Scandic Hotels– World Travel Market winner for accessible accommodation

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Scandic Hotels – already a world leader in access – is the joint gold winner in the category “Best accommodation for disability access” at Responsible Travel’s World Responsible Tourism Awards.   They received the award at a ceremony at the World Travel Market in London on November 4, 2015, for their work in providing accessible accommodations for travellers of all physical and mental abilities, seniors, and anyone needing better access.

“Scandic Hotels is applauded for their top-down, all-encompassing approach to inclusivity, integrating accessibility into all parts of their hotel business. They address a wide range of disabilities and particularly impressed the judges with their leadership by developing an e-learning course and making this freely available to their peers across the tourism industry,” said Harold Goodwin, Chair of the judging panel for the World Responsible Tourism Awards.

World Travel Market, which is held in London each year on World Responsible Tourism Day, is the largest travel and tourism event in the world. The accessible tourism award is sponsored by Enable Holidays, which was established in 2004 as the first UK tour operator to be accredited for its competence in auditing the accessibility and grading the suitability of accommodation abroad for people with mobility impairments

Scandic’s Accessibility Director, Magnus Berglund said at the awards, “I’m extremely happy that we have won this award. It is proof that the hard work we do to make our hotels accessible to everyone makes a difference and is recognized in the world”.   Scandic consults with organizations for people with disabilities, hotel guests, and team members to improve access.  They have drawn up a checklist of 110 points, their Accessibility Standard. This Standard covers everything offered by Scandic and it is an integral part of all of Scandic’s products and services. Scandic has also implemented smart design features in rooms to make them accessible for people with disabilities. In 2013, Scandic was the first hotel chain in the world to launch online interactive training on disabilities.  This training can be used by anyone who wishes to do so and is on Scandic’s website.

Scandic has featured many times on the Access Tourism NZ website.  Further information about them can be found by searching this website or by contacting Magnus Berglund, Director of Accessibility, Scandic Hotels, +46 70 97 35 077 Anna-Klara Lindholm, PR Manager Scandic Hotels, +46 70 97 35 231, anna-klara.lindholm@scandichotels.com

Follow on Twitter:  @ScandicGlobal @enableholidays @WTM_London @RTAwards

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Be Able Travel: businesses miss customer revenue if inaccessible

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Be Able Travel (UK) was created in 2015 by a wheelchair user with FSH Muscular Dystrophy and a vision impaired person who has been blind since shortly after birth.   In this guest post, Mandy Altoff of BAT describes why reliable information about access is important to people with disabilities.

Be Able Travel logo

At Be Able Travel, we found that despite our best research, what was classed as accessible by websites/other people’s reviews, in reality wasn’t always the case.  There are over 1 billion people worldwide (11 million of those here in the UK) living with a limiting long term illness, impairment or disability.  Much more needs to be done to improve accessibility in the UK and the rest of the world. How many business are missing out on customer revenue because their establishment is simply not accessible!
I recently wanted to meet up with friends for a drink at a local pub (bar) so called ahead to check it was accessible.  A member of staff assured me I would be fine in my wheelchair so off I went. Upon arrival the pub did indeed have a ramped entrance.  Great start! Unfortunately, I couldn’t get to the bar to order as it had 5 stairs up to it, and sadly, the toilets were the same! Something as simple as meeting friends for a drink had suddenly become impossible without having to rely on others for assistance.

Thankfully, not everywhere is like this! Brighton Marina, UK http://www.brightonmarina.co.uk/ is a very accessible place with numerous restaurants along the waterfront, a particular favourite of ours is Zizzi, which has wheelchair access, plenty of space between tables & a Braille menu to hand.
With Be Able Travel we hope to achieve a comprehensive database of reviews from all over the world to enable disabled people to be informed without having to rely on the venues for the information. Who knows, maybe together we can change accessibility for the better, one review at a time!
Please show your support and like our Facebook Page www.facebook.com/beabletraveluk or follow us on Twitter @beabletravel or leave a review at www.beabletravel.co.uk Zizzi on Twitter: @WeAreZizzi

EU Parliament-financed study: Catering for Accessible Tourism demand in Europe

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Map of Europe

A new study on the supply of accessible tourism services in the EU Member States, financed by the European Parliament, shows that there is a general lack of provisions for visitors with access needs.  Greater commitment and cooperation is needed between tourism authorities, destinations and enterprises, if supply is to meet the growing demand for accessibility, especially from increasing numbers of senior travellers, many of whom face access difficulties.  The study found that by 2020, over 4 million tourism businesses need to provide accessible services in order to accommodate the lowest forecasted demand from those already with disabilities, and the predicted increase in this number. Thus, there is a strong rationale for targeted actions by policymakers to improve support structures and incentives that will foster the growth of accessible services and to market these services to travellers within Europe and those from other source markets.

The study gathered data from a wide range of sources, showing that an estimated 9% of Europe’s tourism services already have some level of provision for travellers with specific access needs.   A number of leading destinations and “mainstream” suppliers are integrating accessibility measures into their products and services, enabling them to serve a wider market, thus making their business more sustainable over the long term.

However, the distribution of accessible services is highly uneven across Europe.   The “front-runner” countries, with the greatest numbers of accessible services, are France, Italy, Spain and the UK. These and other countries have invested not only in adapting and building accessible infrastructure but also in developing staff training schemes focusing on disability awareness and accessibility as part of customer service training. This, in turn, helps to give customers the confidence to travel with greater security, knowing that their needs will be met.  However, where accessible services are offered, the vast majority of these address the needs of people with reduced mobility due to motor difficulties or impairments.  Visitors who have other access requirements, such as those who need services for people with low vision or reduced hearing or special diets, are under-served in the market.  Visitors with intellectual disabilities or learning difficulties are the least served of all customer groups.

Lack of services for these groups means that their travel choices are limited – but it also implies “lost” income to tourism providers.

The study has identified important gaps in awareness and knowledge about accessible tourism among suppliers.  The European Commission’s tourism policy officer, Antonella Correra, states: “One important result of this study is that the first barrier is not the lack of financing. There is a perception that accessibility is expensive but when businesses were asked, it was mainly the lack of available guidance that holds them back. Knowing what needs to be done to make their services more accessible is the primary issue.”

Ivor Ambrose, Managing Director of the European Network for Accessible Tourism, which carried out the study together with VVA European consultants and EWORX S.A., adds: ”The study shows that businesses are largely unaware or cautious of the market potential and the business case for investing in the accessible tourism market.”

Referring to some of the good practices that the study has identified, Ambrose continues: “We have developed fifteen Case Studies, from Rovaniemi, the home of Santa Claus in Finland, to Paris Région – the world’s number one city for tourism. The studies highlight destinations that are working to create accessible itineraries and experiences for seniors, people with disabilities and families with small children, enabling these customers to enjoy a visit on equal terms with everyone else. Experiences from these destinations have been used to draw up recommendations and explain the tools and methods that other aspiring accessible tourism destinations and suppliers can adopt. We hope these will be a source of ideas and inspiration to many destinations and businesses”.

The study points to evidence that improvements to accessibility, whether they are in infrastructure or in many kinds of service, can increase sales, encourage repeat visits and bring higher average spend. However, proving the business case for accessible tourism is still a challenge in many areas. More regular and systematic market data is required in EU countries to guide business investors and public sector actors.  Another recent EU study of tourism demand has estimated that the accessible tourism market in Europe is made up of over 138 million people, of which only about half are regular travellers. The gross value added contribution of those who did travel in 2012 was estimated at 150 Billion Euro and the direct contribution to employment was about 4.2 million persons.

The Supply Study concludes that ‘mainstreaming’ accessible tourism policies in destinations can enhance the quality of tourism products for all visitors, as well as providing a pathway to local development. “It has been shown that, with stronger cooperation between decision-makers, destination managers, suppliers and the third sector, the focus on accessibility can lead to new jobs and business opportunities for entrepreneurs and investors” says Ambrose, concluding: “This recipe can give a boost to the tourism industry and also improve conditions generally for local communities”

Recommendations from the study are being adopted in the current EU tourism development programmes, in particular through support for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises to improve their staff skills for serving customers with various access needs and to develop accessible itineraries and supply networks.

Source: Adapted from press release.  Follow on Twitter: @EU_Commission @visiteurope @EUaccesstourism @VVA-Europe @eworx

Scandic Hotels Germany wins accessibility award

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Accessible room Scandic Hotels website

Scandic Hotels Germany (http://www.scandichotels.com/Hotels/Germany/) was recently given a “Golden Wheelchair” award by the non-profit organisation “Independent Living Centre” in Stuttgart (ZSL http://www.zsl-stuttgart.de/english.html). In the category ‘Hotels and Accommodations’ Scandic convinced the jury by its comprehensive and detailed accessibility programme. “Scandic Hotels Germany is glad about this special award,” said Tobias Albert, Director Sales & Marketing Scandic Hamburg Emporio. “It is an acknowledgement of our belief that hotels should be accessible for everyone and our effort to ensure this within our group.” Scandic’s approach to accessibility is based on a 135 point plan developed by Magnus Berglund, the hotel group’s ambassador for accessibility. Since its implementation in 2003, the standard has had a positive impact not only within Scandic, but on the whole travel industry.

Scandic Hotels is a chain with 155 hotels and around 30,000 rooms across Europe. Started in 1963, it has, over the years, increased accessibility in its hotels. It was the first hotel chain to appoint a Director of Accessibility to work on improving accessibility for disabled guests. Now all the hotels have rooms adapted to guests with special needs. Scandic has also improved online information about access at its hotel. Scandic Hotels has won numerous awards for accessibility over the years. For further information, see here, here, and here.

The “Independent Living Centre” (ZSL Stuttgart) is a registered counselling service for people with disabilities by people with disabilities. With the “Golden Wheelchair” it honors outstanding accessibility travel solutions and programmes. The award ceremony takes place during the CMT in Stuttgart (Germany), the world’s greatest public trade fair for tourism and leisure.

Follow on Twitter: @ScandicGlobal @Messe_Stuttgart

UK Disabled Access Guide

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Dr Nick Almond is a UK Cognitive Neuropsychologist and author  living with cerebral palsy.  In this guest post, Nick talks about his reasons for setting up The Disabled Access Guide.   The guide aims to provide individuals who are less abled/wheelchair users and their enablers with information about access to public places across the UK. The guide is a work in progress, and people are encouraged to fill in their own reviews on venue access on the website or email Nick at nalmond944@aol.com.  You can follow Nick on Twitter at Twitter @DrNickMAlmond.

NickAlmond

Nick writes: As you can see in my video, I am quite severely disabled so I am in a wheelchair all the time and when I did my undergraduate degree my friends were asking me to go out to pubs and restaurants which I did not really know much about and were totally inaccessible and others did not have a toilet which was accessible or they were using the toilet for storage which really annoyed me. So I thought that there would be somewhere online which you could look up venues and see if they were accessible or not, but all the sites which I’ve found were not very detailed and did not have enough information. So this meant that we used to have to phone up the places first and ask if I could get in and if they have a toilet which was working. If you can imagine going on a pub crawl with 20 other students to 20+ pubs then it would take a week to organise it.

Then I thought that I could widen the use of the website so that people can put a blog on it and that I can ask people to support certain things which I feel are discriminatory. So you will notice that there are success stories where we have campaigned for a toilet in a pub which has recently been refurbished and that had wheelchair access but the brewery did not build a accessible toilet, even though it was very easy to do so, so me and my MP got together and checked out the policy on disabled access and we showed that if somewhere is large enough and they have wheelchair access then they must accommodated for an accessible toilet. The other thing which I would like to do is to increase awareness of disability in two ways.  First, with my YouTube vlog so that people can see that just because someone has involuntary movements, is in a wheelchair and cannot speak very well (apart from my Yorkshire accent 😉 ) they can be treated like a normal person. Second, I hope that companies will look at my website and understand what is important for having really good disabled access. For example, my local pub, The Lawnswood Arms, has not got a dropped curb where the disabled car parking space is at, and my website has pointed that out and the manager has picked up on that. He has promised me that there will be a dropped curb where it is needed within the next month, and that he hopes that this will increase the rating of the venue… Which is great!

I am hoping to cover the whole of the UK in time but obviously we need funding to keep it going because I have a group of researchers that are going around and assessing venues and writing up reports on them. Hopefully in time if we can attract more attention on the website then we will get sponsorship which will help to cover the cost of the research.    All the income that comes into the company goes straight to either research or maintaining the website so it is a not-for-profit organisation. It is really frustrating that the government will not fund this type of research if you are a private limited company or you have funding from elsewhere such as charities. I don’t know why this is the case because the government is not doing very much to provide access information for people with disabilities and in the UK there is a distinct lack of information for people with disabilities or people who care for people with disabilities to point out where they can go without any hassle.

Scandic Hotels wins awards for freely available accessibility training

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Accessible room Scandic Hotels website

Scandic Hotels is a leader in making accessible accommodation open to everyone (see the many reports on this website).  Now Scandic’s accessibility training has won first prize for best interactive training at the Swedish Learning Awards 2014 and also took home silver in the British E-learning Awards.  Scandic is the leading hotel operator in Nordic countries. Just over 10 years ago Scandic started making its hotels more accessible for people with disabilities.   Part of this effort includes the development of a wide-ranging interactive training programme for all the hotel chain’s employees with the aim of fostering an understanding of different types of accessibility challenges and the importance of treating all guests properly. At the end of 2013, Scandic made interactive training openly available to all on its own website in order to improve awareness.  “Every day we see people from outside Scandic completing our training on the website. Receiving an award for this is the icing on the cake and something that makes us particularly proud. It shows that the issue of accessibility is an important one,” says Scandic’s Director of Accessibility Magnus Berglund. In the Swedish E-learning awards Scandic won in the category “Best e-learning profit-making business” in Sweden. The jury said: “An easy-to-use interface with inspiring shifts in perspective that enable a wide target group to realise and understand that when staying at a hotel not everyone enjoys the same experience on the same terms.”   Scandic also won silver for the best e-learning product in the British E-learning Awards, amid  tough competition from 250 international entries. Follow on Twitter: @ScandicGlobal @ScandicNorge

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

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

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.

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

UK Caterer and Hotelkeeper Catey Accessible Award

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Table setting

The  Caterer and Hotelkeeper is a weekly UK business magazine for hospitality professionals.  It runs several events each year, including The Cateys. The Cateys  have an Accessibility Award category, which recognises the operators going above and beyond the requirements of the Equality Act in accommodating and catering for disabled people.  The winner will be an individual hotel, pub, restaurant, foodservice contract or other hospitality operation complying with all aspects of the Equality Act, and offering great levels of customer service to non-disabled and disabled customers. This category is not open to groups but is open to an individual establishment within a group.  Entrants must submit their accessibility statement, and clearly demonstrate that they have understood the business case of providing excellent customer service for disabled visitors and guests. The judges will consider answers provided to questions, including

Why did you target the market segment that includes people with disabilities?

What did you do to attract people with disabilities?

How did you involve your staff in meeting the needs of people with disabilities?

What were the results for your business?

What was your budget and return on investment?

Judges will also look for evidence to support answers given. This could include customer feedback, market research, staff training activities, access statement, accessible improvements to the building or facilities and financial success.

Source: Caterer and Hotelkeeper website and Cateys website. Follow on Twitter: @Caterertweets

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

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Front cover logo of the Brazil Accessible Tourism report

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

Continue Reading

Gothenburg Sweden wins EC Access City Award 2014

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Gothenburg main street photo by Göran Assner Göteborg and Co from Visit Sweden website

The European Commission has announced that Gothenburg Sweden is the winner of the Access City Award 2014. The Award recognises Gothenburg’s outstanding work towards increasing accessibility for disabled people and the elderly. The 2014 Award is organised by the European Commission together with the European Disability Forum, and is presented in Brussels during the event ”Accessible Tourism in Europe” on the occasion of the annual European Day of People with Disabilities and the European Tourism Day. The event aims to raise awareness of the right of everybody to have equal access to tourism services and destinations and to present some success stories and best practices in the field (Europa).  The Award encourages cities with at least 50,000 inhabitants to share their experience and to improve accessibility for the benefit of all.

Gothenburg has the slogan, ”A city for everyone!”   Viviane Reding, the EU’s Justice Commissioner said of Gothenburg, “the city’s inclusive approach of integrating people with all disabilities into society has helped Gothenburg becoming this year’s winner. People with disabilities still face too many barriers in everyday life, but cities like Gothenburg are leading the way in making life more accessible for all.”  The city is committed to increasing accessibility to transport, housing, public facilities, amusement parks, playgrounds, the local university, work, and employment and priority is given to people with disabilities when accessible homes become available.

The second Access City Award went to Grenoble (France) and the third to Poznan (Poland) – both cities having exhibited remarkable progress in terms of accessibility to transport, education, accommodation, shopping, culture, sports, tourism and employment.  The European Commission awards special mentions to cities that are pioneers in achieving accessibility in terms of built environment, transport, information and communication technology and public facilities and services. This year, the special mentions are given to; Belfast, United Kingdom, for ‘Built Environment and Public Spaces’; Dresden, Germany, for ‘Information and Communication Technologies’; Burgos, Spain, for Public Services and Facilities; and Malaga, Spain for Transport and related infrastructures.

Previous Access City Award winners include Avila Spain,  Salzburg Austria, and Berlin Germany.

Because making Europe accessible cannot only be done by public authorities, the European Commission has also organised a high-level meeting on Growth and Accessibility bringing together business CEOs and users’ associations.

Follow on Twitter: @MyEDF @EU_Commission @visitsweden @VivianeRedingEU

New York City launches new resturant access programme

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New York City Mayors Office for People with Disabilities restaurant sign

New York City has launched a Restaurant Access Programme (RAP) designed to provide restaurants with the ability to advertise if they are wheelchair-friendly.  To qualify, restaurants  complete a “RAP Survey”, which can be done online or by calling the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD). If the restaurant qualifies, it is given a RAP decal that can be posted in the restaurant window to promote the fact that it is “Wheelchair-Friendly”. The MOPD will also promote accessible restaurants  as being “Wheelchair-Friendly”. The survey is voluntary and does not affect restaurant licensing.    NYC is implementing the programme to assist restaurants to increase business by tapping into “a customer base comprised of people with disabilities who are often overlooked and may not be aware that they can be accommodated at many of New York City’s fine restaurants”.  The survey has detailed drawings and measurements to assist restaurants in assessing access at their premises.  For more information, go to http://on.nyc.gov/rwfd or www.nyc.gov/mopd/rap

Follow on Twitter: @NYC_MOPD

Berlin a hero in improving access for visitors and citizens

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Crossing sign showing a wheelchair from the Access City Awards 2013 brochure

In most European cities, accessibility for all is, as of now, a legal obligation (Euronews). Berlin Germany is a leader in improving access for citizens and visitors.   The German capital has been actively improving access since the 1990s, and its efforts have been recognised this year with a special European Commission prize, the Access City Award 2013. The city won for its strategic and inclusive accessibility policies, which cover all aspects of city life and are firmly embedded in both the political and budgetary frameworks of the city. Berlin’s access projects include:

  • A free database (Mobidat) with 31 000 entries, giving information on the accessibility of facilities in all areas of life, including leisure, culture, health, welfare, and lifestyle.  It is produced by an NGO, and an IT provider with support from the Federal State of Berlin, and has been documenting access in the city for 20 years.
  • Roundtable chaired four times a year by the State and including representatives from tourism, hotels, restaurants, transport, disabilities NGOs and others. The goal is to establish a common platform to bring together information, products and services in the field of accessible travel and tourism and to ensure that Berlin positions itself both nationally and internationally as an ‘accessible city’.
  • The entire Berlin bus fleet is already equipped with wide-access doors. The target for 2020 is to make the tramway and metro equally accessible.
  • A short film for the Senate Department for Urban Development  – Berlin accessible for all 2020 – which identifies the requirements for an accessible city

Berlin is also working with other cities to improve access.  In this way, lessons learned by one city can be adapted to others.  “If you put together actors from many European cities then you are much stronger,” says Barbara Berninger, urban planner for theCity of Berlin. “Making a city barrier-free and accessible for all is a question of cost, so if you make the same mistake in Marseille, London and in Berlin, it is very expensive and it is much easier to learn from each other and not to reinvent the wheel again and again.”

Follow on Twitter: @visitberlin @EU_Justice

Scandic Denmark awarded Bevica Foundation’s Accessibility Prize 2013

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Exterior view of Scandics Palace Hotel Copenhagen from the Scandic website

Scandic Denmark has been awarded the Bevica Foundation’s Accessibility Prize 2013. Scandic is a hotel chain headquartered in Stockholm Sweden and mainly operates in the Nordic countries.  Each year, the Bevica Foundation awards a prize to people or companies that have shown a particular interest in people with disabilities. Scandic Denmark will be donating the prize money of DKK 100,000 (about NZ$22,000) to Danish Accessibility organisations that make it possible for people with special needs to have equal opportunities.  Scandic has worked on accessibility issues since 2003, winning a number of awards and accolades over the years for its outstanding accessibility work. Scandic’s executives and team members have made accessibility a strategic issue – ensuring, through practical measures, that despite a disability it is perfectly possible to take part in events, stay overnight and use the hotel’s facilities on the same terms as any other guest.   “It’s fantastic to see Scandic Denmark receiving this award from the Bevica Foundation, which confirms that all the work Scandic does on accessibility is paying off,” says Magnus Berglund, Scandic’s Accessibility Director. “We work on accessibility issues all the time, and are proud to see a rise in bookings from guests with disabilities.”

The Bevica Foundation is driven by a desire to help and give people with disabilities a sense of independence and self-confidence. This is achieved by increasing initiatives in the field of accessibility through active fund management that secures ongoing financial support for such work. In addition to working with hospitals and universities, the Bevica Foundation conducts medical research and development. The Bevica Foundation was impressed by the way Scandic Denmark has shown that, in the hotel industry, the important thing is not only to have an understanding of how accessibility affects disabled people, but also to back up the words with action, such as employing an Accessibility Director, drawing up a standard that applies to every hotel and training all team members in accessibility issues.

“I’m incredibly proud that Scandic Denmark has received the Bevica Foundation’s Accessibility Prize 2013.,” said Jens Mathiesen, VP Scandic Denmark. “It’s extremely important to us that our guests with special needs can travel without worrying. We want the experience as our guest to be easy, and we do everything we can to show consideration and meet specific needs and requirements.”    Scandic believes that everyone should be offered the same high Scandic standard, whether or not they have a disability. In consultation with organisations for people with special needs, hotel guests, and team members, Scandic has drawn up a checklist of 110 points (the Scandic’ Accessibility Standard). The standard covers everything offered by Scandic and is an integral element of all products and services at its hotels. Scandic has also implemented smart design features in the rooms to make them accessible for people with disabilities. Scandic is the first hotel chain in the world to post full accessibility information for all 160 of its hotels online. Each Scandic hotel has its own page carrying unique information about the hotel and its facilities. More information is available at http://www.scandichotels.com/Always-at-Scandic/Special-needs/

For further information, please contact:
Magnus Berglund, Accessibility Director Scandic, +46 70-973 50 77
Anna-Klara Lindholm, PR-manager Scandic, +46 70-973 52 31

Costa Rica working to improve Access Tourism

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Accessible-trails-at-Carara-National-Park-courtesy-of-Wikimedia-Commons-300x225

Accessible Tourism is growing in Costa Rica writes Shannon Farley. So far, reports are positive from tourists who have enjoyed accessible vacations in the country. Some of the top Costa Rica tours that are wheelchair-friendly include Pacific Rainforest Aerial Tram near Jacó Beach, Monteverde Cloud Forest Train in Monteverde, Lankester Botanical Garden near Cartago, and Veragua Rainforest Research & Adventure near Limon in the Caribbean region.

Several of Costa Rica’s national parks and tour attractions either have fully accessible designs or have added elements that are wheelchair-friendly and designed for people of all abilities.  Carara National Park opened the country’s first “universal access” trail in the rainforest in May this year (2013). The trail is made of permeable concrete and provides easy access for persons in wheelchairs and elderly visitors, with special ramps and wheelchair accessible bathrooms. There are information signs in Braille, along with wooden sculptures of animals, for visually impaired visitors to touch at nine stations along the 1.2 km (3/4 mile) loop trail; an audio guide also is available.

Poás Volcano National Park, in the Central Valley, is also completely accessible with paved walkways, ramps and information aids. Visitors can go right to the volcano’s immense 1.7-kilometer-wide crater and viewpoint. Irazú Volcano National Park is mostly accessible due to its relatively flat terrain by the main crater and concrete walkway leading from the parking area to the first crater viewpoint; there are plans for more improvements.

Since national parks are public places, and Costa Rica’s Equal Opportunities Law for Persons with Disabilities requires disabled access in hotels and other public places, the National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC) is investigating how they can make more of Costa Rica’s national parks accessible to people of all abilities. There are plans to improve Manuel Antonio National Park on the Central Pacific Coast, Tenorio Volcano National Park in Guanacaste, and Guayabo National Monument in Turrialba.

EARTH European conference on Accessible Tourism in December

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European Alliance for Responsible Tourism and Hospitality French language poster for the conference

The European Alliance for Responsible Tourism and Hospitality (EARTH) is holding a conference entitled “European realities of Responsible Tourism” in Brussels on December 2 2013.   The conference will focus on Accessibility in Tourism.  It will examine such themes as access in responsible and social tourism and how tourism organizations are contributing to making tourism accessible.  Speakers will include

  • EARTH: Jose Maria De Juan Alonso, vice-president of EARTH “Is responsible tourism accessible as a tourist, as a citizen and as worker?”
  • European Network for Accessible Tourism (ENAT), Anna Grazia Laura, president, “Accessibility in Tourism, an opportunity for everybody”
  • Naturefriends International, Christian Baumgartner, general secretary: “Political demands and publication of good practices concerning accessible tourism”.
  • International Organisation of Social Tourism (ISTO), Jean-Marc Mignon,      president: “Memorandum about accessibility in tourism and social      tourism”.

The conference precedes the United Nations and European Day for People with Disabilities (UN Enable) on the 3rd of December.

EARTH is the first European network composed of private organizations based in 7 European countries (Austria, Belgium, Ireland, Italy, Germany, France, and Spain).  EARTH has one main goal: to transform and unite Europe in “One Europe for Responsible Tourism”. The network brings to life the principles of sustainability, fairness and solidarity in the tourism field, by promoting the exchange of good practices, experience and knowledge among its members.  Responsible tourism complies with the principles of social and economic justice and exerts full respect for environments and cultures. It recognizes the centrality of the local host community and its right to act as a protagonist in developing sustainable and responsible tourism on its land. Responsible tourism actuates fostering of positive interaction among the tourist industry, the local communities and the travelers (EARTH).

World Leisure Congress 2014 looks at Access and Inclusion

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World Leisure Congress logo from website

The World Leisure Organization (WLO) is an international, non-profit, non-governmental association of individuals and organizations with the common goal of fostering leisure as a force for human growth, development, and well-being. Formed in 1952, the WLO supports the creation of a global civil society and promotes the research and development of social, cultural, economic, and sustainable environments that contribute to the well-being of individuals, communities and nations. Every two years, the WLO convenes the World Leisure Congress to share academic findings.  For the first time in North America, the 6 day Congress  will be held in Mobile, Alabama September 6-12, 2014.   It will focus on the overall theme of Enhancing the Human Condition. Daily subthemes have also been announced and include:

  • Health and Wellness
  • Economic Development
  • Environmental Stewardship
  • Emerging Technologies
  • Arts, Culture, Sports and Recreation
  • Building a Livable City

The World Leisure Commissions represent much of the Association’s on-going programming and as such are expected to make major contributions to its three main objectives: research, information dissemination, and advocacy. World Leisure presently has 12 commissions, one of which is Access and Inclusion.

Republic of San Marino Italy to develop accessible tourism

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Logo of San Marino for All

The Republic of San Marino (RSM) has signed an agreement with Village for All (V4A) to develop accessible tourism in the region.  RSM is an enclave microstate surrounded by Italy, and is situated on the north-eastern side of the Apennine Mountains.   RSM was recently awarded an honourable mention as a quality European destination in the EDEN project (European Commission Destination of Excellent awards) for accessible tourism in 2013.  RSM Director of Tourism Teodoro Lonfernini said at the signing with V4A that the development of accessible tourism is central to the Republic’s tourism development plans.  Roberto Vitali, president of Village for All determined that developing accessible tourism would lead to the Republic becoming a global benchmark in this area in just a few years.  V4A is a quality label that guarantees information about access at a business or site.  In addition, V4A provides staff training in accessible tourism and assistance in designing for all.

A website – San Marino For All (San Marino Per Tutti) has been set up for the hospitality without barriers project.  The first phase of the project identified what is currently available in terms of accessible tourism, and mapped  accessible itineraries and areas of interest.  One aim is to produce a handbook of accessible tourism.  The second phase of the project will involve operator training in and workshops on accessible tourism.   The website is linked on the VisitSanMarino website.