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 

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

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Building crane

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

Follow on Twitter: @theNatFdnDeaf

Program to improve taxi accessibility first of its kind in Canada

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City of Vancouver taxis from the City website

Vancouver City mayor Gregor Robertson, the Vancouver Taxi Association and the BC Coalition of People with Disabilities have launched ‘Ask-Listen-Act’, a new form of enhanced taxi driver training involving seniors and people with disabilities. Robertson said the training will help make the taxi fleet more accessible and convenient for local seniors and people with disabilities. One in six people in BC has a disability and one in eight people in Vancouver is 65 years of age or older.   “From our new building code to enhanced investments in pedestrian safety, the City is committed to improving accessibility for everyone”, said Robertson.  ‘Ask-Listen-Act’ Enhanced Taxi Driver Training will provide Vancouver taxi drivers with extensive training to ensure customers with different types of disabilities are transported safely and respectfully. In development since April 2012, the program is created by the Vancouver Taxi Association, in partnership with the City of Vancouver and the BC Coalition of Disabilities, and involved consultation with several groups, including the City’s Persons with Disabilities Advisory Committee, Seniors Advisory Committee, Council of Senior Citizens Organizations of BC (COSCO), Access for Sight-Impaired Consumers (ASIC), and GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre, among others.

‘Ask-Listen-Act’ will provide no-charge, specific training for taxi drivers when serving customers with a range of disabilities including those using mobility devices, such as wheelchairs, walkers, and scooters. It also provides guidance for helping customers with developmental disabilities, customers who are blind or visually impaired, customers with guide or assistance dogs, and customers who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Follow on Twitter: @CityofVancouver @BCCPDHealth @VCHhealthcare

American museums increasing access for people with disabilities

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Exterior of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

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

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

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

Cashel town Ireland working since 2006 to improve accessible tourism – with no budget

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Logo from Cashel Gold Star website showing ruined castle

Cashel heritage town in County Tipperary is not unlike many other Irish towns, with its small streets and old buildings, and tricky navigation for people with limited mobility.  Anne Bradshaw, a Development Worker with the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) was tasked to improve accessibility in Cashel.  The project began in 2006 driven by concerns that people weren’t able to fully participate in the local community.  Issues were broken down into four pillars: access, awareness, social participation, and transport.  With 96% of respondents in Cashel citing lack of awareness as a problem, they decided to focus on that first.   With the ultimate aim of involving everybody in the Cashel community, they set about assembling a task force and then contacted private and public businesses, the local council, and other organisations.

With no budget, funding and volunteer help was sourced throughout the process in the Cashel Gold Star project.  The Cashel Gold Star Disability Task Group aims to  improve awareness and integration of people with disabilities and to assist the community in ensuring all premises and activities are accessible and welcoming to all.  Because Cashel is a tourist destination, the  Task Group highlight in particular the benefits and attractions of the town for visitors with disabilities.

Many heritage sites in Cashel cannot be changed structurally, so alternative solutions were sought.  For example, in some places ramps were put in place, or internal walls removed to allow better access.  The whole community was involved, including children in the local schools, who designed logos etc.  Information was given to businesses about guide dogs, acquired brain injury, and the ‘dos and don’ts’ of disability, and they were approached about the changes they could undertake to be more accessible.  There are now accessible menus in Cashel, which can be listened to by people or read in Braille or in large clear print.  To achieve a gold star for access (or a silver or bronze), businesses are visited by the task group to see how accessible they are, and what changes need to take place. Staff participate in disability awareness training.  So far, there have been 280 participants. The aim is to bring the project to the stage where it is able to self-maintain.

So successful was the project that it has been rolled out to Tipperary Town and Wexford town “It is a general programme that can work anywhere,” said Bradshaw.  It’s not about what’s really wrong, it’s about highlighting what’s right.

City of Madrid promotes accessible tourism

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Exterior of Royal Palace Madrid

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Mainly eTurboNews

Tourism Barcelona adds extensive access information to website

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Barcelona cathedral roof interior

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

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

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German flag

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

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

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

Australian report: hearing loss on the increase

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Photo of an ear

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information contact: Sarah Long, Head of Corporate Communications Tel: 020 7578 1452, Email sarah.long@visitengland.orgwww.visitengland.org Emma White, Corporate Communications Executive Tel 020 7578 1471, Email: emmalucy.white@visitengland.org www.visitengland.org

Source: VisitEngland press release.

Australian government fund for improving access for PwDs at conferences

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Picture of a kangaroo from WPClipArt

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

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

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

United Nations Launches Asia-Pacific Disability-Inclusive Business Award

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Speaker at the announcement of the award in Korea

The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) in cooperation with the Nippon Foundation and the Asia-Pacific Development Centre on Disability recently launched a disability-inclusive business award during a high-level intergovernmental meeting on disability in Incheon, Republic of Korea.  The pioneering “ESCAP-Sasakawa Asia-Pacific Business Award” seeks to publicly recognise and reward businesses that demonstrate good practices in engaging or catering to, the needs of persons with disabilities in their business operations; to raise awareness of the opportunities available for the private sector to include persons with disabilities in their business operations; and to catalyse Asia-Pacific leadership in disability-inclusive business.  In Asia and the Pacific, there are 650 million persons with disabilities, a market twice the size of the euro zone. By catering to the needs of persons with disabilities, enterprises can expand their market share and tap into a new pool of potential customers representing sizeable purchasing power. As potential employees, persons with disabilities have special expertise and tacit knowledge that can help businesses reach a larger customer base.  The Award launch was held during the “High-level Intergovernmental Meeting on the Final Review of the Implementation of the Asian and Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons, 2003-2012” convened by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and hosted by the Government of the Republic of Korea in Incheon from 29 October to 2 November.

The first Award will be conferred in late 2013, marking the first year of the new Asian and the Pacific Decade for Persons with Disabilities, 2013-2022.

 

Nice to see information about travellers with disabilities being highlighted by NZ’s tourism industry association

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Lovely sunset

A recent poll on the website of New Zealand’s main tourism industry body (TIA) concerned tourism businesses self-assessing for how well they “look after disabled travellers”.   Access Tourism NZ (ATNZ) wrote about how negatively worded this survey was and pointed out that no useful conclusions could be drawn from the results.  The comments of ATNZ,  and comments by New Plymouth Accessibility NZ blogger Nic Steenhout were carried in a story by New Zealand’s most important weekly tourism Ezine “Inside Tourism “, along with comments from TIA communications manager Ann-Marie Johnson.   Johnson said that TIA’s weekly website polls aim to highlight an issue of interest to members and provoke discussion on the topic inside their businesses. Like similar informal polls it makes no claims to being a scientifically accurate survey.  “In this case, we used the poll as a way of drawing attention to a useful study by the New Zealand Tourism Research Institute on the tourism needs of people with hearing loss. A link to this study was included in TIA’s December Insights Quarterly.  To further encourage members to read the study, we also decided to run a poll on the issue.  The format of the poll limits the detail we are able to include in the question and answers. It was certainly not our intention to offend, but rather to highlight the issue to TIA members and we believe it has helped in that aim.”

The study on the tourism needs of people with hearing loss was lead by ATNZ director Sandra Rhodda for the National Foundation for the Deaf (NFD) through the Tourism Research Institute.  ATNZ is heartened by the fact that a short summary of the study was included in the TIA Insights Quarterly and a link to the full report was given.  Hopefully TIA members have not been put off reading the full report by the negative wording of the poll.  The NFD report is in fact the only report to date on the tourism needs of people with disabilities in New Zealand – in this case, people with hearing loss.  We have no information at all in New Zealand on how many people with disabilities currently travel in or to our country, how many would like to do so, what prevents them from travelling here, and what would encourage them to visit.  We have no understanding of the potential of this market for New Zealand as the research has not been done.  For a summary of the state of accessible tourism in New Zealand, see this overview and Chapter 8, Volume Two, “Accessible Tourism in New Zealand”.   For a summary of the kinds of supply and demand research needed in accessible tourism in New Zealand, see this research agenda.

New web resource: History of disability in England

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Opening in a church wall

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

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

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Glasses of wine

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

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

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Visit Britain Logo

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

Do you have any of the following conditions or impairments:

A – I have a mobility impairment (wheelchair user)

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

C – I am blind

D – I am partially sighted

E – I am deaf

F – I have partial hearing loss

G – I have learning difficulties

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

None of these

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

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

Audio description a first for NBR New Zealand Opera

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Cartoon of stage lights

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

Source: Arts Access Aotearoa

UK: Roman Baths win award for creating, improving access for people with a variety of disabilities

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Roman Baths at Bath UK

UK.  The South West Tourism Excellence Awards 2011/12 have praised Bath & North East Somerset Council’s Roman Baths for the improved accessibility it offers all visitors.  The Romans Baths received a “Highly Commended” in the Access for All award section in recognition of recent development work carried out by the Council to improve access in a wide range of ways and make the experience more inclusive for people with a wide range of different needs.  Councillor Cherry Beath (Lib-Dem,  Combe Down), Cabinet Member for Sustainable Development, said: “Physical
accessibility at the Roman Baths has improved enormously with the installation of two new lifts and a complete change in the way visitors can move around the site. Understanding of the ancient monument has also become easier for our visitors with new displays and improved interpretation throughout, and there is a wide range of visual prompts that everyone can recognise.

“We have new interpretation for blind and visually impaired visitors with many tactile exhibits. There is a dedicated British Sign Language audio guide, an inclusive personal audio guide in eight languages, and tours for English and French speaking children. The judges even took into account the inclusive way that we cater for people with particular dietary needs in the Pump Room restaurant.”

International Global Disability Rights Library increases content

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Global Disability Rights library website banner

The Global Disability Rights Library (GDRL) – on which Access Tourism New Zealand has a link – now provides more content than ever. There are now nine information portals which provide materials on topics relevant to the needs of Disabilities Organizations, government officials, professionals, grassroots advocates, and others working to improve the lives of people with disabilities. An on-line version of the library is available. An off-line version is also stored inside eGranary Digital Libraries for delivery to developing countries where Internet access is limited. The GDRL team is now no longer accepting applications to receive an off-line eGranary for 2012. However, organizations interested in receiving notification of future opportunities can submit their full contact information here. The GDRL project is a joint initiative of the U.S. international Council on Disabilities and the University of Iowa WiderNet Project supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

NZ NFD provides “Yellow Cards” to improve communication between businesses and people with hearing loss

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National Foundation for the Deaf counter cards

The New Zealand National Foundation for the Deaf (NFD) is an NGO which promotes the interests of nearly half a million deaf and hearing-impaired New Zealanders. It has seven member groups.  Recently, it supported research into the tourism experiences, wants and needs of people with hearing loss.  It has now produced “Yellow Cards”, which provide clear, concise information to businesses on how to communicate with people with hearing loss.  The cards – in their plastic holder –  can be displayed  on public reception counters.   Currently, with funding from the ASB Community Trust, they are being distributed free in the Northland/Auckland region.  The cards help both the person on reception and the hearing impaired person to communicate effectively.  For the hearing impaired person, they are a reminder to tell reception that they have trouble hearing.  They remind the person on reception to:

  • Face the person who has a hearing loss
  • Speak slowly
  • Not shout
  • If necessary, write down the points they are trying to make.

Enquiries about the cards can be made on the NFD website.