“Map My Day”: an event for anyone to note accessible places anywhere

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MapMyDayLogo

A worldwide event to raise awareness for disability rights and accessibility kicks off on December 3.    The “Map My Day” campaign is designed to improve the availability  of information on the wheelchair accessibility of public places.  Such information is often scarce or hard to find, making it very difficult for people with mobility impairments to participate in communities.  “Map My Day” is being launched by the German NGO Sozialhelden (‘Social Heroes’), the World Health Organization (WHO), and UNESCO on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.   The Day marks the start of a worldwide event to raise awareness for accessibility. For millions of people with wheelchairs, walking aids, or baby carriages the most common obstacles which limit their freedom of movement are stairs.

People around the world can post the accessibility of public places such as restaurants, train stations, tourist attractions and government buildings on Wheelmap.org, a free online map which is also the world’s largest database for wheelchair accessible places. It is hoped that many people in many places around the world will contribute information to Wheelmap, and that a new conversations about accessibility is started, thus ensuring the success of the campaign.

The campaign not only addresses people with a disability. It is really easy for everybody to contribute to the map by adding new local information with a few clicks. In this way users have already rated nearly 600,000 public places, making the map the world’s largest database for wheelchair accessibility.   Wheelmap is available as an app for iPhone, Android Smartphone and Windows Phone   (Windows 10), as well as on the website www.wheelmap.org/en/map – in more than 20 languages.

Participants can be part of “MapMyDay” individually or in groups, with colleagues, teammates or friends and family.   NGOs, government authorities, businesses, schools, associations and celebrities are invited to help spread the word to their networks and ideally, to organize local mapping events themselves.   There is a checklist on the website to help individuals, businesses, and organizations set up events.

More information: http://mapmyday.org/en/ Follow on Twitter: @SOZIALHELDEN @WHO @UNESCO @wheelmap #Machmitbei #MapMyDay Fabebook: www.facebook.com/mapmyday

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Be Able Travel: businesses miss customer revenue if inaccessible

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

Be Able Travel logo

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

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

New guide for wheelchair visitors to Paris

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ParisAccessNow

Access Now has launched the first in a series of European wheelchair access guidebooks –  Paris Access Now.  The guide is a comprehensive guidebook written specifically for wheelchair users and travellers with mobility disabilities. It is designed to give readers all the tools they need to plan an accessible trip to Paris, from start to finish.  It includes information about:

  • Getting from the airport into Paris
  • Accessible hotels
  • Accessible restaurants
  • How to get around the city
  • Accessible tourist sites
  • Accessible itineraries and guided tour recommendations
  • Route maps
  • Accessible toilet guide
  • Accessibility resources

Travelers with disabilities are virtually ignored by the travel industry, making it difficult, if not impossible to find the resources needed to plan an accessible trip independently. An overwhelming number of travel resources are available online and in print, but when it comes to specific accessibility information, travellers must rely on informal resources like forums, blogs, or homemade websites.  Other options exist, like traveling with an organization or using a specialized travel agency, but this choice may be expensive to some, and may preclude travelling alone or with family. The accessible travel industry is unfortunately very limited.   Access Now goes part way to addressing this issue, at least for people with mobility disability.

Access Now was founded by Paula Bates.  Its goal is to remove the barriers that may hinder a wheelchair user or someone with limited mobility from planning their own trip to Europe.  Paris Access Now is available for purchase as digital download.

Follow on Twitter: @AccessNowGuides.  For more information, visit http://wheelchairaccessnow.com

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

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Map of Europe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tips for travelling in Barcelona for people with disabilities

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Guest blog: Julian Montero is a full time wheelchair user who is part of the management team at Barcelona Zero Limits(BZL).  BZL is an inbound travel operator (ITO) based in Barcelona, created to encourage inclusive cultural and gastronomy tourism in Barcelona and its surroundings.   They specialize in tourism for people with mobility problems, seniors and people with food allergies, and for anyone interested in a fabulous tour!  In this guest blog, Julian shares some tips for helping you to enjoy your travel to Barcelona. Julian wheeling in Barcelona

Tips for travelling in Barcelona for people with disabilitieshttp://www.accesstourismnz.org.nz/ #A11y #Trava11y @bcnzerolimits @VisitBCN_EN

1. How can I get to the city from the airport?  From the airport to downtown, you can easily get public transport without needing to take the shuttle airpot or taxi. With the 46 bus that leaves from Terminal 1 and at Terminal 2 you will reach “Plaça Espanya” in 20 minutes and from there you can move around the city quickly. Another alternative is the train from Terminal 2 and goes directly to Plaza Catalunya, the center of the city.

2.How can I move around the city?

Barcelona has an extensive metro and bus network that will take you to every corner of the city. A metro or bus ticket costs 2.15€ per trip, but the Barcelona Metropolitan Transportation (TMB) service offers discount travel cards. Travel cards can be purchased from metro ticket booths or Tourist Information offices.    Most of the buses on the bus network are wheelchair accessible. However the metro is a quicker way to move around the city. Most of the stations are wheelchair friendly, however we recommend you to get a metro map with the accessible stations information. You can download the map from the following link:  http://www.tmb.cat/ca/c/document_library/get_file?uuid=c8996f6c-8ad5-4d21-b59b-faf9fceebd80&groupId=10168

3. When is the best time of the year to visit Barcelona?

The best time to visit Barcelona is the month of November, after the all saints bank holiday and before the end of the month. This is the time of year when there are fewer tourists (be realistic, there are always many tourists in Barcelona, do not expect to be the only one!).  The prices of the hotels in Barcelona then are usually cheaper than during the rest of the year. Moreover you will find shorter queues!

4. Where to eat?

Avoid eating in crowded tourist areas, especially in the Ramblas, where everything is much more expensive. Just move a little to find much better prices especially for drinks. Neighbourhoods like Gracia and Borne offer alternatives with a much better price / quality deal than Las Ramblas or Plaza Catalunya.   Another good option is to eat in La Barceloneta, a neighbourhood with a port atmosphere built in the 18th century to provide shelter for the inhabitants of La Ribera. This neighbourhood is frequented by locals on weekends for eating and accessing its popular beach, Playa de la Barceloneta.

5. What to eat?

In Barcelona we like to walk and eat. It’s a local tradition to go from bar to bar enjoying the best snacks while drinking a beer or a classic vermouth, a drink  we recommend you to taste …it is sweet but bitter, stimulates the appetite and prepares the stomach to enjoy anchovies, pickles, and finally, a few colourful tapas.    Barcelona offers its streets and terraces to enjoy a few hours of one of its most deeply rooted and beloved culinary traditions.

6. Can I go to the beach?

Do not forget to to visit the beaches and enjoy the sun and the food.  Barceloneta is the first of Barcelona’s beaches, the one closest to the city and usually the liveliest.   The beach is fully accessible with a bathing assistance service. This service is intended for people with mobility problems, and aims to facilitate the entry and exit of the water to enjoy bathing time using – if necessary – an amphibious chair.   This area has walkways to the water, a suitable changing area, sit-down shower and a lifting crane. This allows anyone to swim in the Mediterranean with the help of volunteers.

7. Free Museums:

The first Sunday of the month, some local Barcelona museums offer free entry.   Some are free on Sundays ( Barcelona City History Museum at Plaça del Rei, Picasso Museum on Montcada 15-23,  Maritime Museum of Barcelona Avenida Drassanes).

8. What to do that is different?

If you want to see Barcelona from a different perspective and enjoy the city like you’ve never done it, you can book a tour of Barcelona, such as a gourmet tour, and enjoy the Mediterranean Cuisine and Tapas. Learn about the city by participating in all kind of cultural tours. And if you are more adventurous you can also live an unforgettable experience flying in air  balloon over the mountains of Catalonia or dive in the Mediterranean Sea and discover its breath-taking seabed with Barcelona Zero Limits.

Follow on Twitter: @bcnzerolimits

Tourism in Italy for people with disabilities

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Guest blog by Cristiana Campanella of Rome and Italy Tourist Services, an incoming tour operator specialized in tours and services dedicated to people with disability.

Rome and Italy Tourism Service showing wheelcahir tourists

The idea to create a tourist service dedicated to people in wheelchair who wish to spend a holiday without worries, was born in 2007 thanks to the friendship that Stefano Sghinolfi (the owner of Rome and Italy) has with Carlo Rossetti, who is the president of Aisa (Italian Association for Ataxic Syndromes) who is disabled.   Stefano, before starting the business with Rome and Italy, was a tour leader who for many years went around Italy with groups of tourists.  One of the main problem during the tour, when travelling with people in wheelchairs, was that the wheelchair users often had to wait outside the major archaeological sites, or visit only a small part of them because of lack of access.  Unfortunately, in some of these sites, municipalities have built routes that are accessible to wheelchairs but that allowed a person to see only a quarter of the archaeological site. That is why he decided to make “accessible” the inaccessible sites. The only way to do that was to make an investment in the purchase of “special equipment”.

Rome is known as the largest open museum in the world, one of the most visited cities and one of the must-see wonders. But it isn’t what one would consider accessible to wheelchairs, at least not all of it. In Rome, a must is undoubtedly to visit the Roman Forum, which is full of cobblestones, steps and arduous paths; the same is true for the excavations of Pompeii,  Ostia Antica, and many more such. Thanks to collaboration with Ferriol Matrat, which is a French company  who produce the “Joelette”, a special one-wheel chair carried by 2 assistants, (originally used for the disabled while trekking), Rome and Italy has e made it possible to see these sites.

In regards to accommodation, nowadays in Italy, despite the existence of laws by which hotels are obliged to have rooms equipped for people in wheelchair, unfortunately often the rest of the buildings it is not.  This is in spite of the fact that hotels must be fully accessible not just in the room but from the entrance, with access to the breakfast room, with a large elevator, public accessible toilets, and rooms with bathroom equipped with grab bars, roll in shower etc.   That is why Rome and Italy  studied and then create a section on our web site dedicated to the disabled tourists where they can easily find accessible hotels in several Italian cities. We have visited and tested personally all the hotels shown on our website, documenting with picture and information the accessibility. All this information is now available on our website where the disabled can check, according to their needs, which accommodation would be the most suitable.

Rome and Italy also have wheelchair accessible vehicles, and can hire every type of equipment needed by wheelchair travellers.  Follow on Twitter: @RomeandItaly @joelette_sport http://www.romeanditaly.com/wheelytrekky-la-sedia-speciale/

New app: Accessible NYC subway and places

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Wheelie map of NYC

Wheely is an application designed to help wheelchair and stroller users better navigate the New York City Subway system as well as provide a useful guide to accessible places in specific neighbourhoods. Wheely features accessible subway maps licensed by the MTA®, specific directions and maps to subway elevators and reviews based on local accessible places. Wheely is founded by Anthony Driscoll, a Parsons New School MFA Design and Technology candidate, who was inspired to create this app through his travels with his father who was diagnosed with MS in 2001.  Over the past couple years Driscoll senior has been dependent on a power chair to get around.  He and Anthony have travelled all over the country together and have experienced all levels of accessibility.   When Anthony moved to NYC to attend grad school at Parsons School of Design, his family would visit frequently.  It took a lot of preparation and research to accommodate his father’s needs. They  would have to call ahead to restaurants and figure out the best way for him to get from place to place.  Though all of NYC’s buses are accessible, they are slow and can be a hassle to board and exit the bus.  They decided to use the subway system since that is what Anthony was most familiar with.  It took a few times traveling the subway to realize the right way to board the train and which lines were accessible.  The MTA subway is hard to decifer when looking for accessible stations and sometimes the elevators are out of service which left people stranded. Anthony saw a gap in the market for a visualized accessible subway map and elevator statuses and decided to create Wheely.

Whether you’re in a wheelchair, using a stroller or your boss made you move a million boxes from one office to the next, Wheely gives your a map of accessible stations and helps you find subway elevators.

Wheely will not only be an accessible subway map with elevator directions but a fully accessible guide for New York City.  Wheely plans to create an open source interactive map with reviews and ratings of various accessible places. To do this they need user input.   People can help by telling Wheelie what their favourite accessible places are.  They do not have to be in New York City but NYC places are preferred.  By providing them with this information they will be able to start building a database to later add to Wheely as a fully functional navigational guide with ratings and reviews.

Sources: http://www.wheelyapp.com/  https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1935800597/wheely-a-wheelchair-accessible-guide Follow on Twitter: @wheelynyc

New website uses crowd-sourcing and mapping to rate access in the UK

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Rob Trent lives in Hampshire, England. He has worked for Ordnance Survey (Britain’s Mapping Agency) for over 25 years. He has personal experience of living with a disability, overcoming accessibility challenges, and an understanding of the benefits of mapping data.    Rob has previously combined his life experiences with his interest in sport, and has worked with the Football Stadium Design Council and the Football Foundation to help improve facilities for disabled people at football grounds.  In this article, Rob tells us about his reasons for starting AccessAdvisr, a website containing ease-of-access information. 

 

Spaghetti junction of roads

“Yes, it’s accessible, there’s only two steps to navigate”. “We have a ramp allowing access to our building”.

As a wheelchair user I have often come across comments like those above.   However, on many occasions the reality differs greatly from the description. “Ramps” are more like ski slopes, and “access to our building” is usually past the cleaners equipment, through the kitchen and into the service lift. Things are very often not quite what they seem.

Out of that frustration AccessAdvisr was born. I wanted something for users who face the same challenges as me (and that could include parents with prams and cyclists, but primarily people with disabilities).   My career with Ordnance Survey meant that AccessAdvisr combined the idea of crowd-sourcing with a mapping background.   AccessAdvisr was created to provide a customer a real-world view of how easy-to-access different places and transport stops are for disabled people.   The aim is to provide a simple mechanism to allow people with mobility challenges to rate and find first-hand accessibility information. Photographs and videos can be posted on the site.    Information on accessibility can then be used to improve the situation. Heres an example of a typical AccessAdvisr rating: https://accessadvisr.net/place/view/18269/

The real challenge lies in getting people to use the site. Starting any business (and AccessAdvisr is a business) is a long hard slog, and this has been no different.   Clearly we would love to have more people adding information to the site so that AccessAdvisr can be of real benefit to people with accessibility challenges.

AccessAdvisr started because it is an answer to a real problem. With help from all of you out there we can go a long way to sorting the problem.    If you feel you have something to contribute then please check us out. The AccessAdvisr website can be viewed here: https://accessadvisr.net/. In addition to the website AccessAdvisr can be found on Twitter (@accessadvisr) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/AccessAdvisr).

Editors note: AccessAdvisr works with a number of UK local authorities and organisations to develop this website and the Community Pages.  The support of organizations such as Suffolk County Council (Twitter: @suffolkcc), Milton Keynes Council (@mkccouncil), Nottinghamshire County Council (@NottsCC), Nottingham City Council (@MyNottingham), The University of Nottingham (@UniofNottingham), and GeoVation (@GeoVation) is helping to grow AccessAdvisr’s user community and enabling it to develop the software tools.   AccessAdvisr Ltd. is a subsidiary of Integrated Transport Planning Ltd., a UK-based transport research and planning consultancy with offices in London, Birmingham, Nottingham, and Milton Keynes. 

UK Disabled Access Guide

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

NickAlmond

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

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

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

UN: People with Disabilities fastest growing minority in the world

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Senior couple out for  a stroll On December 3 – which is the United Nations International Day of People with Disabilities – New Zealanders with disabilities who are high achievers will be recognised at the Attitude Awards in Auckland.  According to the recently released NZ Disability Survey 2013, 24% of people living in New Zealand have one or more disabilities.  Because of the aging population, this percentage will increase over the coming years as the huge Baby Boomer cohort ages.  Globally, there are at least 1 billion people already with some form of disability, and the United Nations describing the disability community as “the fastest-growing minority in the world” (UN). In NZ, physical impairment is the most common type of disability, followed by sensory impairments such as hearing or vision loss. Mental illness affected 5% of our citizens, and intellectual disability 2%.  Last year’s inductee into Attitude’s hall of fame, accessibility advocate Alexia Pickering, said in her acceptance speech:  “Accessibility rules the lives of all people with disabilities. It determines where we go, what we do, who we can visit, what theatre we can go to. It just rules our life” (Stuff). The United Nations’ International Day of Persons with Disabilities, which has been observed since 1992, provides an opportunity to further raise awareness of disability and accessibility as an overarching development issue, promote understanding of disability issues, and mobilise support for the dignity, rights, and wellbeing of people with disabilities.  The theme of this year’s commemoration is: “Sustainable Development – The Promise of Technology.”

Follow on Twitter: @UN_Enable @attitude_tv @NZStuff  @kennyKatie

ICT and coastal tourism for all: European conference

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Cote d Azur veiw of the coast

Euro-Mediterranean m-Tourism institutions and professionals recently shared their ideas and suggestions on ICT and Coastal Tourism for All with 80 professionals attending the 4th Telecom Valley m-Tourism Day in Nice, France (http://www.investincotedazur.com/en/info/news/ict-and-coastal-tourism-for-all-in-the-euro-mediterranean/).  The session was part of the Digital Economy Fortnight in PACA. Coastal tourism was discussed in terms of  access for all, including people with disabilities, families, seniors, and others who need better access. Presenting bodies included institutions (Riviera Cote d’Azur CRT, Nice Cote d’Azur CCI, NECstour) and digital companies which are developing solutions related tosuch visitors.  Included were the WACAN Agency in Sophia Antipolis, which has developed a smartphone application for walksfor those with visual and hearing loss. The AISM (Italian Association for multiple sclerosis), BALEARES TURISMO, CARPEVITAM NGO, DEFISMED, FRIULI VENEZIA GIULIA TURISMO, GEOLIVES) also presented projects.  .

Jean-Bernard Titz, President of Telecom Valley and leader of the m-Tourism commission, announced the release of the commission’s latest white paper (www.m-tourism-day.eu) focusing on “Tourism, ICT and Disability”, which is the result of consultation involving many beneficiaries and experts in tourism, ICT, law,  and the Silver Economy (senior citizens economy).

Follow on Twitter: @TelecomValley @jbdevhelp @CotedAzur4Biz

Guest post: New Zealand missing out by failing to accommodate travellers with mobility challenges.

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Reflections on a recent holiday in Alaska and Canada.  Guest post by Roger Loveless.  Roger is a New Zealander who uses an electric wheelchair and recently spent a month travelling with it overseas. He has muscular dystrophy and lives in Hamilton.  He retired from the electric power industry in 2008 and now works part time as an access coordinator for CCS Disability Action (http://www.ccsdisabilityaction.org.nz/). He has always enjoyed travel and experiencing different cultures with his wife Mary.  Next year they will be visiting their son’s family, including two grandchildren, in Britain which will include a weeks “glamping” in a Mongolian Yurt in Dorset.  Picture: Roger and his wife Mary

Taku Helicopter

 

 I have just returned from my first overseas holiday with my electric wheelchair. My wife Mary and I went to the USA and Canada using planes, ships, a helicopter, cable car, taxi cabs, trains, buses and coaches. We did a 14 day Alaskan cruise out of Seattle, the Rocky Mountaineer train from Calgary to Vancouver and some other sightseeing.  At some cruise ship ports of call I couldn’t get off the ship, and at Sitka I had to use a hired manual wheelchair to be able to use the tenders. Some places required advance warning of my needs but what really was far better than New Zealand was the availability of tour buses with hoists for wheelchairs at the back, where they could push a few rows of seats together to make space. We used these in Ketchikan, Juneau, Anchorage, and Vancouver (for a journey to Victoria including a ferry trip).  Then there was the real highlight, with a helicopter ride to the Taku Glacier. I boarded the helicopter using a special lifting seat. 

Really an eye opener as to what can be done if there is a will, supported by at least some legislation. It makes you wonder how much New Zealand is missing out on by failing to accommodate the traveller with mobility challenges. 

I also holiday most years in Paihia (NZ) and note that in 2013/14, 44 cruise liners called in, carrying 73,366 passengers and 32,695 crew. How many of those passengers had mobility issues and didn’t bother to come ashore? As passengers tend to be older people, perhaps 5% (close to 4000 people) had mobility issues and if their companions also stayed on the ship, that would be quite significant. Perhaps these figures are wrong because persons with disabilities merely avoid New Zealand entirely in favour of places where access is treated seriously and they are welcomed.  Wouldn’t it be great if we had shore experiences and tour buses that were accessible? We could even make the effort, advertise the fact and, if we get it right, see positive comments on social media.  Apart from tour buses, Paihia has ferries, boat trips, helicopter rides and even a train from Kawakawa. 

Follow on Twitter: @ccsdisabilitya

Melbourne and Olympic Parks Diversity and Inclusion Plan 2014-2017

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The Melbourne and Olympic Parks (M&OP) have released their Diversity and Inclusion Plan, 2014-2017.  The parks – with a number of ovals, courts, and arenas – cover 40 hectares and host an extensive range of events such as the Australian Open tennis Grand Slam, other major sporting events, and cultural events (for example, concerts by Andrea Botcelli, The Rolling Stones, and Miley Cyrus).   The Plan is based on six key customer focused objectives.  These are that people of all abilities:

1). Can navigate around M&OP

2). Have easy access to all information about M&OP

3). Can enjoy events and functions with their family and friends

4). Have access to the full range of seating options

5). Will be treated as equal and valuable guests in all dealings with M&OP, and finally, that

6). M&OP will leverage its accessible conference facilities to actively promote its expertise in conferences for all abilities.

The plan goes on to detail what strategies will be used to achieve these objectives.  These include the creation of enhanced accessible wayfinding and navigational information on site and online, working with transport providers to enhance accessible public transport to venues, and improving accessible seating and enhance the booking procedure to include total information about accessible seating.

M&OP are to consider a new conference facility strategy to market their facilities to the global disability conference market.  We say that if they do in fact carry out their access enhancement programme, marketing by M&OP should extend beyond this market as all conferences – no matter the subject – are attended by a certain percentage of people who have disabilities who would appreciate fully accessible facilities.

Source: M&OP.

UK CAA tightens information rules for disabled passengers

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Plane in flight

The United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) recently set tougher requirements on airports and airlines operating flights to and from the UK concerning information they must provide disabled passengers.  Requirements concern making essential information available to consumers in an accessible format. Information should be provided on a single web page one click away from the home page of the operator’s website or on webpages directly accessible from a single ‘landing’ webpage one click away from the home page.  Content should be presented in a clear and easy to understand way and accessible for passengers with impairments such as blindness or low vision, deafness or hearing loss, learning disabilities, cognitive limitations, restricted movement, photosensitivity or any combination of these.

Airports must publish information on the following: assistance provided at the airport and how to obtain this assistance; layout of the airport; quality standards and airport security; handling of mobility equipment and assistance dogs; telephone number and opening hours of the airport’s helpline for enquiries from Passengers with Reduced Mobility and other disabilities; and information on how to complain.  They must also provide information on safety restrictions; seating on-board; fitness to fly; when a carer will be required; accessibility and use of lavatories; and compensation for damaged or lost mobility devices.

“This is a giant leap forward in terms of quality, quantity, and accessibility of information available to passengers with disabilities,” Reduced Mobility Rights Director Roberto Castiglioni said. “In a perfect world, we would like to see information made available to consumers in a printed format at PRM lounges and assistance desks across airports.”

Airports and airlines have until 31st October 2014 to comply with the new requirements, or they may face formal enforcement action to ensure compliance and/or face a penalty or court injunction.

Source: Reduced Mobility Rights.  Follow on Twitter: @UK_CAA @ReducedMobility

Accessible Flanders

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One hundred years after the start of the First World War, Flanders Fields has prepared for the expected influx of visitors during the centenary by being – as one of the Visit Flanders tourist board brochures puts it – “Accessible to Everyone”.  So write John Oates and Rob Crossan in The Telegraph (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sponsored/travel/great-war-flanders/10980195/accessible-travel-flanders-fields.html).    

In Ypres, the Gothic-style Cloth Hall on the town square is now home to the In Flanders Fields museum, which was recently renovated and has level floors and lifts for wheelchair access. Overall the museum provides an informative and accessible introduction to wartime history and sites. There are a number of companies in Ypres offering car and minibus tours.  It is important to book ahead and talk to the companies about any access needs.

Inevitably some places are more accessible than others. Take the famous Menin Gate in Ypres, an arch which bears the names of almost 55,000 missing Commonwealth  soldiers. The steps on two sides of the gate would be impossible by wheelchair, which means that you couldn’t get close to some of the inscribed panels or the places where wreaths of poppies are left.  On the other hand, the main area beneath the arch is flat and that’s where the poignant Last Post is sounded at 8pm every day in honour of the fallen. The space gets very crowded with tourists, so it’s a good idea to arrive by around 7.15pm, but there’s space in the middle where people with disabilities can get a spot away from the throng.

While there’s no substitute for making personal enquiries, the authors found the “Accessible to Everyone” brochure both detailed and accurate. Perhaps most importantly it doesn’t gloss over potential problems. At Tyne Cot, for example, it mentions an accessible entrance but also warns that “there is an adapted toilet, but it is difficult to reach because of the path’s pebble stones”.

The tour is exceptionally accessible and effective to blind and visually impaired visitors.  Visit Flanders has a huge roster of walking guides, all of whom were excellently prepared for dealing with a who needed extra assistance with stairs, roads and with reading some of the hugely informed visual elements to museums such as the In Flanders Fields museum in the centre of Ypres.  This is one of the best examples in Europe of a museum which has embraced the interactive approach to commemorating history without the usual concomitant dumbing-down.

The audio recordings (made by actors) of real diary entries written by soldiers, nurses and doctors, detailing the horror of life on the front line with a notable lack of sentiment or emotion are particularly good.  Visiting the battlefields themselves is no less affecting. The Memorial Museum in Passchendaele (actually in the nearby village of Zonnebeke) has a re-creation of a trench.  With detailed descriptions by a guide, people with visual disability can feel their way around the contorting narrow alleyway.  It’s impossible not to be affected by the feeling of suffocation that immediately manifests the moment you step inside the warren of bunkers where thousands of men would spend months enduring the near-constant ear-splitting sound of exploding shells.

It’s clear that, by providing accurate information – alongside training staff and working with sites to upgrade facilities – Visit Flanders is taking access seriously. Indeed, Visit Flanders recently won the ‘Amadeus and World Travel Market (WTM) Travel Experience Award’ for its provision in Accessible Tourism. Download Flanders Fields – Accessible to Everyone at www.accessinfo.be. It includes listings of hotels and restaurants with accessible facilities.

Sources: John Oates, Rob Crossan, The Telegraph; Visit Flanders; Access Tourism NZ.  Follow on Twitter: @VisitFlanders @valiesje @john_oates @crossantravels 

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.

Half of NYC cabs to be wheelchair-accessible by 2020

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New York City cabs Public Domain Image

Congratulations to New York City (NYC) for changing the rules so that by 2020, 50% of yellow cabs will be accessible to people who use wheelchairs.  The rule changes by the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission are the first of their kind in the country, and will make NYC’s yellow taxi fleet the most accessible in the nation and one of the most disability-friendly in the world.  “This is a historic victory affirming the civil rights of New Yorkers with disabilities,” said Julia Pinover of Disability Rights Advocates (a nonprofit legal centre), and “a real civil rights victory for all New Yorkers”.  Wheelchair-user Ronnie Raymond said at the hearing where the changes were announced that reliably accessible transport would change his life.  “I would no longer be relegated to staying home or spending hours trying to get somewhere that takes everyone else 20 minutes,” said Raymond.  Another wheelchair user – Simi Linton – echoed these statements.  “Having an accessible taxi fleet is essential to me.  My livelihood, my well-being, and the well-being of my family depend on being able to use taxis.”  Linton is a writer, consultant, and public speaker, and one of the USA’s foremost experts on disability and the arts.

Follow on Twitter: @nyctaxi @dralegal

How Universal Design is good for everybody

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Silhouettes of all who will benefit from UD from the Universal Design website

An article on UniversalDesign.com points out that by designing for human diversity we can create things that will be easier for the widest range of people to use. Such design is Universal Design (UD).  UD evolved from Accessible Design, a design process that addresses the needs of people with disabilities. UD goes further by recognizing that there is a wide spectrum of human abilities. Everyone, even the most able-bodied person, passes through childhood, periods of temporary illness, injury and old age. Thus everyone will benefit from UD, which takes into account the full range of human diversity, including physical, perceptual and cognitive abilities, and different body sizes and shapes. By designing for this diversity, we can create things that are more functional and more user-friendly for everyone. For instance, curb cuts at sidewalks were initially designed for people who use wheelchairs, but they are now also used by pedestrians with strollers or rolling luggage. Curb cuts have added functionality to sidewalks that we can all benefit from.  Everything can be Universally Designed.  This includes from the small to the large, from door handles, kitchen utensils and smartphones, to architecture and the built environment (including private, public, and commercial), and the community at large through urban planning and public transport.

Source: Universal Design.   Follow on Twitter: @UDconnects

Greece to develop accessible tourism

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Wheelchair user at the Parthenon photo from ENAT

The Greek Tourism Ministry (GTM) and the Greek National Confederation of Disabled People (ESAmeA) will work together so that people with disabilities will have access in cultural life, recreation, leisure and sport.  GTM and ESAmeA signed a cooperative protocol at a meeting on 28 March to promote and implement actions – on a national level – to ensure the accessibility of infrastructure and services to people with disabilities and other social groups with similar characteristics.

“This agreement aims to coordinate actions so that the (Greek) tourism product is accessible to people with disabilities of all categories,” Greek Tourism Minister Olga Kefalogianni said.  According to the tourism minister, potential foreign visitors with a disability currently do not choose Greece as a holiday destination as not all of the country’s services are accessible.  “We want to change this,” she said.  The agreement will also aim to ensure that people with disabilities will have access to reliable tourism information and communications.

ESAmeA President Ioannis Vardakastanis suggested during the meeting the creation of an access and information guide for people with disabilities, an idea that Kefalogianni found excellent.  The tourism ministry intends to inform Greek tourism professionals of the potential benefits of accessible tourism. Actions for accessible tourism in Greece will be coordinated at both the government level and at the level of regions and municipalities.

Source: Press release. Follow on Twitter: @OKefalogianni

 

US Access Board sponsors study of accessible natural trail surface materials

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laying down a surface during the tests Photo from the NCA website

The U.S. Access Board is a federal agency that promotes equality for people with disabilities through leadership in accessible design and the development of accessibility guidelines and standards for the built environment, transportation, communication, medical diagnostic equipment, and information technology. A recent study sponsored by the Board on the accessibility of trail surface materials has been completed by the National Center on Accessibility (NCA) at Indiana University. The project assessed the firmness and stability of 11 different types of natural aggregate and treated soil surfaces over a four-year period to determine their effectiveness after exposure to the elements, freeze and thaw cycles, and other factors. Most trail segments tested were treated with a stabilizer.

There are an estimated 56.7 million people with disabilities in the United States (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010). Approximately one in five individuals have some type of functional limitation that substantially limits one or more major life activities.  Growing public awareness of the barriers to persons with disabilities has led to several pieces of federal legislation that have an effect on the design of recreation facilities. In order for people with disabilities to benefit on the same level as people without disabilities, leisure and recreation services must be inclusive and accessible. Recreation opportunities give people with and without disabilities the opportunity to increase their quality of life and to benefit from and contribute to their own health and wellness (NCA). The report follows many years of interest by the NCA at Indiana University on how to make natural surface trails that would blend in and be friendly to the environment AND that would be firm and stable so people with disabilities could have a quality trail experience.

Source: US Access Board, NCA.  Follow on Twitter: @IUSPH