Travel businesses missing out on huge market: WTM

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 Travel businesses failing to take into account the disabled market are missing out on up to £80 billion of potential spend in the UK alone. The headline figure was discussed a round table conversation organized by The Travel Tech Show at the World Travel Market (WTM) and Amadeus, which focused on disabled and responsible travel.  The event featured an in-depth and informed discussion as eight experts from both business arenas gathered to discuss the markets. But it was the figure from the UK Government’s 2012 Legacy for Disabled People, Inclusive and Accessible Business which provoked much discussion.  Ataxia South Wales Chairman Alan Jones said the report showed the UK’s estimated 10.6 million disabled people have a combined annual spend on goods and services of up to £80 billion, adding: “It is a big market out there. What’s the travel industry doing about it? In a word, nothing.”  Jones said the problems start as soon as he tries to book a holiday as many people in the industry see his wheelchair rather than the human being using it, leaving agents too embarrassed to deal with.

Enable Holidays Managing Director Lynne Kirby said such problems are endemic in a trade which has failed to educate staff how best to handle disabled people. Amadeus Director of Marketing Rob Sinclair-Barnes added if the market is to be adequately served, it must be all encompassing: “Accessible travel is the only type of travel that has implications from the moment of departure from home to the moment of return.”  However, Virgin Atlantic Passenger Disability Adviser Geraldine Lundy said the trade would need to go even further to meet the market’s needs, adding: “It is even before they (disabled travelers) leave home. It is when they’re thinking about the holiday and booking it. It is about getting the information about where they want to go.”  Lundy said the information needs to be accurate to allow disabled people to make informed decisions. She added it must also take in to account that some disabled people are blind or have learning difficulties and will need the information presented in a different way.  Sinclair-Barnes pointed out that as Baby Boomers enter old age and face increasing health problems, the industry must take action. “It (accessible travel) is a growing market. I’ve found it quite astonishing how little (product) there is.”

Source: World Travel Market.  WTM is the leading global event for the travel industry, and holds a four-day business-to-business exhibition for the worldwide travel and tourism industry. Almost 48,000 senior travel industry professionals, government ministers and international press, embark on ExCeL – London every November to network, negotiate and discover the latest industry opinion and trends at WTM.

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AccessAble Leicester app: 24/7 access guide

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Leicester city centre

DisabledGo, working in partnership with Leicester City Council have launched a brand new app to revolutionise access information.  The AccessAble Leicester App is the world’s first bespoke access app on iOS, delivering user friendly accessibility guides, available 24/7.  It is powered by DisabledGo. This free mobile application enables disabled people and their friends and families to find detailed access information from a pan disability perspective for over 1000 venues across the city of Leicester, including car parks, toilets, and entrances.  Every venue is visited and assessed in person by a highly trained DisabledGo surveyor.

The AccessAble Leicester App offers the following mobile access features.  They include:

AccessAroundMe – Instant access to detailed access information to places to visit across Leicester at the touch of a button. Each detailed access guide has information about opening times, directions, ramps, lifts, accessible toilets and much more!

Find A Loo – Highlights the closest public accessible toilet to the user’s current location, and gives precise details of the facility.

MyWayToGo – The world’s first integration between mobile access information and maps. Users can now locate and get directions directly to their chosen accessible place to visit.

FindMeNow –  built in emergency locator that sends the GPS location of the user, directly to their selected emergency contact via email or SMS.

AccessMyWay – Enables the user to filter results to match their specific access requirements, such as accessible toilets, car parking, changing places and hearing assistance.

Apple VoiceOver – compatible with Apple’s VoiceOver software, making all the access information accessible.

The app will give spontaneity and choice back to disabled people, breaking down the barriers to enjoying and contributing to their community faced by them.

Cllr Manjula Sood, Assistant Leicester City Mayor for community involvement, partnerships and equalities, said that the council was aware that disabled people want better information about accessible facilities in Leicester, following the many changes to the city centre over the last few years.   “Changes such as improved shop mobility facilities, level street access throughout city centre, and the city’s many major attractions, need to be supported by up to date and reliable information about accessibility”, said Sood.  “With more and more people using smartphones, this new app will make this information easy to find and help ensure equal opportunity and choice for everyone.   We want to ensure that disabled people have comfortable and enjoyable visits to the city centre.”

DisabledGo was founded in 2000 by wheelchair user Gregory Burke and is a not for profit disability organisation.  It provides online access information to towns and cities across the UK and Ireland free of charge at.   It features over 120,000 places including shops, tourist attractions, universities, hotels, health centres, colleges, restaurants, leisure centres and more.   The aim of DisabledGo is to let people with disabilities know what they will find at a particular venue or attraction so they can plan in advance with confidence or find places that suit them while travelling.

To download the app, visit the iTunes Store.   Major source: press release.  Follow on Twitter: @DisabledGo @Leicester_News @LeicesterCncl

Website Accessibility: A New Frontier Of Inclusion

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Chris Lona of CL Design is making the web/digital a better, accessible experience for disabled and ageing people. He hopes to help organizations generate more revenue by being more inclusive of this group pf customers online. In addition, he hopes to help organizations improve compliance with accessibility initiatives and mandates.  In this guest blog, he writes about web access.

Website front page with audio

Turn on your sound and visit http://www.sitellites.com/new_Zealand/

Keep your hand down if you’ve ever had a problem accessing a website. After all why make you go through extra effort if you don’t have to… Imagine that the challenges you’ve had accessing websites were compounded by being visually, auditory, physically or cognitively challenged? You would be even more frustrated than you were when you had the original challenges.   If you are a business owner in tourism, travel or hospitality and have gone to great lengths to ensure your destination is accessible, how accessible is your website which is the first impression and gateway to your offerings? If a disabled or older person wants to visit your destination and they cannot access your website, do you think they will book the trip through your company? Does it make sense – since your destination is about a superior, accessible experience – that your site should be as well? Canada, Europe the US and other countries all have legislation, mandates, or initiatives that address the issue of web accessibility.     In 2008 retailer Target had to pay $6 million because their websitewas not accessible. The consensus around a standard for web access generates from the W3C’s WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) which has a goal of providing a single shared standard for web content accessibility. A nice goal to be sure but the realities and “best practices” involved leave a lot to be desired. What has come out of this as “best practices” is a web where it is completely acceptable to build a website and then find ways to make it accessible with assistive technology mostly for the visually challenged. This main assistive technology for the visually impaired is called a screen reader. It is software that reads the information on a web page aloud in a synthetic computer voice. But this assistive technology presents several access barriers of its own—cost, computer requirements, learning curve, lack of accessible websites and a robotic, synthetic voice. There is a new mandate in the U.S. called the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act: It contains (in short) “ground-breaking protections to enable people with disabilities to access broadband, digital and mobile innovations — a study conducted by the FCC revealed that people with disabilities are less likely to use Internet-based communications technologies”.   For the web this will mean that certain videos will be required to be closed captioned for the auditory challenged.   In terms of any mandates for inclusion of the physically and cognitively challenged when they use the internet, there are vague references to inclusion of a variety of people with differing disabilities. What all of this means for businesses and their commitment to (and compliance with) web accessibility initiatives is a lack of access for them. Where will they turn to make their site be able to be read by a screen reader? How will they find the right resource to make sure their online videos are closed captioned? What resources exist to ensure that the physically and cognitively challenged will also be able to access their online and physical world experience? The fact that they will be forced into providing web access as a piecemeal approach will mean that fewer companies will bother due to the difficulties and expense.   The crux of the issue lies with the fact that “best practices” treat web accessibility as an afterthought rather than as an integrated design. A building is built with accessibility as an integral part of the design. What do you think? Should accessibility for websites be integrated from the ground up to create better online experiences for everyone? Contact: cld@cldesign.co. (Contains audio); www.cldesign.co Visit demo at http://www.sitellites.com/new_Zealand/

UNWTO FITUR session on accessible tourism and technology

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Person with a disability using an iPhone image from UNWTO

The UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has for a number of years supported the facilitation of tourist travel by people  with disabilities as a vital element of any responsible and sustainable tourism development policy.   The Role of Technology in Accessible Tourism For All is one of several topics to be addressed at the International Tourism Trade Fair (FITUR) in Madrid January 28-February 1.   FITUR is a global meeting point for tourism professionals and the leading trade fair for inbound and outbound Ibero American markets.   It was attended by 9,083 exhibiting companies from 165 countries/ regions, 120,231 trade participants and 97,549 people from the general public in 2014.  Also present were 7,368 journalists from 60 countries, a turnout that demonstrates the importance of FITUR on the international circuit of tourism sector events.

The Role of Technology in Accessible Tourism For All is a session at FITUR organized by UNWTO, Fundación ONCE and PREDIF (Plataforma Representativa Estatal de Personas con Discapacidad Física) in collaboration with IFEMA and Vodafone España.  It will highlight good practices in the development and use of new technologies in the fields of travel, tourism and leisure. It will also address the major challenges for generalizing the use of these technologies in the various links of the accessibility chain in tourism.  New technologies can contribute to making the tourism experience more accessible and rewarding for everyone, including seniors, persons with disabilities and others with reduced mobility.   During the session, there will be a presentation of the Manual on Accessible Tourism for All (UNWTO/ONCE Foundation/ENAT) by Marina Diotallevi, Programme Manager, Ethics & Social Responsibility, UNWTO.

Follow on Twitter: @UNWTO @UNWTO_pub @EUaccesstourism @Fundacion_ONCE @feriafitur @Predif_Estatal #FITUR2015

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

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tvcircuits04090016.jpg (405583 bytes)

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

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

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

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

Accessible Tourism round table at World Travel Market

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Wheelchair being pushed in a Spanish street

The World Travel Market (WTM) is a 35-year-old leading global business-to-business event with presentations and exhibitions for the worldwide travel and tourism industry.  It is attended by almost 48,000 senior travel industry professionals, government ministers and international press in London every November. WTM 2012 generated £1,860 million of travel industry contracts. WTM also runs a number of other business-to-business events covering all elements of travel and tourism.  At this year’s Travel and Technology Show, a round table was held on Accessible Travel and Responsible Travel.  The event featured an in-depth and informed discussion as eight experts from both business arenas gathered to discuss the markets.

Ataxia South Wales Chairman Alan Thomas said the UK’s estimated 10.6 million disabled people have a combined annual spend on goods and services of up to £80 billion, adding: “It is a big market out there. What’s the travel industry doing about it? In a word, nothing.”  According to a UK Government report (2012 Legacy for Disabled People, Inclusive and Accessible Business Travel), businesses failing to take into account this market are missing out on up to £80 billion of potential spend. Thomas said the problems start as soon as he tries to book a holiday as many people in the industry see his wheelchair rather than the human being using it, leaving agents too embarrassed to deal with. Enable Holidays Managing Director Lynne Kirby said such problems are endemic in a trade which has failed to educate staff how best to handle disabled people. She said: “Disabled customers have gone in to a shop and everybody disappears and I have to say hand on heart it is still happening” But Kirby believes the solution is simple, adding: “It is about getting the right information but the travel industry doesn’t know the questions to ask” Amadeus Director of Marketing Rob Sinclair-Barnes added if the market is to be adequately served, it must be all encompassing: “Accessible travel is the only type of travel that has implications from the moment of departure from home to the moment of return.” However, Virgin Atlantic Passenger Disability Adviser Geraldine Lundy said the trade would need to go even further to meet the market’s needs, adding: “It is even before they (disabled travelers) leave home. It is when they’re thinking about the holiday and booking it. It is about getting the information about where they want to go.” Lundy said the information needs to be accurate to allow disabled people to make informed decisions. She added it must also take in to account that some disabled people are blind or have learning difficulties and will need the information presented in a different way. Sinclair-Barnes added as the Baby Boomers enter old age and face increasing health problems, the industry must take action. “It (accessible travel) is a growing market. I’ve found it quite astonishing how little (product) there is.”

Source: WTM

Ataxia South Wales @AlanROYGBIV Enable Holidays @enableholidays Amadeus Director of Marketing Rob Sinclair-Barnes @AmadeusITGroup Virgin Atlantic @VirginAtlantic

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

Why Baby Boomers are being sold short: NZ Listener article

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Front cover of the Listener magazine for August 31 to September 6 2013 showing faceless Baby Boomers

This week’s New Zealand Listener magazine cover story is about how business in this country neglects Baby Boomers to their peril.  Karl du Fresne writes that Boomers are a huge demographic controlling most of the disposable income who are largely ignored.  Older consumers are 32% of our population but control an estimated 65% of disposable income but attract only 10% of of advertising spending.  Doug Lloyd at AUT University’s communications school says that this is because agencies and marketers are dominated by people under 40.  “While the baby-boomer generation spends up large on new cars, travel, technology, financial services, healthcare, and dining out, advertising agencies and marketing managers still seem to equate age with Viagara and Zimmer frames” writes du Fresne.  The phenomenon was noted in “The business of Ageing”, a 2011 Ministry of Social Development report which warned that businesses who ignore Boomers will find their markets shrinking.  Other reports – such as that by Neilsen for the Hope Foundation for Research on Ageing –  have warned of the consequences of ignoring the Boomer market.  Many a blog on this website (Access Tourism NZ) has over the years tried to bring the attention of the NZ tourism, travel, and hospitality industry to the fact that by ignoring Boomers, seniors (and people with disabilities), the industry is ignoring a lucrative market (the latest such article, 12 days ago). An indication of this lack of interest in older visitors to NZ can be seen, for example, in the promotional photographs in the image library used by the 100% Pure NZ website (the official Tourism NZ website).  A quick survey of these photographs shows that fewer than 5% include models who appear to be over 45 years of age acting as visitors.  This is in spite of the fact that the number of older visitors to New Zealand is on the rise, and that currently 43% are 45 or older.

Former NZ Herald editor-in-chief Gavin Ellis (now a media researcher) pointed out to du Fresne that ignoring Boomers is counter-intuitive, and that “younger people now, particularly the under-25s, are finding it very hard to get high-paying jobs…..their disposable income is probably less that it has been in the past”.  Richard Poole, co-founder of GrownUps, an ezine aimed at the mature, internet-savvy demographic says this group should be even more attractive to advertisers because people aged 46-65 are often influential across four generations. “As well as making their own spending decisions, they might be choosing a retirement home for their octogenarian parents, advising their adult children on their first home purchase, and opening KiwiSaver accounts for their grandchildren”

The Listener article also presented the following facts about New Zealanders 50 years old or older:

  • More than 100 New Zealanders a day turn 50
  • They spend 16% per person more than younger New Zealanders
  • They buy 80% of new premium car purchases
  • 30% are internet users (more than in the 4049 age group)
  • By 2031 there will be over 1 million aged 65 or older
  • By 2051 consumer spending by older people could increase from $11 billion currently to $45 billion
  • Their spending on food and entertainment is expected to increase fourfold

New Irish standard on Universal Design for customer engagement in tourism services

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Overview of the toolkit

The Irish standard (I.S.) 373:2013 entitled, ‘Universal Design for customer engagement in tourism services: Business case and overview” is available as a toolkit on the National Standards Authority of Ireland website.  The toolkit was developed by Dolmen (www.dolmen.ie) on behalf of the Centre for Excellence in Universal Design at the National Disability Authority, Ireland (NDI). It was developed in consultation with a wide range of stakeholders involved in the tourism industry. It is part of a series that includes toolkits about written communication, face-to-face and video communication, and electronic and web-based communication (see the Tools and Strategies page for links under Centre for Excellence in Universal Design). The Irish Standard, which is voluntary, provides an industry best-practice reference on design requirements for the application of Universal Design by Tourism Service Providers. It outlines Universal Design requirements that facilitate positive customer engagement through the provision of products and services for communications that can be easily accessed, understood and used by tourism customers.  This Irish Standard is intended to enable tourism providers to communicate more effectively with a wider range of tourists and has the potential to grow the tourist market for Irish tourism. Universal Design for customer engagement extends beyond a focus on disability and special needs to include all people, regardless of their age, size, ability or disability.

Australia: HRC, CCAN announce new accessible app challenge

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Photo of two girls one of whom uses a wheelchair from the AHRC website

The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) and the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) have announced a new accessible app challenge, Apps For All.  This award recognizes that while many Australians with disabilities are harnessing gadgets, apps and websites to improve their lives, millions are potentially missing out on the digital revolution because app developers and manufacturers are failing to accommodate the needs of people with disability and older consumers. The prestigious annual competition, announced at the M-Enabling Australasia 2013 conference earlier this month, will award the best mobile and tablet apps submitted in the following categories:

Most accessible mainstream app

  • Most  innovative app designed for people with disability
  • Most  accessible children’s app
  • Most  accessible game app

An accessible app is one which has been designed from the ground up to cater to all consumers. This can range from properly labelling buttons so they can be read by screen reading software used by people who are blind or vision impaired, to innovative apps specifically designed to improve the lives of people with disability or the elderly.  “We hope these awards will inspire new and innovative apps that harness the enabling benefits of mobile technology to improve the lives of Australians with disabilities,” said ACCAN CEO Teresa Corbin.  Currently, about one in five Australians has some form of permanent disability, but this figure will increase as the population ages and people experience more disability.  Locking this demographic out is both “bad ethics and bad business”, said Corbin. Prizes and entry deadlines will be announced at a later date with the winners to be revealed at ACCAN’s annual conference next year.

The two-day M-Enabling Australasia 2013 conference, held on 14-15 August in Sydney, brought together local and international experts on accessible technologies, mobile service providers, developers, manufacturers, retail and business groups, regulators, policymakers, and organisations representing people with disabilities and older people.

Improved access in London following the Olympics, Paralympics

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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

Free toolkits for tourism businesses: how to improve access and your bottom line

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Traveller at reception desk

The Centre for Excellence in Universal Design Ireland (CEUD) was established by the National Disability Authority (NDA) in January 2007 under the Disability Act 2005.  It has produced three, free guides for tourism businesses so that they may achieve better customer communication at no extra cost.  Universal Design is the design and composition of an environment so that it can be accessed, understood and used to the greatest extent possible by all people regardless of their age, size, ability or disability.  The guides are:

1. Written communication.   This toolkit helps businesses assess their written communications to ensure that they are easy to read and understandable, they are engaging, and deliver better customer experience.   By providing better customer experience for older customers, businesses could target a market that spends 40% more on holidays annually than the under 30s age group.”

2.  Face-to-face, telephone & video communication.    This toolkit helps businesses ensure they are communicating in a way that is easy to understand, to better engage with their customers, to deliver a better customer experience, and to develop new customer communications.  Good customer experience makes good business sense.  “Two-thirds of customers are willing to spend an average of 13% more with a company they believe provides good customer service”, and this toolkit provides practical guidance that can be applied to a business at no extra cost.  It is particularly valuable for front-line staff.

3.  Electronic and web based communication.    This toolkit ensures that a businesses’ electronic communication is easy to read, accessible, and understandable.  Having an accessible website makes good business sense because they are “more visible to search engines, 50% faster to navigate, and they can also offer savings through reduced maintenance costs”.

Tenerife launches new accessible tourism website, guide

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View of Tenerife from Tourism Tenerife website

The Cabildo (government) of Tenerife, through Tourism Tenerife and SINPROMI present an Accessible Guide to Tenerife.   The goal is to position the island of Tenerife as a leader in this tourism segment.  The website is in Spanish, English and German.  It provides the geolocation of facilities and other resources.  The guide has more than 50 accessible tourism resources, and information about the accessibility of beaches on the island and places of tourist interest like the Teide National Park, Anaga and Teno parks, and the historic centers of La Laguna, Garachico, Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Buenavista del Norte, among others.  There is also information about accessible activities such as hiking, whale watching, and access at museums.  (read more at the Source)

Tenerife se consolida como destino de referencia en turismo accessible

El Cabildo de Tenerife, a través de Turismo de Tenerife y la Sociedad Insular para la Promoción de las Personas con Discapacidad (Sinpromi), presentan la Guía Tenerife Destino Accesible y la web www.tenerife-accesible.org.  El objetivo es posicionar a la isla de Tenerife como referente en turismo accesible a nivel nacional e internacional.  En ese sentido, la web se presenta en español, inglés y alemán, con versión estándar y para móvil.  Además, permite la geolocalización de las instalaciones y otros recursos, así como conocer la accesibilidad del entorno urbano, favoreciendo la movilidad de los usuarios.  Lea mas aqui.

ACCESSIBILITY PASS – a New Global Hotel Certification Scheme

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Hotel sign on the outside of a building

Growing demand for accessible hotel services for individuals with disabilities and the elderly means that offering equal services to all guests is a focal point for hotel managers who want to maximize their overall service portfolio.  A number of hotels around the world offer accessible services, but there is no global “standard” being used to provide a uniform and objective measure of how accessible each hotel is and to whom.  As a result, the information available to people with accessibility needs is incomplete and not reliable enough to ensure that they can enjoy their accommodation and stay.  ACCESSIBILITY PASS classifies hotels’ accessibility level based on their infrastructure, services offered and personnel skills, providing a universal scheme that takes into account currently existing national standards (ENAT).

ACCESSIBILITY PASS includes information for clients with motor, visual, hearing or cognitive disabilities and is a global hotel certification scheme that classifies hotels’ accessibility level based on their infrastructure, services offered and personnel skills.  As such it ensures that a hotel is offering the same service quality to individuals with a disability as to any other client.  It is applicable to any Hotel class/type and to Conference Centers.  Hotels & Conference Centers fulfilling the ACCESSIBILITY PASS requirements get a certificate featuring their accessibility level appropriate to each disability group.  The access labels gained can be listed in the ACCESSIBILITY PASS Public Registry, which features detailed information on a venue’s accessibility features.

ACCESSIBILITY PASS is operated by PEOPLECERT, which offers globally recognized certifications, such as ITIL®, ISO 20000, ISO 27000 and IASSC Lean Six Sigma in over 20 languages.  It has been endorsed by a number of international organizations.

NZ Baby Boomers increasing use of internet

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Baby Boomers are increasingly technologically savvy, according to a survey commissioned by leading 50+ community website, GrownUps New Zealand.  More than a thousand Kiwi baby boomers revealed their technological habits in GrownUps annual online survey with results showing the only factor holding people back from using the internet more was a lack of free time.  Nearly 50% said more free time would enable them to increase use of the internet.  Ninetye-seven percent are regular users of social media sites, and 62% are active users of Facebook. YouTube and Twitter are also popular.   Fifty-six percent use the internet to research travel destinations and book overseas holidays.  Ninety-three percent use broadband, and use the internet between 5 and 20 hours per week.

Richard Poole, co-founder of GrownUps says the survey results indicate that Kiwis over fifty are one of the most technologically advanced groups, right up there with those in Generation Y.  This is contrary to the popular opinion that Kiwis over fifty are not very technologically conscious.

Quality Brand for Accessible Tourism backed by Italian Ministry of Tourism

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Headline of the Village for All website showing logo and woman

Village for all – V4A® – is an international Italian Quality Brand for Accessible Tourism. Because it is very difficult for tourists with specific needs or disabilities to find reliable information to allow holiday or trip planning,  V4A® provides information.  The information allows people with disabilities  to look at access information about accommodations, swimming baths, museums etc.  Any tourism business that bears V4A® brand has been visited by V4A® inspectors where information is collected about access. This information is posted on website, and is freely available, with no need to register or leave details.  Visitors to the site subscribe to a newsletter.  V4A® as a brand assigned to tourism facilities in two Italy and Croatia.

The Village for all – V4A® project has obtained sponsorship from Italian Ministry of Tourism, Faita (Federcamping, an organisation which includes more than 2000 of the 2500 Italian camping sites),  FISH (Federazione Italiana Superamento Handicap = Italian Federation for Overcoming a Handicap, an organisation which includes 44 national associations with 1400 sites in Italy representing about 1.5 million people), and  SiPuò (Laboratorio Nazionale Turismo Accessibile = National Accessible Tourism Workshop, a national organisation of experts in the accessible tourism sector).

Village for all – V4A*Via Frutteti 115/a – 44123 Ferrara
Presidente: Roberto Vitali
Ph. +39 0532 067120 – Fax +39 0532 067121 info@villageforall.netwww.v4a.it Twitter: @Villageforall

How improving access can improve business: IBM

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Woman with crutches shopping

Holly Neilsen of IBM Research writes about how accessibility affects businesses.  Ultimately, says Neilsen,  accessibility and inclusion affect us all because we are all ageing.  People who have disabilities use assistive technology (AT) and accessible IT (information technology) to access the Internet and its many applications. For example, people who are:

  • blind or have low vision might use a screen reader, software that reads text out loud (text-to-speech).
  • deaf or hard of hearing might use video captions to read audio output from the computer (speech-to-text).
  • mobility impaired often cannot use a mouse, so they might need alternative input methods such as voice input, alternate keyboards or keyboard access devices such as mouth sticks.
  • cognitively disabiled might need dual input to make sense of content; for instance, reading a webcast transcript at the same time they are listening to the webcast.

Although accessible IT is critical for people with disabilities to effectively use technology, many other groups of people benefit from it also. For example, today’s older generation is not only larger than ever before; but they are healthier and living longer. Forty percent of the projected population of Japan in 2060 will be 65 or older (Time magazine, 13/2/2012). In China, 437 million, one third of the population, will be 60 or older by 2050 (Washington Post). The first baby boomers started turning 65 in 2011, and – although most wouldn’t classify themselves as having a disability –  many are beginning to need assistive aids and technologies: reading glasses, larger fonts on their smartphones, tablets and laptops, and captions for videos.

Also, many solutions first developed for people with disabilities are ubiquitous in today’s world. The most recognizable ones are curb cuts and closed caption TV. Mobile devices, such as smartphones, have built-in functions, such as “voice over,” that voice- enable applications and websites, and are useful for both sighted and vision-impaired users. Ultimately, technologies are changing at whirlwind speed, and developers can take steps to reduce or eliminate many of the barriers that inhibit or prevent access:

  • When websites and applications are designed and built to the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, the recommendations make web content more accessible.
  • When the Web Accessibility Initiative Accessible Rich Internet Applications (WAI-ARIA) Suite is implemented in web content and applications developed in technologies such as Ajax, HTML, or JavaScript, they become more accessible to people with disabilities.  IBM, for example, has built WAI-ARIA into its corporate accessibility guidelines to help make rich Internet applications accessible.

The bottom line according to Nielsen? Regardless of the industry, when accessibility is built into websites, products, and applications, businesses can provide a rich, interactive, easy-to-use experience that is inclusive for all users.  With accessible and inclusive applications, businesses can reach out to new markets, build customer loyalty in a global marketplace with more choices for customers than ever, and build employee satisfaction.

VisitEngland publishes results of Accessible Information research

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Front cover of the VisitEngland Access Information Research publication showing a woman in a wheelchair reading

VisitEngland (the national tourism board) carried out a survey in March 2012 looking at information that is available for people with disabilities who are planning a trip.  The Access Information Research findings from the survey include that:

  • 94% of survey respondents say it is important to be able to find information on a destination’s provision for the relevant condition before travel – but only 39% find it easy to find this information, a gap of 56% between the importance of accessibility information and how easy it is to find
  • Information on accessibility of things to see and do, the surrounding environment and accommodation are the most important but difficult to find, particularly for the surrounding environment and places to eat & drink
  • A lack of information has a large effect on respondents’ likelihood to visit a destination, with 66% saying they would be ‘much less’ likely to visit a destination if unable to find the information required and 74% ‘a lot more likely’ to visit the destination with the best information available.
  • Tourism websites for the destination are the key information source for accessibility information, with 83% of respondents using them and 42% using them as their main source of information.
  • Respondents prefer to access information online, with 84% saying information on web pages is ‘very useful’ (however, the survey was conducted online so all respondents have internet access, and other formats may be useful to those without). Full findings are available here.

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).

Scandic Hotels expanding their accessibility information online

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Aerial view of The Rapa River in Northern Sweden

Scandic Hotels has 160 hotels in nine countries, 29,910 hotel rooms and a turnover of EUR 842 million, Scandic is the largest hotel chain in the Nordic countries. They have an excellent international reputation for access. More and more people are discovering that accessible hotel environments make their stay more comfortable and convenient, but many find it hard to track down the accessibility information they need. Having seen a sharp rise in enquiries about accessibility from companies, organisations and active older travellers, Scandic is expanding its website to include the new “special needs”page.   This provides everything from invaluable links to museums, amusement parks and taxis to recommendations for conference hotels, personal tips and advice, interviews and detailed accessibility information for all of its hotels. At the same time, Scandic is publishing its unique accessibility standard on the website as a way to help and inspire other companies and organisations to improve their accessibility. “We want to make it as easy as possible to plan trips that offer good accessibility all the way and we are seeing huge demand for information,” explains Magnus Berglund, Accessibility Ambassador at Scandic. “That’s why we’ve really expanded the website in a move to gather as much information as possible in one place. Anyone who has ever tried to locate accessibility information knows how time-consuming and complicated it can be to find out, for example, how long the walk is from the airport gate to the taxi rank. Or whether a visit to the city’s amusement park  is recommended if you have mobility issues.”

Scandic has a unique accessibility standard with 110 points which it is making public.  Eighty-one of these are compulsory for all their hotels, while the whole list is implemented in their new and refurbished hotels.   “We’re making the accessibility standard public so that it can hopefully inspire others to do more about their accessibility” says Berglund.  Scandic‟s accessibility brochure is also available to read or download on the website.  A CNN interview with Magnus Berglund can be viewed here: http://www.scandichotels.com/Always-at-Scandic/Special-needs/Info-and-media/

For further information, contact: Magnus Berglund, Accessibility Ambassador Scandic, tel: +46 709 73 5077 Margareta Thorgren, Vice President Group Communication, Scandic, tel: +46 8 517 352 54 http://scandichotels.com/specialneeds