City of Rio’s accessibility improvement plans praised by IPC President‏

Listen with webReader

International Paralympic Committee (IPC) President Sir Philip Craven has praised plans to improve accessibility at major tourist attractions in Rio de Janeiro ahead of the next year’s Paralympic Games and said he hopes it is the start of greater things to come.  During a recent visit by Sir Philip to Rio, the city’s Mayor Paes announced Projeto Rotas Acessíveis (Accessible Routes Project). The six month long initiative (started last month) will see 4,000m² of accessible pavements and 5,831m² of concrete resurfacing undertaken at the entrances to 10 popular Rio locations. Attractions that will benefit from nearly EUR 1 million of accessibility improvements include Sugarloaf Mountain, Corcovado (the mountain that hosts Christ the Redeemer) and Copacabana beach.

Sir Philip said “Due to the very nature of the city’s geography, Rio can be a difficult place to get around and realistically it will take more than a generation to transform it into one that is accessible for all. However, thanks to the Paralympic Games heading to the city in 2016, improving accessibility for all is now a hot topic.”  He pointed out that Games act as a catalyst for further improvements to take place after the Paralympics.

Improvements will include the levelling of pavements and roads, installation of ramps and tactile flooring, the removal of obstacles, and improvements to bus stops and car parking areas.   The other areas that will be improved are: Barra da Tijuca beach, Praça XV, Paço Imperial, Cinelândia, Jardim Botânico, Vista Chinesa and Mesa do Imperador.   Away from the city centre a number of other accessibility projects are also taking place.  Rio 2016’s Olympic Park, which will host nine of the 22 Paralympic sports, will be 100 per cent accessible; whilst improvements are being made to all other competition venues ahead of the Games.   Improvements in transport are also being made with the city’s Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system and Light Rail Vehicle (LRV) capable of accommodating all passengers.

Source: Press release.  Follow on Twitter: @paralympic @ipprio @Prefeitura_Rio


British Government bid to improve disabled access at sports stadiums

Listen with webReader

Football goalie image in public domainThe UK government is calling on disabled sports fans to share their experiences of viewing live sport at stadiums and sports grounds across Britain in what it hopes will be the largest ever survey of its kind.   Ministers are hoping thousands of Britain’s 12 million disabled people will give their views on everything from wheelchair access and disabled parking to accessible toilets, hearing loops and treatment by other supporters at live sporting fixtures. Organisers want to hear from fans of all sports – and in particular rugby, cricket, football, hockey, basketball, cycling and motor-racing.

“We know that lots of clubs, like Arsenal, are making improvements but more can still be done across sport to make stadiums more accessible and the match-day experience better for disabled fans” said Minister for Sport Helen Grant.  “This is what this survey is all about – giving disabled sports fans the chance to air their views so that we can help make watching live sport fantastic for them.”  Grant went on to say that the Commonwealth Games last year showed what is possible and how sport can cater brilliantly for disabled fans.  “I am confident that sports governing bodies will step up and deliver on this”, said Grant.

The survey can be done here: Follow on Twitter: @dwppressoffice

Good practice guide to creating an accessible stadium and matchday experience

Listen with webReader

Soccer ball in front of a goal public domain image

The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) based in Switzerland has produced a guide entitled Access for all: UEFA and CAFÉ good practice guide to creating an accessible stadium and matchday experience.  The 115 page publication has extensive information on what makes good access at football venues, including approaching and leaving the stadium, moving around in the stadium, access to information, access in viewing areas, and amenities, and training in disabilities issues.  It also discusses why good access is important, the different models of disability, equality legislation, accessibility auditing and planning.

There are more than 80 million disabled people living in the European Union alone (equivalent to the populations of Belgium, the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, and the Netherlands combined).  The UEFA estimates that about 500,000 of these are likely to be active football spectators, a number the charity CAFÉ  (Access to Football in Europe) thinks will rise considerably with improved stadium access.  In addition, one in four Europeans has a family member with a disability, while 60% know someone who is disabled.  This is a big fan base and a big market.  In 2009, the UEFA donated its Monaco Charity Award to the National Association for Disabled Supporters (now known as the Level Playing Field) to help establish CAFÉ.  CAFÉ was created to “ensure disabled supporters across the UEFA’s 53 member associations can enjoy attending football matches and to make it a problem-free and inclusive experience for all”.  CAFÉ cooperated with organisations such as the European Commission Committee for Standardization (CEN) to ensure a pan-Euro approach to building standards and good practice for sports stadiums.

Follow on Twitter: @UEFAcom @cafefootball @lpftweets @Standards4EU

Scotland: Accessing the Golden Potential of 2014 and Accessible Tourism

Listen with webReader

Scottish tartan

With one of the world’s biggest sporting events just twelve months away, VisitScotland (Scotland’s national tourism organization) has announced details of a £45,000 online Accessible Tourism programme to ensure the industry is ready to take advantage of one of the greatest opportunities for Scottish tourism in a generation.  The initiative – launched in Glasgow by Tourism Minister Fergus Ewing – will help VisitScotland and its partners, Glasgow Service with Style, Skills Development Scotland and Scottish Enterprise realise the huge potential economic benefits of the Accessible Tourism market, which is estimated to be worth £325 million to the Scottish economy.  The programme will see the industry sign up to go through a series of online training modules promoting good practice and appreciation of the accessible tourim market.  VisitScotland are also encouraging businesses to sign up to an ‘Access Statement’ –a clear description from each establishment on what features or facilities visitors with access requirements can expect during their stay.   The work has already begun in Glasgow and will have particular significance in the city, as VisitScotland leads the Accessible Glasgow Tourism Project with the aim of making Glasgow 2014 accessible for all visitors.

Scotland is set to welcome the world in 2014 with three momentous events; Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, the year-long Homecoming 2014 celebrations, and the Ryder Cup in Gleneagles.  Minister Ewing said “Improving accessibility has real potential to help achieve tourism industry growth ambitions and boost the wider economy as well as enhancing social equalities. There’s never been a better time to promote accessible tourism as we progress towards 2014, when Scotland celebrates the second Year of Homecoming and also takes centre stage in world terms as host of the world’s biggest sporting events– the Commonwealth Games and Ryder Cup.“

Chris McCoy, Accessible Tourism Project Manager at VisitScotland, said the launch of the project “ will see us talk about the tangible economic benefits that the industry can harness by making themselves accessible to all.”   David Grevemberg, Glasgow 2014 Chief Executive said “We have embedded accessibility and inclusion into critical aspects of delivering the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.”

The Accessible Tourism Project is one of the official legacy projects for the Commonwealth Games being led by the national tourism agency for city partners, in this case Glasgow 2014, Glasgow City Council, Glasgow City Marketing Bureau, Glasgow Life, Scottish Enterprise and Skills Development Scotland.

Improved access in London following the Olympics, Paralympics

Listen with webReader

London Underground sign

Mayor of London Boris Johnson pledged to make London’s Olympic and Paralympic Games the most accessible ever. To help meet this pledge, in 2009 the London Development Agency (LDA) commissioned a study to assess the accessibility of London as a visitor destination and its readiness to welcome disabled visitors – ‘Is London Ready to Welcome Disabled Visitors?’ Following the Games, the Greater London Authority (GLA) commissioned LiveTourism (working with Arkenford Leisure) to replicate the study to evaluate progress made since 2009 and make recommendations for a continuing legacy programme. The resulting report – “Games Changer?  An evaluation of London as an accessible visitor destination” reports the following:

  • London has become a more accessible city across all aspects of the visitor experience and wider perceptions of disability have improved dramatically
  • Between 2009 and 2012 consumer ratings of accessibility have improved across most aspects of the London visitor experience
  • There is a more consistent level of access across the visitor journey resulting in a more seamless experience
  • However the positive ratings equate to an average of 56% across all sectors. Put in perspective a business achieving just over 50% satisfaction rates would consider there is still much to do to improve the customer experience
  • London is now regarded as being more (or at least equally) accessible than other city destinations, a caveat is the impact that the Games and the associated media coverage has had on customer perceptions but there is ‘still work to be done’.
  • 55% of consumers rated transport positively for access: consumers were more positive about: the availability of ramps/lifts, induction loops and tactile information panels; consistent audio/visual updates and staff attitude and knowledge. Reasons given for a low rating included out-of-date information and advice not being readily available.
  • There was a decline (-9%) in positive access ratings to 53% in accommodation. Mid-range hotels continue to be the most popular choice, despite a -16% decline in those using them since 2009. B&Bs are slightly more popular than they were, though a higher proportion of people consider them (23%) than actually use them (15%).
  • 59% rated attractions positively for access in 2012. Strongest ratings and improvements were for information provision and staff; weaker ratings for onsite accessible facilities especially the provision of blue badge parking.
  • An increase (+12%) in positive access ratings to 59% for eating and drinking establishments. Some of the largest increases in ratings relate to information and staff attitude.
  • An increase (+46%) in positive access ratings to 60% for shopping. Improvements recorded across the board, especially in relation to information provision and staffing.
  • An increase (+16%) in positive access ratings to 55% in the public realm. Improved ratings for accessible road crossings/dropped kerbs, clear routes and pavements, signage/way finding.
  • Visitors ranked their 3 most important access needs as: Blue badge parking, step-free access onto public transport, and staff attitude and knowledge
  • Dedicated access websites have lost popularity and more visitors are using businesses’ own sites. Tourist board sites, while seeing lower usage than in 2009, remain popular (44% used prior to their visit).
  • The Games created a reason, focus, timeline and deadline for making access happen
  • There are concerns about maintaining the quality of experience post Games
  • Existing ‘islands of good practice’ need to be linked to realise their full potential
  • There is low awareness of available training and support available for improving accessibility including ‘Destination London’ – the GLA’s online course for tourism and hospitality teams.
  • Information available to disabled visitors has increased, including the development of the specialist access website – ‘Inclusive London’.  However, this information is not reaching the widest audience

The report goes on to outline eight main recommendations:

  •  Create an Accessible Visitor Experience Concordat with major stakeholders representing every sector of the visitor journey to help continue a coordinated approach to improving London’s accessibility
  • Actively promote London as an accessible visitor destination and promote the improvements made to London’s accessibility
  • Review and consolidate information provided to disabled visitors
  • Encourage Boroughs to adopt a consistent approach to accessibility and inclusion
  • Set up an official London-wide access advisory panel
  • Share access officer resources across boroughs
  • Re-commission London’s accommodation database
  • Repeat consumer research to monitor progress

Tourism Barcelona adds extensive access information to website

Listen with webReader

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.

Global improvements in accessible travel

Listen with webReader
Skier with a disability Photo Larry Pierce

Skier with a disability. Photo by Larry Pierce

The BBC reports that last month, New York City launched a new dispatch system for wheelchair-accessible taxis, making it easier for visitors with disabilities and locals to get around the city. Prospective passengers can book the taxis online, use a free smart phone app called Wheels on Wheels, send a text message to 646-400-0789 or call a cab the old fashioned way – dialling either 646-599-9999 (direct line) or 311 (citywide information line). Though there was a regular dispatch system for all taxis before, there was nothing specifically for wheelchair-accessible vehicles.  Philadelphia is working on a similar project, hoping to have 300 wheelchair-accessible taxis by the end of 2012 and to make all city cabs accessible by 2016. Likewise, on Dublin, the public bus system Dublin Bus is planning for a fully-accessible fleet by the end of this year, with more than 90% of the buses already remodelled.

Other places around the world that have recently made (or are in the process of making) improvements with visitors with disabilities in mind include:

Smooth sailing in Turkey
Turkey is updating its sea ports, harbours and sea transportation vehicles to catch up with the country’s already handicap-accessible airports, train stations and trains. The goal of the “unhindered seas project” is to make improvements such as increasing the number of accessible toilets and the number of available resting areas for the elderly and anyone with physical handicaps.

Better buildings in Dublin and France
In Dublin, all new or newly renovated commercial or non-residential buildings are required to pass a disability access certification process, and all government buildings are expected to be fully accessible by 2015. France has the same goal, but unlike Dublin it is not on track with its timeline. Today only about 15% of government buildings are accessible, a delay that is being blamed on the country’s economic austerity.

Updates in a winter wonderland
Just in time for ski season, Colorado’s Monarch Mountain Ski Resort is remodelling its base lodge to include a wheelchair-accessible elevator. For something a little different right outside the resort, the outfitter Monarch Dog Sled Rides offers scenic winter sled rides through the San Isabel National Forest that can accommodate people with disabilities.

Source: Travel Tips by Suemedha Sood, BBC Travel.


Fifth Italian Accessible Tourism and Sports Show 21-24 March

Listen with webReader

People at an exhibition. Picture from the home page of Gitando.all

 The fifth Italian Accessible Tourism and Sports Show (Gitando.all) is an exhibition specifically for people with disabilities and their families, associations, and clubs. 

The Show presents places to go with accessible current offers, trips, sport, nature, and cultural products, hospitality and accommodation facilities, and leisure time and amusement activities. The Exhibition is also a place where the industry can meet and talk with the accessible tourism sector.  It is therefore of interest to tourism companies, tourism associations, accommodation providers, travel and tour guides and operators, transport and vehicle rental companies, public authorities and decision-makers, retailers and store managers, rehabilitation facilities, architects and planners, rehabilitation experts, and educators.  It is organised in collaboration with Village for All (V4A®), and will be held at the Fiera di Vicenza 21-24 March, 2013. Other events running at the same time will include an “Open Access”, organized by Confartigianato Vicenza, a European show of “Cities for All”, and two experiential areas curated by University of Venice Cà Foscari and from IUAV.

Beginning with the tourism sector, Fiera di Vicenza intends to group together top international companies dealing in all aspects of accessibility solutions.  Including Gitando.all, MITA and BIFA will be held.   The third MITA (International Meeting on Accessible Tourism) is a chance to examine and discuss accessible tourism and best international and national practice in accessible tourism with internationally important spokespeople such as Antonio Tajani, Vice President of the European Commission, Carlo Fidanza, Member of the European Parliament, Max Stich, Vice President of ADAC, Magnus Berglund, Scandic Hotels’ Quality Manager for customers with specific needs and the Governor of the Veneto Region, Luca Zaia. MITA 3 is run in collaboration with the European Commission and ENAT (European Network for Accessible Tourism).

The third BIFA – Buy Italy for all – is a workshop and a unique annual opportunity for accessible tourism operators (Italian sellers) to meet with tour operators, travel agencies and associations interested in purchasing Italian Accessible Tourism products (international and Italian buyers).

In 2010, 2011 and 2012, the President of the Italian Republic, Hon. Giorgio Napolitano, presented Gitando.all with an Award of National Merit. Such an award demonstrates the Head of State’s consent to particularly worthy initiatives.

Heathrow Airport dramatically improves accessibility for passengers with disabilities

Listen with webReader

Person in a wheelchair at an airport

Heathrow, the host airport of London 2012, has dramatically improved accessibility for passengers with disabilities due to the huge investments it made during the Paralympic Games.  So writes Tom Degun in Inside the Games.  The peak arrivals day for the Paralympics came on August 22 when around 2,100 athletes and officials came through Heathrow, with the airport handling over 2,800 wheelchairs during the Games.  During the Olympics and Paralympics, more than 75,000 journeys were made by Paralympians, Olympians and team officials. As well as the 2,800 wheelchairs, the airport handled 5,000 oversized bags including canoes, javelins, bikes and pole vault poles; 1,300 firearms plus ammunition; and 20,000 members of the media. The Paralympics naturally presented a different and greater operational  challenge than the Olympics given the complexity of handling increased numbers  of Passengers with Reduced Mobility (PRMs).   The challenge during the Paralympics was the complexity of passengers’ needs rather than the volume of passengers and bags, meaning it wasn’t necessary to use the temporary Games Terminal for departing Paralympians. However, 300 volunteers waved off each Paralympian with a Guard of Honour bidding them farewell.

“The Heathrow team has spent the last seven years preparing for this challenge,” explained Nick Cole, head of London 2012 planning at Heathrow Airport.  “We conducted rehearsals to test our processes and procedures, and have spent more than £20 million ($32 million/€25 million) in preparing for the Games.  “This includes installing new ramps and lifts to manage the number of passengers with mobility disabilities using Heathrow, and we have given extra training for our staff and volunteers on the safe way to handle specialist wheelchairs.”

In order to meet the challenge posed by the Paralympic Games, Heathrow partnered with mobility charity Whizz-Kidz. The charity offered first-hand, expert guidance on how to further improve the airport’s accessibility. It audited Heathrow’s terminal facilities and suggested a number of improvements, including increasing the number of specialist lifts, known as ambilifts, which are used to help PRMs embark and disembark aircraft. Heathrow now has 12 ambilifts – more than any other airport in Europe.

The charity also recommended obtaining 13 scissor lifts and installing 100 new ramps to help load and unload wheelchairs, upgrading and increasing its fleet of buggies for transporting PRMs through the airport to a total of 60 vehicles, installing four new lifts to help return wheelchairs to the aircraft door, increasing the number of lightweight aisle chairs and self-propelled wheelchairs to 38 and 20 respectively, an on-site wheelchair repair service and installing new accessible toilets. “These improvements provide a positive lasting legacy with an enhanced level of accessibility for PRMs,” added Cole.  “We are very passionate about this and this dedication is becoming infectious across the airport.”

1,000 volunteers were recruited from local communities to assist travellers and Cole added that they had a hugely positive impact, which he hopes will be continued after the Games.  “We would like to have permanent volunteers, local people, working with us to welcome passengers to London and provide the best possible passenger experience.”  The focus now is on the London 2012 legacy and many of the improvements at London-Heathrow will continue to benefit passengers for years to come.

United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities, 3 December 2012

Listen with webReader

United Nations Enable logo

The United Nations’ International Day of Persons with Disabilities will be held  3 December 2012Theme: Removing barriers to create an inclusive and accessible society for all.  Over one billion people, or approximately 15% of the world’s population, live with some form of disability.  Persons with disabilities, “the world’s largest minority”, often face barriers to participation in all aspects of society. Barriers can take a variety of forms, including those relating to the physical environment or to information and communications technology (ICT), or those resulting from legislation or policy, or from societal attitudes or discrimination. The result is that persons with disabilities do not have equal access to society or services, including education, employment, health care,  transportation, political participation or justice.  Evidence and experience shows that when barriers to their inclusion are removed and persons with disabilities are  empowered to participate fully in societal life, their entire community benefits. Barriers faced by persons with disabilities are, therefore, a detriment to society as a whole, and accessibility is necessary to achieve progress and development for all.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) recognizes that the existence of barriers constitutes a central component of disability. Under the Convention, disability is an evolving concept that “results from the interaction between persons with impairments and attitudinal and environmental barriers that hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.”  Accessibility and inclusion of persons with disabilities are fundamental rights recognized by the CRPD and are not only objectives, but also pre-requisites for the enjoyment of other rights. The CRPD (Article 9, accessibility) seeks to enable persons with disabilities to live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life and development. It calls upon States Parties to take appropriate measures to ensure that persons with disabilities have access to all aspects of society, on an equal basis with others, as well as to identify and eliminate obstacles and barriers to accessibility.

In spite of this, in many parts of the world today, lack of awareness and understanding of accessibility as a cross-cutting development issue remains an obstacle to the achievement of progress and development through the Millennium Development Goals, as well as other internationally agreed outcomes for all. The commemoration of International Day of Persons with Disabilities in 2012 provides an opportunity to address this exclusion by focusing on promoting
accessibility and removing all types of barriers in society.  The UN Enable website lists how the day may be observed.

Visitors with disabilities to the UK spend £2.3 billion a year

Listen with webReader

Outside view of the Palace of Westminster, London


At a press conference during the Paralympics in London, James Berresford, CE of Visit England, pointed out how much the UK had done to improve access for people with disabilities leading up to the games.  In a 4km stretch of the South Bank walk alone, £4 million had been spent by Southwark and Lambeth Councils on improving  access.  The improvements include new pavement layouts, better lighting and signage, more seating, more access ramps and handrails.  Improvements across the  Uk make this one of the most accessible destinations in the world.  For example, in London alone, all 8,500 buses and all 22,000 black cabs are wheelchair accessible.

Inclusive London, a website developed by the London 2012 team at the Greater London Authority, went live in March 2011.  Since that time, it has had 12 million hits, says Berresford, and the International Paralympics Committee see the site as a model for use in future Paralympics.  The site allows people to post reviews and  give feedback about the accessibility facilities offered by a place they have visited. Businesses are being encouraged to log on and sign-up to the site so they can register their details and advertise the accessible facilities they offer. The plan is for the site to become a first port of call for people who will be planning a trip to the capital in 2012 and beyond.

Berresford pointed out that already half a million people with disabilities visit London every year, and spend £300 million per year in the UK, while 11 million disabled Brits and their travelling companions spend £2 billion/year.

International Global Disability Rights Library increases content

Listen with webReader

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.

How London is improving access in the lead up to the Olympics and Paralympics

Listen with webReader

Photo of London Bridge

The years of work by a number of bodies in improving access in London in the lead up to the London Olympics and Paralympics (27 July-9 September) is now very evident. The Olympics and Paralympics will bring an extra 11 million visitors to London. Here are just some of the developments.

Transport for All in the UK (TfA), an NGO that has been working for two decades to further the cause of accessible transport in London today launched its new accessible transport information pages.   The Getting to the Games page is aimed at people who want to know how to access each of London’s transport services during Games time, including accessible parking and travelling into London from other areas of the UK. The Avoiding the disruption page contains information for disabled and older Londoners who want to get around as usual during the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Access and facilities at each train station can be found on the National Rail website (station tool), and the website also has an Accessible Rail Travel page.  There is a journey planner available on the London 2012 site, which includes estimated journey times, and a place to download a complete map of all London’s train and tube services, including accessible stations.

Inside all venues, there will be a Games Mobility Service. They will provide wheelchairs, powered wheelchairs and scooters. They can also assist visually impaired visitors to their seats.  Vehicles at all venues can be pre-booked until mid-April. After that, vehicles can be requested on arrival at a venue on the day, on a first come, first served basis.

Inclusive London  (The Greater London Authority and Direct Enquiries) also have produced and access guide to all of the Olympic venues with a key to the meaning of symbols used.  Direct Enquiries, The Nationwide Access Register, was developed in partnership with RADAR and the Employers’ Forum on Disability to provide people with information about disabled access in buildings and premises all across the UK. The register has expanded since its creation to include additional information for parents such as pushchair access.

Inclusive London also has on its website information about accessible hotels, restaurants, pubs, entertainment and attractions, healthcare, shopping, and public services. It also provides information about these facilities around Great Britain.  Another website with invaluable information about access in London and in the UK is Tourism For All.  Well worth a visit.

New Victoria Australia website posts user ratings about access at a variety of venues

Listen with webReader

Travelling Chair is a social networking website where people with disabilities can rate, review and share information on public venues on accessibility.  The website is new but already carries accessibility information about everything from coffee shops to hotels, from clubs to shopping in Victoria Australia.  Grit Media developed the site after finding it difficult to get information about disabilities access at venues.  They found that online databases tended to be out of date with no more than a picture of a chair to indicate accessibility. Calling venues was problematic as staff would often not understand what was needed in terms of bathroom size, wide doorways, space between tables, etc.  Physically checking places out was just far too time consuming.  What was needed was a detailed, updatable database, easily searchable by types of accessibility and physical location; a place where people who understood accessibility could share information about their experiences and make it publically available.  Hence they developed Travelling Chair.  Everyone is invited to add reviews to the site.

Two-volume publication on international accessible tourism includes New Zealand chapter

Listen with webReader

Two new text books on accessible tourism are available through the European Network for Accessible Tourism (ENAT) from Channel View Publications. The first is “Concepts and Issues” (eds: Dimitrios Buhalis and Simon Darcy), which sets out to  explore and document the current theoretical approaches, foundations and issues  in the study of accessible tourism.  Professor Nigel Morgan, The Welsh Centre for Tourism Research states that this volume harnesses “the best conceptual  developments on the topic” and that it will “take accessible tourism and universal design debates into the mainstream of academic enquiryand industry practice“

The second volume is “Best Practice in Accessible Tourism” (eds: Buhalis, Darcy, and Ivor Ambrose).  It focuses on policy and best practice in accessible tourism, reflecting the ”state-of -the-art” as expressed in a selection of international chapters. It brings together global expertise in planning, design and management to inform and stimulate providers of travel, transport, accommodation, leisure and tourism services to serve guests with disabilities, seniors and the wider markets that require good accessibility. Chapter 8, written by Sandra Rhodda of Access Tourism New Zealand, describes the state of accessible tourism in this country.  Overall, the book gives ample evidence that accessible tourism organisations and destinations can expand their target markets as well as improve the quality of their service offering, leading to greater customer satisfaction, loyalty and expansion of business.  Accessible tourism is not only about providing access to people with disabilities but also it addresses the creation of universally designed environments that can support people that may have temporary disabilities, families with young children, the ever increasing ageing population as well as creating a safer environment for employees to work. Noel Scott, of the University of Queensland, Australia says that the volume “provides a ‘state-of-the-art” assessment of both theory and practice. This book establishes a new field of study and provides the benchmark against which other contributions will be judged. It integrates the work of all the key players and should be read by academics, managers and government policy makers.”

London 2012 Forging Ahead with Access Plans for Olympics, Paralympics

Listen with webReader

London 2012 reports that all London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic venues will be accessible to people with disabilities and that they are committed to ensuring that there are good accessible transport options for all spectators travelling to the Games.  The London 2012 Games are delivered by two key organisations – the London 2012 Organising Committee and the Olympic Delivery Authority.

Many access improvements and service enhancements have been made for the Games to make public transport much easier for disabled people, older people and passengers travelling with children. National Rail, London Underground, London Overground and the Docklands Light Railway have all enhanced – and continue to enhance – the accessibility of their services.  Across the network, tactile warning surfaces have been, or are being, installed on platforms and staircases, and seats are available on most platforms.   Audio and visual information is available on
many trains and at many stations. A number of stations have wide-aisle, automatic ticket gates, so they can be used independently by travellers using wheelchairs or those travelling with assistance dogs or pushchairs.

London 2012 has created maps showing the accessible travel routes and stations within London and across the UK. The UK map and south-east map shows where stations are step-free with assistance available at the station and where there is assistance available at the station, but not necessarily step-free facilities. The London map shows levels of step-free facilities and staff assistance at stations across London.  At some venues, accessible shuttles capable of providing transport to multiple wheelchair users will be provided solely for spectators with accessibility
needs. All venues will have free, managed, secure cycle parking suitable for
all types of cycles, including hand bicycles, recumbent and children’s bicycles.

Information for people with accessibility needs is available on the London 2012 website, and – if you are travelling around London but not to the Games – on the Inclusive London website.

Paralympic Winter Games in 2014 and Russians Already Working on Access for People with Disabilities

Listen with webReader

Ikon of the Sochi Russia Paralympics 2014

During the celebrations around the countdown of 1,000 days to go to the opening ceremony of the Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, it was announced that Sochi is to become the first city in Russia to be put on the Russian Accessibility Map.  This map will provide information for people with disabilities about access at sport facilities.  Also launched during the 1000-day celebrations was the Accessible Volunteering Program aimed at making Sochi 2014 volunteering centers accessible for people with disabilities. Four such centres were established on 11 June – two centres in Moscow, one in Sochi and another one in Novorossiysk.   Dmitry Chernyshenko, President of the Organizing Committee said: “On 11 June, there were only 1,000 days left before the Paralympic Winter Games, and we started the countdown up to this historic event for Russia. This event is destined to bring about radical change in the attitude of Russian society towards people with an impairment. I am especially happy that our wonderful volunteers gave momentum to the celebration. They are the proof  that, thanks to the Games, we have been training people qualified to support and assist the disabled.  I am happy that on 11 June thousands of Russians joined the festivities, since the basic values of the Paralympic Movement, such as courage, equality, dedication and inspiration, are close to everyone’s heart!”

17,000 London venues independently assessed for disability access; more to follow

Listen with webReader

Banner from the My Access London website

DisabledGo reports that a new website – My Access London –  has been created in anticipation of next years Olympics and Paralympics.  If you want to find out about the disabled access at venues or attractions across the capital this site has information to over 17,000 venues, including major tourist attractions like the London Eye, Westminster Abbey, London Zoo and the O2 Arena. All have been visited and assessed in person.   The site which officially launches at the beginning of June has been entirely funded and developed by DisabledGo, in response to feedback from disabled people and partner London boroughs who wanted to see an access guide totally dedicated to London.

The website offers an unprecedented choice of personally surveyed access guides.  Access Tourism New Zealand commends DisabledGo’s commitment to never publish self-assessed, non-verified information, that is, information provided by for example tourism venue owners such as accommodation providers or attractions unless it has been independently assessed.   As a research project in NZ has found (Rhodda, 2007), only about a third of tourism operators correctly self-assess their access for people with disabilities.

The number of venues featured on will significantly increase during 2011 in the build up to next year’s Olympic Games. In July alone, 2,000 additional venues will be added thanks to new partnerships with London boroughs. If you would like more information about please contact Rachel Felton, External Relations Manager. E: T: 01438 842710

Wheelies Can Hot Air Balloon For the First Time in California

Listen with webReader

Up and Away Ballooning

This North American spring (2011), a company called Up & Away Ballooning will become the first hot air balloon operator in the United States to offer wheelchair using  adventurers the opportunity to soar above the California’s Sonoma County.  Up & Away Ballooning ordered specially-designed easy-access basket from London, designed to include everyone. The basket measures approximately 4 feet by 7 feet and can carry a wheelchair rider and up to three others.  Mike and Patti Kijak, owners of Up & Away Ballooning made the decision to purchase the wheelchair accessible basket in response to numerous inquiries from private individuals and travel agents with clients seeking to experience Northern California’s picturesque Wine Country from a balloon.   “It’s a dream three years in the making,” says Mike.  You can watch a YouTube presentation about ballooning  over Sonoma Valley in a wheelchair here, and listen to a Big Blend radio interview about the project here.  

 Contact: Mike Kijak, Email:, Phone: 707-836-0171, Toll Free within the states: 1800-711-2998

New U.N. Web Resource Page on Disability and Sports

Listen with webReader

Wheelchair racer

The new Disability and Sports web page on the United Nations Enable website highlights the unique ability of sport to transcend linguistic and cultural barriers making it an excellent platform for strategies for advancing inclusion and empowerment of persons with disabilities in society and development. It also draws attention to the universal popularity of sport and its physical, social and economic development benefits that make it an ideal tool for fostering the inclusion and well-being of persons with disabilities. The web page also provides links to publications and other documents on the issue, as well as links to related websites. Along with Member States and civil society, DESA will organize a panel discussion on 27 June at UN Headquarters to discuss issues on how to tap the potential of sports to promote disability-inclusive development and raise public awareness about disability issues. More information: