Tourism Guides for People with Learning and Intellectual Difficulties in Europe

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

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

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

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Economic Impact and Travel patterns of Accessible Tourism in Europe

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

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

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

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

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

 Follow on Twitter: @UKguchan

£370m Scottish Accessible Tourism Market to get a boost with free online customer service training

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A new £45,000 online training programme will help Scotland’s hotels, visitor attractions, pubs,  and restaurants better cater for the requirements of people with access needs including those with physical, sensory or learning disabilities, elderly visitors and parents with small children.  Scotland’s Minister for Tourism, Fergus Ewing officially launched the first phase of the e-learning Accessible Tourism Course at a visit to the Crowne Plaza in Glasgow on 23 June.  With the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in August, VisitScotland and its partners believe the programme will ensure all visitors to the City, regardless of their access needs, receive a world-class welcome.  Free of charge, the initiative will be available to all Scottish businesses. Ryder Cup Europe has already agreed to use the course as part of its customer service training for Marshalls and Access Buddies ahead of the global event in September at Gleneagles.

As well as promoting good practice, the training will a provide users with a better understanding of the requirements of this growing market.  Training is split into four categories: accommodation, visitor attractions, restaurants and catering, and pubs and bars.  Accessible tourism was recently valued at more than £370m to the Scottish economy, an increase of £37m since 2009. The rise demonstrates the huge potential economic benefits to hundreds of businesses and services across the country of catering for this market.   Tourism Minister Ewing said at the launch of the training that everyone should have the chance to enjoy all that Scotland has to offer. “Improving accessibility has real potential to help achieve tourism industry growth ambitions and boost the wider economy, as well as enhancing social equalities.”

Chris McCoy, VisitScotland Accessible Tourism Scotland project manager, said: “2014 is the year we welcome the world and we want to make sure everybody receives the same warm Scottish welcome. However, we know that poor customer service and a lack of accurate information are among the most common barriers facing visitors with access needs. This project is designed to help equip employees and managers with the skills and knowledge they may need to welcome all visitors, regardless of their access needs. We hope through innovative online tools such as this, we can position Scotland as a country with world-class accessible tourism facilities, offering more choice as well as excellent customer service.”

In the run up to the Commonwealth Games, the Accessible Glasgow Tourism project, an official Glasgow 2014 legacy project which links to the wider Accessible Tourism Scotland project, is encouraging business to realise the potential economic benefits of the Accessible Tourism market by developing an ‘Access Statement’.  An access statement offers visitors with access needs a clear description through words and pictures of the facilities and services they can expect during their trip. Creating an access statement is often the first step to making a business more accessible.

For more information about accessible tourism and to access the training course:  www.visitscotland.org/accessible-tourism-training.  Source: VisitScotland.  Follow on Twitter: @VisitScotlandNews @FergusEwingMSP @rydercupEUROPE @Capability_Scot

EU opens Access City Awards 2015

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

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

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

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

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

EU Commission ‘Mainstreaming Accessibility’ Across All European Tourism Policies

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

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

Microsoft driving innovation and creation of accessible products, software and devices

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Last month, a day-long Microsoft summit explored all of the accessibility work at Microsoft, ranging from panels on the basics of accessibility in technology and accessible web development to support for parents with special needs children and employment of people with disabilities.  The summit was attended by hundreds of people ranging from employees, politicians, disability rights advocates, educators and public officials, including Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee, Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella and United Nations Ambassador of Ecuador Luis Gallegos, a long-time champion of accessible information technology.   The summit highlighted how accessibility has been moving towards the heart of the technology industry and its work.  In a luncheon address, Inslee said Microsoft “got” accessibility.  “You’ve got to have leadership that embraces this as a real goal. We really need to get this on the hearts and minds of our politicians, as well as our business leaders.  We’ve got a CEO here at Microsoft who gets it.”

Microsoft developers, strategists, program managers and product planners are driving innovation and creation of accessible products, software and devices at the company.  They include people like Amos Miller, director of Enterprise Strategy Asia at Microsoft, who helped lead a panel on “Enabling through Design Empathy” that showed how design and engineering focused on the toughest challenges, such as access issues of people with disabilities, can drive innovation for everyone.  Another is Windows developer Guy Barker, who has been creating applications for ten years that help people with disabilities communicate and connect. He spoke about creating accessible apps for Windows 8, including his latest creation the 8 Way Speaker App, which gives a user eight options to select words that will be spoken.  At the heart of all this work is the One Microsoft Accessibility Strategy that views accessibility as a mainstream and competitive market, where the company can offer free first-party solutions driven by proactive engagement, instead of the old view that accessibility is a niche market, too often defined by costly third-party solutions and a compliance mindset.

In the digital age, technology is a key enabler, Jill Houghton, chair of the US Business Leadership Network or USBLN, a non-profit focused on disability inclusion in business and markets, said during a luncheon panel discussion that included Gov. Inslee and Colleen Fukui-Sketchley, Corporate Center Diversity Affairs director at Nordstrom.    Houghton pointed out that there are  over 1 billion people with disabilities worldwide. “We are a large, strong and growing market.”

Source: Adapted from an article by Paul Nyhan, Microsoft Accessibility Blog. Follow on Twitter: @MSFTEnable 

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

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Logo Destinations for All

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Logo of Edinburgh airport from the airport website

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

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

The airport is also working with airlines, such as easyJet and British Airways, to help facilitate bespoke courses for people with a fear of flying.   David Wilson, Chief Operating Officer at Edinburgh Airport, said: “We realise that each passenger is unique and may have different requirements so that’s why we’ve been working hard to understand the complex types of barriers which can stop people from being able to fly.   We’ve taken on board expert advice so we can remove these barriers and show that travelling through Edinburgh Airport can be an enjoyable experience. Our specially designed toolkit and the wider support package have been specifically designed for those passengers who may need a little bit of help or reassurance before they fly, whether that is information on where to find their check in desk or how to use a self-service machine.”  Wilson went on to say “We firmly believe that everyone who wants to fly can fly and we’re committed to making sure all of our passengers have the best experience possible. We have an amazing team here at Edinburgh Airport and we’ll continue to work to ensure our services are of the highest standard.”

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

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

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

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

New Universal Design Guide for Inclusive Tourism

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

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

Follow on Twitter: @UDPartners @SRains

Half of NYC cabs to be wheelchair-accessible by 2020

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New York City cabs Public Domain Image

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

Follow on Twitter: @nyctaxi @dralegal

How Universal Design is good for everybody

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Silhouettes of all who will benefit from UD from the Universal Design website

An article on UniversalDesign.com points out that by designing for human diversity we can create things that will be easier for the widest range of people to use. Such design is Universal Design (UD).  UD evolved from Accessible Design, a design process that addresses the needs of people with disabilities. UD goes further by recognizing that there is a wide spectrum of human abilities. Everyone, even the most able-bodied person, passes through childhood, periods of temporary illness, injury and old age. Thus everyone will benefit from UD, which takes into account the full range of human diversity, including physical, perceptual and cognitive abilities, and different body sizes and shapes. By designing for this diversity, we can create things that are more functional and more user-friendly for everyone. For instance, curb cuts at sidewalks were initially designed for people who use wheelchairs, but they are now also used by pedestrians with strollers or rolling luggage. Curb cuts have added functionality to sidewalks that we can all benefit from.  Everything can be Universally Designed.  This includes from the small to the large, from door handles, kitchen utensils and smartphones, to architecture and the built environment (including private, public, and commercial), and the community at large through urban planning and public transport.

Source: Universal Design.   Follow on Twitter: @UDconnects

Greece to develop accessible tourism

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Wheelchair user at the Parthenon photo from ENAT

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

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

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

Source: Press release. Follow on Twitter: @OKefalogianni

 

EU free June conference on Accessible Tourism: registration open

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Mind the Accessibility Gap conference logo

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

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

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

Bucks Accessible Tourism workshop attended by European experts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

US Access Board sponsors study of accessible natural trail surface materials

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laying down a surface during the tests Photo from the NCA website

The U.S. Access Board is a federal agency that promotes equality for people with disabilities through leadership in accessible design and the development of accessibility guidelines and standards for the built environment, transportation, communication, medical diagnostic equipment, and information technology. A recent study sponsored by the Board on the accessibility of trail surface materials has been completed by the National Center on Accessibility (NCA) at Indiana University. The project assessed the firmness and stability of 11 different types of natural aggregate and treated soil surfaces over a four-year period to determine their effectiveness after exposure to the elements, freeze and thaw cycles, and other factors. Most trail segments tested were treated with a stabilizer.

There are an estimated 56.7 million people with disabilities in the United States (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010). Approximately one in five individuals have some type of functional limitation that substantially limits one or more major life activities.  Growing public awareness of the barriers to persons with disabilities has led to several pieces of federal legislation that have an effect on the design of recreation facilities. In order for people with disabilities to benefit on the same level as people without disabilities, leisure and recreation services must be inclusive and accessible. Recreation opportunities give people with and without disabilities the opportunity to increase their quality of life and to benefit from and contribute to their own health and wellness (NCA). The report follows many years of interest by the NCA at Indiana University on how to make natural surface trails that would blend in and be friendly to the environment AND that would be firm and stable so people with disabilities could have a quality trail experience.

Source: US Access Board, NCA.  Follow on Twitter: @IUSPH

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Lonely Planet’s Travel for All project

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

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

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

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

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

So what exactly do we intend to do?

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

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

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

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

Introducing our new community on Google+

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

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

Accessible Tourism for All: UN recommendations

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

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

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

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

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

Martin Heng of Lonely Planet and accessible tourism

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Guest article reprinted with permission from Lonely Planet. Martin Heng is Accessible Travel Manager at Lonely Planet.  Here he writes about how he became involved in accessible tourism

 Lonely Planet's Accessible Travel Manager Martin Heng in Hays Paddock, Melbourne, Australia. Image by Sabine Heng / Lonely Planet.

Travelling has always been in my blood. Perhaps I inherited it from my father, who was born in Singapore, travelled the world in the British Merchant Navy and finally settled in the UK, where I was born. I’ve lived and worked in half a dozen countries and travelled to more than 40. In the 80s and 90s I spent the best part of 10 years on the road, pausing only long enough to make enough money for the next trip. Imagine my euphoria in 1999 when I landed a job with Lonely Planet, whose books had been a constant companion across three continents over the previous decade! I’ve been with the company ever since in several different roles, including Trade Publishing Manager and Editorial Manager, overseeing the production of the entire range of printed books.

I had always been very keen bike rider. At 16 I cycled from Birmingham to northern France to meet my parents there. In the 90s, I cycled with my partner round the South Island of New Zealand, around Hokkaido, in northern Japan, and made several trips in the Tokyo area when living there. I was also lucky enough to be selected to join the Lonely Planet relay team on the Tour d’Afrique, riding from Nairobi in Kenya through northern Tanzania and along Lake Malawi – a trip of some 2500 kilometres over 18 riding days. And of course I rode to work every day, a round trip of 40 km, year-round, rain or shine. And then every cyclist’s nightmare came to pass: I was hit by a car. Unfortunately, I didn’t just break a few bones; instead, I damaged my spinal cord and was left a quadriplegic.

In some ways I have been lucky in that I do have some movement below the level of my injury. In fact, all my muscles do work – imperfectly and in an uncoordinated fashion – and over the last three years I have learned to walk again, albeit only with the aid of a walking frame, very slowly and over short distances. The only major trip I have undertaken was to a boot camp for paraplegics and quadriplegics in the USA, where, using the latest machinery and techniques, patients undergo 3 to 4 hours physio every day.

As I started back to work, part-time at first, I started to look into what resources there were for people travelling with a disability. Surely, I thought, it should be easy in this digital age to find information on accessible accommodation and on travelling in different countries with a disability. Wrong! There is quite a lot of information out there but it isn’t easy to find – it’s all siloed in special-interest websites or hidden away on local government websites, often only in the local language. As I started to connect more with disabled communities I kept hearing the same story from other people and, when they learned I worked for Lonely Planet, they asked why we were not producing books on accessible travel.

Now that I have been appointed Accessible Travel Manager at Lonely Planet, it has become my mission to make travel easier for those who are hampered by issues of accessibility, whether it be through illness, age or disability. We may never produce printed books specifically for disabled travellers, but there are many other things we can do, particularly through building a community which is happy to share ideas, information and experiences through words, pictures and even video. I believe this is the true potential that the digital age offers us. I’m truly excited – for myself, for Lonely Planet, but most of all for those 1 billion people around the world whose physical limitations are preventing them from the joy that is travel.

Source: Lonely Planet.  Follow on Twitter: @lonelyplanet @Martin_Heng

Five Safe-Travel tips for People with Disabilities

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Guest article by Rohit Agarwal, an architect by profession and the owner of Trans India Travels.  Rohit is a dedicated travel enthusiast who likes to explore various places around the world.

Woman in a wheelchair on an escalator picture provided by Rohit Argawal

 

Travelling is an essential part of our lives. While it is now practiced widely as a recreational activity, most of us travel for various other circumstances. One of the most cumbersome situations relating to travel is when travelling with a disability or with a disabled.  This situation is troublesome for both the disabled and the caretaker and special care needs to be taken by both. It is not common for a disabled person to practice independent or recreational travel, but it is easily possible if certain careful measures are taken. The following tips will help you take care of yourself or the disabled travelling with you making vacations and recreational trips not only possible but a whole lot easier. If you’re fit to travel according to the physicians then you should be fit to travel alone and enjoy the fruits of independent travel.

1. Plan In Advance

Planning as far as you can is the key to easy travel. Making early reservations will not only ensure cheaper but also more comfortable travel. Advance booking will ensure you get the best options according to your preference. Many airlines allow just one wheelchair per flight so make sure it is yours by booking in advance. Make sure you do a proper research about your destination before making any reservations and ensure that the hotels and the cities you’re checking in and visiting have the proper facilities for the disabled.

2. Careful Packing Is A Must

Make sure you pack your medications or any other supplements properly and always carry a spare set. Keep one set where they can be easily accessed especially while on a plane, train or a bus. Many medicines are supposed to be kept at certain temperatures so make sure you have the required things like a cooler bag and a place to store them when you reach your destination. Make sure you keep your prescriptions handy in case you lose your medicines and would need to buy more. Make sure you specially request your physician to write the generic name of the medicine rather than the name of the brand or the product name on the prescription.

3. Taking Special Care During The Journey

Special care needs to be taken before the journey actually begins. Arriving early at the airport or the bus or the train station is a must and is advisable if you do not want to risk missing a flight, bus or the train. This not only ensures hassle free boarding but also help lower that pre-trip anxiety. During your journey make sure you have all your necessary equipment and medication handy. Take note of the closest and the most easily accessible washroom from your seat. Keep your foldable wheelchair or scooter handy but if not then label them clearly so they can be returned in case they’re lost.

4. Get Travel Insurance, if possible

Travel Insurance is a type of a health insurance which is supposed to cover the medical, financial and collateral loss occurred while travelling. There are various types of travel insurance plans available which cover national and international travel. Many insurance agencies also offer a temporary insurance that simply cover the losses incurred during a particular trip or journey that can be nation or international. It might cost you a few more dollars or your choice of currency but will ensure a hassle free travel and a relaxing trip.

5. Careful Planning While On Your Trip

It is necessary that you understand your own limits and do not try to expand them at a huge risk. Planning too many activities in less time can leave you exhausted and can threaten your condition. If it’s a vacation make sure that you spend more time relaxing than sightseeing and simply alternating the balance between rest and play. Do proper research about the various facilities you can avail in the city to help facilitate easy getting around. Carry important medicines and do not over tire yourself with more activities than you can handle.

Disability can be a small halt to your independent lifestyle especially when travelling. However, with careful planning it can be easily overcome and you can totally enjoy your trips and vacations without letting your ailment keep you away from the fun.

Follow on Twitter: @TransIndiaTrvls  On Google+ https://plus.google.com/+RohitAgarwal87#+RohitAgarwal87/posts

NZ: Review of access for people with disabilities under the Building Code

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Picture of steps

The Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) with the Office for Disability Issues (ODI) is carrying out a disability access review.  The review is being carried out by Malatest International . The purpose of this review is to gain a better understanding of how the requirements for people with disabilities contained in the Building Act and the Building Code are being implemented in new buildings, as well as buildings being altered, and the extent to which these requirements do in fact provide an accessible built environment for people with disabilities.  The review is collecting sector ‘issues’ and ideas for practical changes.

To inform the review, people can do a survey which is about buildings you go into as part of your day to day life such as shopping centres, council or government buildings, shops, theatres, restaurants, hospitals and doctors’ and dentists’ surgeries, parking buildings, offices, factories and any place of work. The review does not
include people’s homes.   As the New Zealand Disability Support Network (NZDSN) points out, the survey is about buildings that are accessible or not accessible to everybody.

If you would like to take part you can do so by:

Source: NZDSN.  Follow on Twitter: @NZDSN @MBIEgovtnz @NZ_ODI