WTM London Seminar on the Accessible Tourism Market

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World Travel Maarket logo

 

The World Travel Market (WTM www.wtmlondon.com/) in London is holding a seminar entitled “Preparing your Destination for the Accessible Tourism Market: Lessons from Research and Practice”.  The seminar is presented by two leaders in the field, the European Network for Accessible Tourism (ENAT, http://www.accessibletourism.org), and Visit Flanders.  Building on the experiences of three leading European accessible tourism destinations, four National Tourism Organization (NTO) managers will explain the business strategies and practical tools they are using to serve this growing market.   In addition, results of three major new studies of Accessible Tourism in Europe: Demand, Supply and Skills Requirements, conducted for the European Commission, will be outlined and discussed by researchers, pointing to recommended policies and actions for NTOs and Destination Management Organizations (DMOs).

The session will be organised as a panel discussion, moderated by European Commission Tourism Policy Officer,  Antonella Correra, addressing these 3 main themes in turn:

 Where is the demand? Reaching the accessible tourism market.

 Mind the accessibility gap. Supply-side requirements and the delivery of accessible services.

 What are the skills requirements and how do we build capacity in the tourism sector to create accessible destinations and businesses?

Speakers include Ross Calladine, Head of Business Support, VisitEngland, Katrien Mampaey & Pieter Ghijsels, VisitFlanders, Belgium, Olaf Schlieper, German National Tourist Board, Graham Miller, School of Tourism Management, University of Surrey, UK, Severine Guisset, Project Manager GfK, Belgium, Chris Veitch, Accessible Tourism Consultant, ENAT, and Kei Ito, Researcher, Valdani Vicari & Associati (VVA), UK.   

 The event will occur at ExCeL, London, 1 Western Gateway, Royal Victoria Dock on 4 November  from 16.00 to 17.30.   Source: ENAT website.  Follow on Twitter: @WTM_London @EUaccesstourism @VisitFlanders @VisitEngland @ChrisGVeitch @GermanyTourism @SHTMatSurrey @GfKBelgium

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European Diversity Awards include tourism, hospitality hopefuls

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2013 European Diversity Awards audience

Finalists in the 2014 European Diversity Awards (EDA) have been announced.  They include several in the tourism and hospitality sector.  The awards recognise and celebrate innovation, excellence, creativity and commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion by organisations and individuals during 2014.  Theyrecognise excellence in the areas of gender, disability, sexual orientation, age, race, culture and religion across Europe.  The EDAs are unique in recognising all aspects of diversity across the whole of Europe and celebrate the best across both the corporate and campaigning aspects of diversity. The awards are a key date in the diversity calendar in Europe and are widely acknowledged as the “Oscars of diversity”.  There are a number of categories for the year, including Campaigner, Community Project, Diversity Champion, Journalist, Most Inclusive Employer, Marketing Campaign, Company, Employee Network Group, Charity, Role Model, Hero, Diversity Team, and Diversity Programme of the Year.

Follow on Twitter: @diversityaward

Melbourne and Olympic Parks Diversity and Inclusion Plan 2014-2017

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The Melbourne and Olympic Parks (M&OP) have released their Diversity and Inclusion Plan, 2014-2017.  The parks – with a number of ovals, courts, and arenas – cover 40 hectares and host an extensive range of events such as the Australian Open tennis Grand Slam, other major sporting events, and cultural events (for example, concerts by Andrea Botcelli, The Rolling Stones, and Miley Cyrus).   The Plan is based on six key customer focused objectives.  These are that people of all abilities:

1). Can navigate around M&OP

2). Have easy access to all information about M&OP

3). Can enjoy events and functions with their family and friends

4). Have access to the full range of seating options

5). Will be treated as equal and valuable guests in all dealings with M&OP, and finally, that

6). M&OP will leverage its accessible conference facilities to actively promote its expertise in conferences for all abilities.

The plan goes on to detail what strategies will be used to achieve these objectives.  These include the creation of enhanced accessible wayfinding and navigational information on site and online, working with transport providers to enhance accessible public transport to venues, and improving accessible seating and enhance the booking procedure to include total information about accessible seating.

M&OP are to consider a new conference facility strategy to market their facilities to the global disability conference market.  We say that if they do in fact carry out their access enhancement programme, marketing by M&OP should extend beyond this market as all conferences – no matter the subject – are attended by a certain percentage of people who have disabilities who would appreciate fully accessible facilities.

Source: M&OP.

New Dubai hotel has purpose built accessible rooms

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Dubai cityscape

United Arab Emirates headquartered TIME Hotels Management will manage a new five-star hotel located close to Dubai Healthcare City in Oud Metha as the emirate targets growth in the number of medical tourists visiting the city.  Two rooms per floor will be specifically designed to be accessible to people with disabilities – a first for the city, according to the company.  Under development by Awtad Investment Company, the AED200 million hotel is set to open in 2016 and will offer guests a choice of two restaurants, a coffee shop, gymnasium, swimming pool, spa and meeting space.  “Dubai plans to position the emirate as a global medical tourism destination by 2020 with the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) targeting 500,000 medical tourists with expected revenues of AED2.6 billion. To support this ambitious strategy it is imperative that Oud Metha’s hospitality capacity is enhanced as the area is currently underserviced in terms of hotel rooms,” said Mohamed Awadalla, CEO, TIME Hotels.

The DHA is targeting a broad spectrum of treatment-seeking visitors including nationals from the GCC countries (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE) and South Asian medical tourists, which, according to Awadalla, is a fit with TIME Hotels’ own sales and marketing strategy.

Source: Arabian Business. Follow on Twitter: @ArabianBusiness @TIMEHotelsUAE

UK CAA tightens information rules for disabled passengers

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Plane in flight

The United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) recently set tougher requirements on airports and airlines operating flights to and from the UK concerning information they must provide disabled passengers.  Requirements concern making essential information available to consumers in an accessible format. Information should be provided on a single web page one click away from the home page of the operator’s website or on webpages directly accessible from a single ‘landing’ webpage one click away from the home page.  Content should be presented in a clear and easy to understand way and accessible for passengers with impairments such as blindness or low vision, deafness or hearing loss, learning disabilities, cognitive limitations, restricted movement, photosensitivity or any combination of these.

Airports must publish information on the following: assistance provided at the airport and how to obtain this assistance; layout of the airport; quality standards and airport security; handling of mobility equipment and assistance dogs; telephone number and opening hours of the airport’s helpline for enquiries from Passengers with Reduced Mobility and other disabilities; and information on how to complain.  They must also provide information on safety restrictions; seating on-board; fitness to fly; when a carer will be required; accessibility and use of lavatories; and compensation for damaged or lost mobility devices.

“This is a giant leap forward in terms of quality, quantity, and accessibility of information available to passengers with disabilities,” Reduced Mobility Rights Director Roberto Castiglioni said. “In a perfect world, we would like to see information made available to consumers in a printed format at PRM lounges and assistance desks across airports.”

Airports and airlines have until 31st October 2014 to comply with the new requirements, or they may face formal enforcement action to ensure compliance and/or face a penalty or court injunction.

Source: Reduced Mobility Rights.  Follow on Twitter: @UK_CAA @ReducedMobility

Accessibility on VIA Rail Canada

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Picture of a VIA Rail train from their website

VIA Rail Canada is that country’s national rail service. It operates intercity, regional and transcontinental trains linking 450 communities across its 12,500 km network, transporting  nearly four million passengers annually. VIA Rail recently announced that the Canadian train now includes a newly renovated Park car featuring an accessible cabin designed for people with disabilities. The new accessible cabin for two was designed following extensive research of accessibility requirements within the transportation industry. In total, four Park cars used on the Canadian will be reconfigured to include a fully accessible cabin. “VIA Rail is committed to pursuing the improvement of accessibility on all its services. We are proud to now offer a cabin on board the Canadian between Toronto and Vancouver with a level of comfort designed specifically for our mobility reduced passengers,” said Yves Desjardins-Siciliano, President and Chief Executive Officer of VIA Rail Canada, “from Halifax to Vancouver, VIA Rail is able to accommodate persons with disabilities on board all its trains.”

The newly reconfigured Park cars are amongst many other initiatives undertaken by VIA Rail to improve the accessibility of its services.  Over the past few years, VIA Rail has invested in building new accessible stations and renovating stations in order to improve the accessibility of its facilities.

The corporation has also improved accessibility to its rolling stock on other routes. Renaissance cars, used on the Ocean (Montreal–Halifax), were reconfigured to include an Economy class car wheelchair tie-down, an accessible bathroom and a fully accessible sleeper cabin on each departure. Furthermore, each Renaissance Economy class car was modified to offer seating for passengers travelling with a service animal, and fold-up armrests were installed on 2 two-person seats as well as 4 individual alley seats.  Two rail diesel cars (RDC) were recently modified for accessibility, one of which is currently in use on the Sudbury-White River route. VIA Rail also has an accessible Economy class car on each of its LRC train consists.  As well, VIA Rail’s web site at viarail.ca was optimized in 2012, enabling people with disabilities to better access information on the site.

Source: VIA Rail.  Follow on Twitter: @VIA_Rail

 

EC call for “Tourism Accessibility for All” submissions

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Logo EU Enterprise and Industry Twitter logo

The European Commission Enterprise and Industry call for submissions in “Tourism Accessibility for All” will close on the 21st October 2014.  The call implements the Commission’s 2010 Communication on tourism, with particular reference to the diversification of European cultural/industrial tourism and accessible tourism.  It is also part of the third and last year of two Preparatory Actions proposed by the European Parliament and approved by the EU budgetary authority, respectively on “Transnational Tourism Products” and “Tourism Accessibility for All”.

The Fostering accessible tourism entrepreneurship and management  theme concerns supporting the development and provision of Accessible Tourism “Capacity Building Schemes” for tourism managers and entrepreneurs. Its ultimate purpose is to encourage the uptake of business practices and strategic planning which mainstream accessibility and “Universal Design” priorities in the tourism sector. Universal Design (often called inclusive design) is a framework for the design of places, things, information, communication and policy to be usable by the widest range of people operating in the widest range of situations without special or separate design. Most simply, Universal Design is human-centred design of everything with everyone in mind, including older people, people without disabilities, and people with disabilities.

Follow on twitter: @EU_enterprise

New accessible services map on Pantou

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Woman in a wheelchair on a boat Thanks to Pantou

Pantou.org – The European Accessible Tourism Directory – now has a map view of accessible services. Pantou (Greek for “Everywhere”) provides information about suppliers of accessible tourism services in all European Union and Accession countries, as well as suppliers such as travel agents and tour operators who provide accessible services to Europe-inbound customers.  The Directory makes it easier for tourists with any kind of access needs to find what they are looking for when planning a visit.  It also promotes European accessible tourism suppliers, showing places to go and things to do – in safety and with convenience and comfort.  Suppliers who are listed on Pantou provide a wide variety of tourism services, including accommodation, facilities, transport, tours, venues and attractions that are designed to be inclusive and accessible for people who have a disability, long-term health condition or other specific accessibility requirements.  Registration on the site of accessible tourism suppliers is free.

The website is supported by the European Union Commission and managed by the European Network for Accessible Tourism (ENAT http://www.accessibletourism.org/).  Follow on Twitter: @Pantou_tourism @EUaccesstourism @EU_Commission

New app to help Blind navigate London transport

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Little India 057

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

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

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

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

Yorkshire tourist attractions praised for accessibility

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Silver Travel Advisor logo from their website

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

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

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

Follow on Twitter: @SilverTravelAd @Welcome2Yorks

SFO Unveils Mobile App for Visually-Impaired Passengers

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Exterior of the San Francisco Inteernational Airport building

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

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

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

Accessible Flanders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

International NGO Naturefriends promoting Accessible Tourism

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Nature Friends Barrier free tourism brochure front cover showing wheelchair user

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

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

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

Follow on Twitter: @NFI_Brussels @annagl42

Tourism Guides for People with Learning and Intellectual Difficulties in Europe

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T GuIDE logo from website

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

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

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

Economic Impact and Travel patterns of Accessible Tourism in Europe

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S Westminister 052 

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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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.