EU opens Access City Awards 2015

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The European Commission has opened the competition for the fifth ‘Access City Award 2015’, the European Award for Accessible Cities. The annual prize recognises and celebrates cities for their efforts to make it easier for the disabled and older people to gain access to public areas such as housing, children’s play areas, public transport or communication technologies.   Making Europe more accessible to those with disabilities is a key part of the EU’s overall disability strategy 2010-2020, which provides the general framework for action in the area of disability and accessibility at EU level to complement and support Member States’ action .  Since 2010, 171 cities have participated so far in the 4 previous Access City Award. The Award is part of the EU’s wider efforts to create a barrier-free Europe: improved accessibility brings lasting economic and social benefits to cities, especially in the context of demographic ageing. Cities with at least 50,000 inhabitants have until 10 September 2014 to submit their entries for the award.   EC Vice-President Viviane Reding, Commissioner for Justice said that people with disabilities still face too many barriers in everyday life, which is why the EU has placed accessibility at the centre of their strategy for building a barrier-free Europe.  “The Access City award allows cities across Europe to showcase their efforts in making life more accessible for all!” said Reding.  “I am pleased to see that there are so many good practices shown by European cities – accessibility offers new business opportunities and can be a real stimulus for innovation and growth. I encourage all European cities to participate in this excellent European initiative and help make Europe more accessible for all”

The Access City Award is given to the city that has demonstrably and sustainably improved accessibility in fundamental aspects of city living, and that has concrete plans for further improvements. The Award covers actions in the areas of:

1. Built environment and public spaces; 2. Transport and related infrastructures; 3. Information and communication, including new technologies (ICTs); and 4. Public facilities and services.

Previous Access City Award winners include Avila Spain,  Salzburg Austria,  Berlin Germany, and Gothenburg (Sweden).  

Source:  EU release.   Follow on Twitter: @EU_Justce @VivianeRedingEU 


United Nations to participate in first World Summit “DESTINATIONS FOR ALL”

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Logo Destinations for All

Ms. Daniela Bas, Director of the Division for Social Policy and Development (DSPD) of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), will inaugurate the first World Summit Destinations for All, to be held in Montreal October 19-22, 2014. Bas was appointed Director of UNDESA’s DSPD in May 2011.  She is a specialist in international politics, human rights, and social development.  The summit aims to identify and implement the necessary measures to establish international tourism that is inclusive and accessible to everyone.  More specifically, the event is expected to:

1) Make progress in determination of a set of international norms and standards with regards to accessible tourism and transportation

2) Highlight the economic benefits for destinations to be completely inclusive and accessible, and to develop and enhance accessible tourism products

3) Establish a world partnership and a common international strategy to develop universal accessibility for infrastructures, tourism services, transport, and to increase the availability of information on the accessibility of different destinations

The main driver of the conference is Keroul, a key consultant for Tourisme Québec regarding accessibility.  Many prestigious international organizations support the Summit, including the World Tourism Organization, the International Organization of Social Tourism, the World Centre of Excellence for Destinations, the European Network for Accessible Tourism, the ONCE Foundation in Spain, and Association Tourisme et Handicaps France.  Members of the steering committee and programme committee come from around the world, including Australasia (Access Tourism New Zealand being one), Asia, Northe America, Europe and the UK, and the Middle East.  The co-chairs of the summit are André Vallerand of Keroul and Ivor Ambrose of ENAT.

Berlin a hero in improving access for visitors and citizens

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

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

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

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

Follow on Twitter: @visitberlin @EU_Justice

Philippine government to hold Accessible Tourism forum

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Philippines beach

The Philippine Government (Department of Tourism and National Council on Disability Affairs) will hold an Accessible Tourism Forum at Barangay Tawala (Pangalao Island) on November 26.  This continuers the government’s thrust of promoting the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the tourism industry and other tourism-related programs of the government.   The forum will be conducted in line with Philippine statutes, such as Batas Pambansa Bilang 344 (Accessibility Law), Republic Act No. 7277, the Magna Carta for Persons with Disabilities, and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).

Relevant to this, the forum will also identify major issues related to accessible tourism and recommend policy measures that would create an inclusive, barrier-free and rights-based society for persons with disabilities.  The construction of tourism related establishments, technical aspects, web accessibility, and universal design concepts will be discussed to highlight the importance of having an accessible and barrier-free tourism that will benefit both local and international tourists with disabilities, as well as others needing better access such as seniors and pregnant women. Participants invited  to the forum include representatives from the tourism industry sector, leaders of organizations of persons with disabilities, and other entrepreneurs engaged in tourism business. (NCDA)

Follow on Twitter: @TourismPHL @PIANewsdesk

USA: New air travel access rules will affect all airlines servicing the US, including Air New Zealand

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Arrival signs at airport

A new rule issued by the US Department of Transportation (DOT) will affect any airline servicing the US including New Zealand’s Air New Zealand.  The DOT ruling means that airlines servicing the US will need to improve access for people with disabilities or anyone else who needs it to core travel information and services on their websites and airport kiosks.  The rule is part of the Air Carrier Access Act of 1986 and will come into effect on 12 December 2013. Airline website pages for booking and changing reservations will need to be accessible. Within two years, these pages must meet the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 AA, with entire website compliance required within three years.  US airlines that carry more than 10,000 passengers per year must ensure that all new automated check-in kiosks installed three or more years after the rule’s effective date meet access requirements ( The minimum requirement is for at least 25 per cent of kiosks in each location to be accessible. These goals must be met within ten years of the rule’s effective date.   The new federal regulation also requires ticket agents to provide applicable web-based fare discounts to customers with a disability who cannot use an agent’s websites. This ruling is required on or after 180 days of the regulation’s effective date of 12 December 2013.

In addition, DOT will allow airlines to choose between stowing wheelchairs in a cabin compartment on new aircraft or strapping them to a row of seats, an option that will ensure that two manual, folding wheelchairs can be transported at a time.

Costa Rica working to improve Access Tourism

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

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

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

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

NZ Government review of building access for people with disabilities

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The Beehive government of New Zealand building exterior

Several news sources (1, 2, 3, 4, for example) are reporting that a New Zealand Government review into building access for disabled people has begun.  Building and Construction Minister Maurice Williamson and Disability Issues Minister Tariana Turia said the review will look at how the standard which outlines how people with disabilities can access buildings aligns with the Building Code and how the code represents the needs of disabled people.  Williamson said that the work “has come out of recent announcements on earthquake-prone building policy, particularly around upgrading buildings with regard to access for disabled people”.  Mr Williamson said that “buildings that don’t give access to people with a disability pretty much exclude them from participation and a whole lot of things in life from both working and living and even accessing it if it’s a service provider type building.” Turia said that it is not acceptable that disabled people are excluded from working and living in buildings because the access is inadequate, unsafe or not suitable, and that the building code needs to be brought up to date.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment is leading the review of Standard 4121 and would look at the regulatory situation and consult with interest groups.  This follows objections raised by the New Zealand disabilities communities that a Royal Commission on the Canterbury Earthquakes recommended the obligation to include disabled access in building upgrades be removed because of concerns around the costs it would impose on building owners. Up to 25,000 buildings are expected to need earthquake strengthening after the Canterbury earthquakes.  The Royal Commission recommendation to remove the obligation to upgrade access and fire escapes in line with the building code angered those in the disabilities communities.

Update: There is now a petition the Government to “urgently take all appropriate measures to ensure full access to public and commercial buildings for disabled people especially for new buildings in the Christchurch rebuild.”

The Global Economics of Disability: a market the size of China

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Wheelchair user

The latest publication about the global market of people with disabilities (PWD) from Fifth Quadrant Analytics is Sustainable Value Creation Through Disability: The Global Economics of Disability. The report points out that this is a market that:

  • Comprises 1.3 billion people
  • Is the size of China
  • When friends and family are considered, increases by 2.2 billion people
  • Altogether controls over US$8 trillion in annual disposable income globally
  • In the USA is three times the size of the Hispanic market
  • Is being added to daily by wealthy Baby Boomers who have increasing disability with age.  In the US, there are 77 million Boomers who control an annual spending power of over US$2 trillion.  Above age 65, these Boomers have a disability prevalence of almost 52%.
  • Is now being included in strategies and Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) mandates by companies and investors seeking to make additional returns in a market rewarding innovation
  • 31% of the largest US companies have publicly observable activity in relation to, and 7% of these demonstrate measurable effort
  • 34% of the largest Canadian public companies indicate interest in, and 10% demonstrate measurable effort
  • Requires low levels of additional investment
  • Is part of the regulatory landscape that cannot be ignored without risk
  • Speaks to the fact that consumers of all ages and types now prefer brands that are inclusive, socially aware and which act in-line with their values as consumers and employees

The report points out that in spite of these factors, business has yet to discover disability as an emerging market. While the concept of diversity is now commonplace in large corporate entities, diversity as an end in itself is viewed sceptically by most corporate leaders, as they struggle to link a diverse workforce to improved financial performance. The intent of the publication is to inform those grappling with how to position their products and services in the PWD market by establishing a set of common statistical measures of its size and features and describing the top issues facing participants in the PWD market. Managers should use this document internally to inform their sales and product development teams, provoke discussion with business functions, and launch fresh products and services serving the PWD market.  This market comprises not only current and future PWDs, but also any person needing better access, such as caregivers with strollers, persons with heavy bags, and less agile members of society.  In addition, technology and process that benefits PWD, can and does evolve into technology and process that benefits all consumers. A mobile device can function as a translator, but also as a navigation tool to find the shortest route to a particular product in the supermarket. Cross-over applications are the ‘holy grail’ of business/disability efforts, and will drive growth in disability-related capital spending.

The report concludes by looking at the need for practical consumer research and business-driven process in this market.  Today, there are many hypotheses, hunches and intuitive theories of how PWD act and think, but there is no rigorous research to prove or disprove them. The methodologies exist and are applied daily to segments outside disability. The same methods must now be pointed at disability.

Author Rich Donovan is on Twitter at @richdonnovannyc

Tourism Victoria releases accessible tourism resource kit for the tourism industry

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Front cover of Accessible Tourism its your business

Tourism Victoria, with the support of the Office for Disability at the Department of Human Services, has released Accessible tourism: it’s your business, a new accessibility resource kit to raise awareness and support the Victorian tourism industry to become more accessible and inclusive.  One in five Australians have a disability and A$8 billion is spent each year on Australian tourism by travellers with a disability – this figure does not include spend accompanying travelling companions.  The Kit was created with particular attention to the needs of tourism businesses, regional tourism boards and associations and visitor information centres, incorporates best practices drawn from similar resources internationally, most notably At Your Service, a resource created by VisitEngland to improve accessibility for customers in the lead up to the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games.  Broken into seven chapters, topics include:

  • The common barriers preventing a tourism businesses from being accessible
  • Marketing an accessible business
  • Tips for assessing a building and facilities
  • Developing an access statement
  • Integrating accessibility into a business plan
  • Integrating accessible features into digital listings

Tourism businesses can use the Kit to:

  • Increase their knowledge about the market for accessible tourism
  • Identify barriers, gaps and areas of improvement
  • Develop strategies to incorporate access into their core business
  • Improve and better target the marketing and promotion of their business

Tourism boards and associations can use this kit to:

  • Provide leadership to the tourism industry in their region
  • Plan and deliver a coordinated regional approach to accessible tourism
  • Support local tourism businesses to promote and market their accessibility

Visitor Information Centres can use the Kit to:

  • Provide positive first impressions to visitors
  • Promote accessible local businesses and attractions
  • Encourage local businesses and attractions to become more accessible

Local government can use this kit to:

  • Bring together, support and promote accessible businesses, festivals, events and open spaces to create a holistic approach to accessible tourism
  • Incorporate accessible tourism into Council’s broader tourism, business and economic development strategies and plans
  • Link tourism businesses to relevant local grant, award and accreditation schemes

State government departments and statutory authorities can use this kit to:

  • Support accessible tourism related activities within their area of responsibility
  • Promote the importance of accessible tourism to staff and funded organisations

The publication of this Kit follows Tourism Victoria’s Accessible Tourism Plan which aims to encourage the Victorian tourism industry to see the social and economic benefits of offering tourism products and services for people with access requirements.   The Plan aims to:

  • Increasing industry awareness and understanding of the accessibility needs of tourists
  • Encouraging new and existing product to capitalise on the benefits of providing accessible tourism
  • Disseminating information on accessible tourism products and attractions

European Blind Union survey of access to culture

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Guest blog by Anastasia Kalou, an access consultant and advisory panel member at the European Blind Union’s ATC project.

Symbol of a person walking with a cane

The European Blind Union (EBU) is the united voice of blind and partially sighted people in Europe, protecting their rights and promoting their interests for full participation in social, economic, political and cultural life, in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with a Disability (UNCRPD), and the the Council of Europe Action Plan (2006-2015) on “Full Participation of People with Disabilities in Society”.  Recently, EBU conducted a small scale pilot survey regarding access at cultural venues and activities for the Blind and partially–sighted people in Europe.  Access to Culture (ATC) Project 2011-2012 aimed to describe

  • current levels of access
  • good practice
  • national legislation and policies for access to culture
  • barriers and scope for improvement

The survey focused on the accessibility at a range of cultural venues and activities, such as theatres, cinema, opera, dance performances, concerts, museums, galleries, heritage sites, and visitor attractions in six countries.  One survey was sent to EBU national member organisations, and another to cultural organisations known to have developed good practices in accessibility for visually impaired people. Survey results show that:

  • the cultural rights of people with visual disability are poorly implemented
  • many cultural sector funding and project development practices discriminate against people with a disability

The report concludes with a Call for Action for cultural policy and strategy change at European, national and local levels in order to urgently address the over-riding conclusions of the survey.  Findings of the survey will be widely disseminated in Europe and serve as a tool for advocacy and lobbying for change.

UK: New website helps tourism businesses succeed in providing accessible services

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Portrait of Brian M Seaman

Brian Seaman, who has spent 20 years looking at issues in Accessible Tourism and helping businesses of all sizes to make their facilities more welcoming for all guests, has a new website.  Accessible Outlook  has been set up to further this work.

Seaman has listened to thousands of people who have firsthand knowledge of how difficult it can be to travel, find somewhere suitable to stay, places to visit, or places to eat.  He has parlayed this information into a form useful to working groups, access groups, access auditors, advisors, business management and staff, and the tourism industry through official channels.  In all his work, he has involved disabled people in every aspect.   His expertise is supported by his knowledge of the British Building Regulations and British Standards.  He has also worked full-time for the past 19 years for the national charity Tourism for All UK and has seen many changes during this time.

The website has useful links to such things as creating Access Statements, making website and printed information accessible, safety, creating accessible transport, accommodation, and attractions, and the National Accessible Scheme (a scheme in England which rates visitor accommodation for access).   Visit the website here or follow Brian on Twitter (@BrianMSeaman)

Social Tourism organisations are fulfilling a vital need by connecting PwDs with accessible tourism products.

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Ivor Ambrose, Managing Director of the European Network for Accessible Tourism (ENAT) writes in the latest issue of Le Tourisme Social dans le Monde (Social Tourism International 154: 5-6) about the important role of the Social Tourism sector in enabling hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities (PwDs) and their families to have accessible holidays.  Social Tourism International is produced by OITS-ISTO, an organisation with the express purpose of promoting access to tourism for all.  ENAT, which works with OITS-ISTO, offers training and guidance to overcome the gaps in knowledge and awareness about accessibility among tourism businesses, their managers and staff.  Ambrose points out that the European market for PwD tourism is 134 million people (27% of the European population) when family and friends are included.  “Often their needs and requirements are unknown or misunderstood; investment costs are accordingly exaggerated. And with a dominating focus on “compliance” with laws and regulations, accessibility is seen mainly as a problem for businesses, rather than a golden opportunity” writes Ambrose. “Fundamentally, there needs to be a change of attitude in the tourism industry, recognising that guests of all ages and abilities are part of every tourism segment.”

Improving access in Ontario predicted to grow tourism income

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Empty wheelchair

In 2010, The Government of Ontario released a study looking at the potential economic impact of achieving substantially higher levels of accessibility.  Also in that year, the Province  introduced five proposed standards through which the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), 2005 is implemented. These standards are intended to achieve substantially higher levels of accessibility. The study – Releasing Constraints: Projecting the Economic Impact of Improved Accessibility for Ontarians – reviews the potential economic impact of increased accessibility on individuals, on markets, and on social units. The study predicts that Ontario’s businesses will benefit from these standards, including by increased access to tourism opportunities.  Ontario Ministry of Tourism expenditure data was used to examine the potential impacts of AODA on the Ontario tourism industry.  The results suggest that Ontario could potentially see an increase in tourism expenditures from anywhere between Can$400 million and Can$1.6 billion due to the combined direct and indirect effects of AODA. These increases would mean total tourism expenditures in Ontario would grow to a level between Can$22.5 billion and Can$23.7 billion in five years.  The study was conducted by the Martin Prosperity Institute at the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto, the Institute for Competitiveness and Prosperity, and the Adaptive Technology Resource Centre.

Tourism and travel industry missing out on a big market ITB World Travel Monitor forum told

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Front cover of the ITB World Travel Trends Report 2012 2013 showing a man

Lilian Müller, president of the European Network for Accessible Tourism (ENAT), told the 20th World Travel Monitor Forum in Pisa Italy that while millions of people around the world want to travel and have the time and money to do so, they are forced to stay at home because of insufficient facilities. However, with improved accessibility, the €100 billion travel and tourism market for people with disabilities or physical restrictions could develop strongly.  She added that given world population aging, this neglected market will inevitably grow in importance in coming years.  According to research in Europe alone, there are 80 million people with disabilities.  When travel companions are included, the potential size of the “accessible tourism” market is estimated at 133 million people, the Swedish expert said.  In the UK, disabled visitors (about 11% of all visitors) contributed almost £2 billion to the British domestic visitor economy in 2009, while in Australia, about 11% of visitors are disabled and contributing up to 16% of tourism GDP and sustaining up to 17% of jobs in the tourism sector.  In Germany, the direct turnover generated by disabled travellers is estimated at €2.5 billion, and rises to €4.8 billion when including indirect effects.  However, in that country, 37% of disabled people decided not to travel in the past due to a lack of accessible facilities, 48% would travel more frequently if these were available and 60% would be ready to pay higher travel costs for improved accessibility.  Worldwide, 10% of the population needs “barrier free” or “accessible” travel.

“People with disabilities or reduced mobility want to travel just like everyone else. They don’t want to stay at home,” Müller said. The travel and tourism industry should therefore recognise them as an important customer group both now and in future. “It’s a good idea to invest in tomorrow’s consumers,” she commented. Disabled people are also significant because they tend to be loyal to a destination, staying longer and spending more if their needs are met.  In addition, the sector is  facing new legal obligations in terms of access, Müller pointed out. More than 140 countries have signed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, while the European Commission is planning an EU Accessibility Act that would oblige member states to ensure equal access to goods and services, including travel and tourism, for all citizens.

The ENAT president stressed that accessible tourism has to cover all parts of the value chain, from better information and booking, transportation, through to facilities at the destination, including accommodation, catering and activities, as well as tourism services. This is not a niche market any longer; accessibility must be part of all offers and tourism products but there will also be a continuing need in the market for specialised suppliers who can provide services for customers with higher level access requirements, she emphasised. One important area in future will be to make travel and tourism information more accessible on the internet, for example for blind and deaf people.  But tourist board websites generally fail on this front, according to an ENAT survey. Only 10 out of 39 NTO websites complied with web accessibility criteria in a 2011.  More than half failed to provide accessibility information.

2012 European Commission report on Accessibility: some findings

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Old map of Europe

A 2012 European Commission Flash Barometer report (number 345) from an accessibility survey shows that:

Almost three in ten Europeans (29%) say that they or someone in their household has a longstanding illness or health problem, which has lasted, or was expected to last, for 6 months or more.

Overall 29% of Europeans say that they or a member of their household has been limited in some way, with one in eight (12%) describing this as severe limitation and 17% saying that it has limited them but not severely.

Nearly two in five Europeans (38%) who say that they or a member of their household have a longstanding illness or health problem refer to a mobility issue

Overall more than nine in ten Europeans (93%) agree that barriers make it difficult for people with disabilities, with two in three (66%) saying that they ‘totally agree’ and 27% saying that they ‘tend to agree’.

7 in 10 Europeans believe better accessibility of goods and services would very much improve the lives of people with disabilities, the elderly and others with accessibility issues

47% of Europeans believe better accessibility of goods and services would very much improve opportunities for industry to sell products to people with disabilities and the elderly.

Two thirds (66%) of respondents say that they would buy, or pay, more for products if they were more accessible and better designed for all, with specific reference to the inclusion of people with disabilities and the elderly.

86% of Europeans agree that having similar accessibility solutions across Europe would enable them to travel, study and work in another EU country.

96% of Europeans agree that when public authorities provide goods and services they should be obliged to ensure that they are also accessible to people with disabilities.

94% of Europeans agree that more money should be spent on eliminating physical obstacles which make the lives of people with disabilities and the elderly difficult.

93% of Europeans agree that manufacturers and service providers should be required to ensure accessibility of the goods and services that they sell.

85% of Europeans agree that it should be possible to complain and go to court to seek sanctions against manufacturers and service providers who do not comply with binding measures to improve accessibility.

EC seeks tenders for project: “Economic impact and travel patterns of accessible tourism in Europe”

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European Commission logo

The European Commission (Directorate-General for Enterprise and Industry, Directorate F: Tourism, CSR, Consumer Goods and International Regulatory Agreements) is seeking tenders for a market research and public opinion poll on the economic impact and travel patterns of accessible tourism in Europe.

Travelling for pleasure (or for business) in Europe is equally relevant for persons with physical disabilities, but the barriers they have to face are far greater.  Tourism accessibility across Europe is still to some extent unchartered territory, with widespread misconceptions and lack of knowledge about the market of tourists with special access needs.  Visitors’ requirements are largely unknown, investment costs are often misunderstood or exaggerated and accessibility is generally perceived by business as a “burden”.  Travelling and having full access to tourist activities, services and facilities is a right enshrined in Article 9 of the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, signed by the European Union and its 27 Member States.  Furthermore, making tourism facilities more accessible to people with disabilities, is also a golden opportunity for businesses.

Very few studies have been carried out on the economic impact or patterns of demand and travel of visitors with disabilities.  The most recent has been a research project that in 2011 looked at the tourism, travel, and hospitlaity patterns and needs of people with hearing loss conducted for the new Zealand National Foundation for the Deaf, by the NZ Tourism Research Institute at AUT University, and Access Toruism NZ.   The overall purpose of this EU contract is to collect comprehensive and EU-wide data on the economic impact — both actual and potential — of travellers with special access needs on the EU tourism sector, and to study the demand, travel behaviour, and patterns of travellers with special access needs in Europe.  The final date for tender submissions is 28/06/2012.

VisitEngland, British Hospitality Association team up to create new Access Statement Online Tool

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Diners in a restaurant

VisitEngland, national tourist board has launched a new version of the Access Statement Online Tool, aimed at helping businesses cater for visitors with access needs. Access Statements allow for a written, descriptive approach to providing a wide range of information on accessibility. All areas of a business are described from car parking & arrival to toilets.   Visit England says that Access Statements are:

1. A minimum requirement for VisitEngland accommodation and visitor attraction quality scheme members
2. A way to meet obligations under the Equality Act 2010
3. A marketing opportunity which informs visitors in one concise document
4. Necessary as almost one in five of England’s population has a disability and this number will rise as England’s population ages

The new version is specifically tailored for restaurants and cafés, and has been created in partnership with the British Hospitality Association (BHA) and the Restaurant Association.  The online tool provides detailed guidance on the information that may be required by people with access needs when visiting a restaurant or cafe.   Businesses are encouraged to write a general introduction describing the location (city centre, countryside, coast), and to summarise any specific services and facilities suitable for people with access needs. In addition, information may also cover the following areas:

  • Pre-Arrival – transport services, a description of the streets in the area surrounding the restaurant (e.g. paved/cobbled/level/uneven), information provided in alternative formats such as large print and audio.
  • Car Parking and Arrival – car parking, drop off points, alternative entry points, number of steps, handrails and ramps.
  • Restaurant & Bar Area – access to the area and layout, lighting, seating and tables, floor surfaces, alternative formats of menus available.
  • Outdoor Areas – accessibility of outdoor furniture, service offered to customers in outdoor area, layout (e.g. pavement, terrace, play area).

Additional areas that are covered include: customer toilets, private dining/function space accommodation and future plans for improvement.  Ross Calladine, VisitEngland’s Skills, Welcome & Accessibility Manager said:  “People with access needs require specific information about a venue in advance in order to be able to make an informed decision about whether an establishment can cater sufficiently for their needs. Restaurants, like any other tourist venue, should provide as much information to visitors as possible – this will help to enhance the visitor experience and also highlight areas where the business could improve.”  Camilla Woods, Policy Director, BHA, said “Access Statements are a really effective way for businesses to ensure customers with any specific access needs have the information they need and we are pleased to be able to recommend this new online tool to our members.”

Once a business has created their Access Statement they can then make this information readily available to visitors. Restaurants can promote their statement on their website if they have one, or post it where they have a listing on a company site or a generic ‘restaurant finder’ site. It should also be kept on hand for staff to use when describing over the phone what facilities they have.

International Global Disability Rights Library increases content

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Global Disability Rights library website banner

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

UK: Improving access to gigs for people with disabilities

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Scotland made disabled access part of its entertainment licensing laws in October this year (provision for disabled visitors is now a condition for getting a new alcohol licence).  Though current UK equality law says disabled people must receive an equal experience to non-disabled peers, the reality is different, and music fans who have disabilities often find themselves excluded from live music events. The UK charity Attitude Is Everything has created a Charter of Best Practice to help live music venues adapt. As part of the initiative, it’s launching the State of Access report, a comprehensive study based on two years of research across 100 venues around the UK.   Attitude Is Everything is the brainchild of Suzanne Bull who – at 4ft 3 in tall – got trapped between the barriers at the front of a festival stage 20 years ago, when there was no such thing as access for people with disabilities.  “I had 100,000 people pushing behind me,” she says. “It was a very dangerous situation but luckily a security guard saw me and pulled me out. I remember thinking: ‘If I get out of  this alive, I will do something to improve gig access for disabled people.’ [That festival] now has a regular clientele of 700 disabled customers, an accessible campsite and viewing platforms at nearly all the stages.” (Source, The Guardian).


NZ captioning amongst worst in the western world

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The New Zealand National Foundation for the Deaf (NFD) has set up a captioning working group with the aim of establishing equal access to TV and movies for deaf and hearing impaired people in this country.  A 2011 survey, “Captioning in New Zealand”, conducted by members of the group, showed the deaf and hearing impaired community felt a strong sense of injustice and frustration at the way poor TV, home video and cinema captioning denied them the simple pleasures of relaxation, entertainment and access to information and education.  Over the next 12 months the
NFD Captioning Working Group will push for legislation to make the captioning of TV programmes in New Zealand compulsory – a change favoured by 86% of the  Captioning New Zealand survey respondents.  New Zealand TV captioning is among the worst in the western world with even Uganda having a better service. While some captioning is funded by NZ On Air and a high quality captioning service is provided by TV1, TV2 and TV3 it amounts to less than 10% of total TV hours each week across all free to air and subscriber pay channels.  Captioning is about equal access for both hearing and non-hearing people. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Disabled Persons, ratified by New Zealand, states that all persons with disabilities should enjoy equal access to television programmes, films, theatre and cultural activities in accessible formats.  Many countries,  Australia and the USA included, have mandatory captioning legislation. We are seriously lagging behind the rest of the world and it’s time we caught up.

Members of the NFD Captioning Working Group come from t he NFD and Deaf Aotearoa.

Source: NFD press release.