471, Email:

Source: VisitEngland press release.

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.

New web resource: History of disability in England

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Opening in a church wall

English Heritage is the Government’s statutory adviser on the historic environment in that country.  It is an organisation that promotes caring for, valuing, understanding, and  enjoying the heritage of England.   It recently launched a major new web resource called Disability in Time and Place.  The resource reveals how disabled peoples’ lives are integral to heritage, and how disabled people have had a major influence on many well known, and less well known, buildings. From leper chapels built with leper’s squints (an oblique opening in the wall so those with leprosy could see the service without coming into contact with others) in the 1100s to meeting places for the first disabled self-help groups in the early 20th century, to protests about accessibility in the 1980s, the built environment is inextricably linked to the stories of disabled people, hidden and well-known.  To produce the resource, English Heritage worked with disabled people and specialists in disability history.  All the content has been translated into British Sign Language. The website has information about disabilities through the ages, broken into six sections (Medieval period, Tudor England, 18th century, 19th century, early 20th century, and late 20th century). There is additional information about buildings highlighted in the resource, some of which are open to the public.

New website, app, seek reviews of accessible places with style!

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Glasses of wine

Fiona Jarvis first developed MS in the early 1990s and has since become a wheelchair user, reports Disability Horizons.  She worked for financial software companies, but finding stylish places that were also accessible to people with disabilities to take clients for drinks and dinner became difficult.  She kept a list of such places and was often asked by able-bodied family and friends for recommendations on the latest cool venue or boutique hotel. She realised this could be valuable information for the less-able community, as being disabled and maintaining a sense of style can be difficult and ultimately excludes many people from mainstream society.  There are plenty of guides to cool restaurants, but it is never clear from these guide, or the restaurant’s website, whether they cater for people with mobility issues or other disabilities. There are also many websites out there with information on disabled access and facilities, but none concentrate on style as well. Plus, access information is often out-of-date or not audited by someone with a disability. So in 2007, Jarvis decided it was time to bring this information together on one website, Blue Badge Style (BBS). The website pulls together reviews, information, news and video, plus a Michelin-like rating system, BBS ticks.  Having initially launched Blue Badge Style as a website this year, BBS  have now launched an app too. The app gives you access to the website’s reviews along with directions. It searches for cool venues near you and lets you know what the reviewer thinks of the style, accessibility and facilities.  UCL Advances and Stuxbot jointly developed the app and have recently added a magnifying option and text-to-speech version for the blind.  Importantly, this isn’t just a guide for the less-physically-able, but for their friends too. There are an estimated 10.5 million people with disabilities and 5 million carers in the UK, which does not include those temporarily less-able, or families, friends, and unregistered carers.  Jarvis wants to encourage the wider community to rate their favourite restaurants, bars, shops, cafes, theatres so no-one has to be surprised or embarrassed by a lack of accessibility or facilities at a stylish venue (more information from the source, Disability Horizons).

Survey of visitors to Britain who have an impairment and/or a medical condition

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Visit Britain Logo

In 2010 VisitBritain sponsored a question on the International Passenger Survey that asked:

Do you have any of the following conditions or impairments:

A – I have a mobility impairment (wheelchair user)

B – I have a mobility impairment (non-wheelchair user)

C – I am blind

D – I am partially sighted

E – I am deaf

F – I have partial hearing loss

G – I have learning difficulties

H – I have a long-term illness (e.g. AIDS, arthritis, cancer, diabetes)

None of these

The question was answered by more than 90% of survey respondents (576,000), 540,000 mentioned a single impairment or condition and 36,000 mentioning more than one.  Considering that there were 30 million visits last year to Britain, the numbers reporting an impairment or medical condition was very low at about 1.9% of visits. The majority of visitors with impairments and/or conditions were 65 years old or older.  The total expenditure generated by visits that were by someone with one of the impairments/conditions covered is estimated at £341m, or 2% of all inbound visitor spending.  The average length of a visit was higher than the average across all visits.

The conditions or impairments most likely to be mentioned were those relating to mobility (non-wheelchair user), partial hearing loss, or a long term illness. It is clear that the average length of a visit among this group has a tendency to be higher than the average across all visits.   Between them British and Irish nationals account for one-third of all visits by people who have an one or more of the impairments or conditions.  It is not surprising then that more respondents travel for medical treatment than for any other reason.  British and Irish nationals are followed by American, German, Dutch, French, Canadian, Australian, Swedish, and Italian visitors.

Audio description a first for NBR New Zealand Opera

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Cartoon of stage lights

Blind and vision impaired audience members will be able to touch parts of the set and key props before audio described performances of The Bartered Bride in Auckland on 27 September and Wellington on 20 October in what is a first for the NBR New Zealand Opera. The Bartered Bride is sung in English and tells the story of a complicated love triangle set in a Czech village. It is accompanied by the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra and the Vector Wellington Orchestra, with the Chapman Tripp Opera Chorus.   New Zealand Opera’s General Director, Aidan Lang, says he is very pleased to be able to provide an audio described performance for the first time. “THE EDGE’s SIGNAL programme for hearing or visually impaired audiences is an excellent initiative that brings theatre and performance alive for patrons.”  The SIGNAL programme offers Sign Language interpreted performances for Deaf and hearing impaire4d patrons, and audio described performances for blind or vision impaired patrons. It is run by THE EDGE, which manages three Auckland venues: Aotea Centre, Auckland Town Hall and The Civic.  Information: New Zealand Opera box office in Auckland (T: 09 379 4068) or Wellington (T: 04 499 8343); New Zealand Opera website.

Source: Arts Access Aotearoa

India: Tourism industry making efforts to improve accessible tourism

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Taj Mahal India
Sudipta Dev writes in Express Travel World that while Portugal, Spain, UK, Germany, France and other northern European countries, Oman and UAE, Japan, Singapore and Malaysia, USA, Canada, and Australia are leading the world in developing accessible tourism, certain segments of the travel and hospitality industry in India are also  making commendable efforts to provide tourism, travel and hospitality for people with disabilities and seniors.  The Ministry of Tourism has already included in its strategy the intent to make tourist dedtinations barrier-free.
This is a response to the growing need among people with limited ability to explore the world. The fact that many countries have made legislations for special arrangements that makes accessible tourism possible, has been driving this segment.   Companies in India specializing in accessible tourism include B2C,  Ezeego1, Varun Worldwide Holidays, Creative Travel, and Travel Another India.
Neelu Singh, COO, acknowledges that the outbound market from India is opening up to this segment as a lot of physically challenged and senior citizens are becoming a budding group of frequenters of travel, sports and other leisure oriented products and services.  While India still has a long way to go before becoming a credible destination for people with mobility issues, some progress has been made. “The tourism industry in India is increasingly focusing on segmentation as a way to provide better service to specific tourist groups who are differentiated by demographic and psychographic characteristics,” states Singh, pointing out that new market segments are continually being sought by the industry as other segments mature. Focused efforts to sensitise people at the ground level to the needs of tourists with limited mobility is a tough but necessary task. Rajeev Kohli, joint managing director, Creative Travel and vice president, Indian Association of Tour Operators states, “Be it vision, hearing or movement related, there are things we can do for each segment. We also must be concious of the fact that all these issues are also related to age and one of the largest travelled groups are older people. Even though they may not be official disabled, they suffer issues of lower vision and hearing or difficulty in walking.”
Anjlee Agarwal, executive director and access consultant, Samarthyam – National Centre for Accessible Environments says that people with disabilities area huge untapped tourism market, one which not seen as the lucrative market it can be. Agarwal has been at the forefront of raising awareness of the need for ‘Tourism for All’. She has been promoting accessible design through access audits and training workshops and doing advocacy with stakeholder groups and government agencies to ensure changes at a policy level. Samarthyam has been working with key decision-makers and tourism service providers including travel agents/tour operators to promote accessible and responsible tourism. Samarthyam’s founders had participated in the Regional Training Workshop on Promotion of Accessible Tourism and Asia-Pacific Conference on Tourism for People with Disabilities, which adopted the Bali Declaration, 2000. “India is one of the signatories to the Bali Declaration,” reminds Agarwal.
It is important for the tourism industry to place itself in a position where they can pitch to attract tourist with disabilities and the elderly. “These two categories of people form a large percentage of the world population. Moreover disabled people rarely travel alone. Once it is recognised that attracting this segment of travellers makes good business sense then automatically the rest would follow,” avers Shivani Gupta, who heads AccessAbility, a well known access consultancy. Having conducted packages like Himalaya on Wheels that cater to needs of disabled people, she points out the need for encouraging trained staff to assist and work towards promoting accessibility provisions in tourist areas. Besides tour operators can cater to groups of hearing impaired tourists by having tour guides who are trained in sign language. Further audio description available of different tourist places can attract travellers with vision impairments.  gupta also provides consultancy