“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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Brazil focuses its accessible tourism drive on visually impaired visitors

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Overlooking Rio de Janiero

Brazil has launched a set of unique projects based on sensory experiences aimed at visually impaired tourists, reports Tourism Review.   Sensory tourism allows people with visual impairments to enjoy attractions through other senses such as touch or smell.   It is a concept Brazil’s Tourism Ministry has been working on in several of its most iconic cities.  The Botanical Garden of Rio de Janeiro, for example, invites visitors to experience the textures and aromas of plants such as orchids and herbs.  Every second week, Brasilia Zoo offers walks for groups of up to 15 people, where visitors are allowed to touch the animals.  Tour itineraries linked to coffee and the taste and aroma of traditional drinks have also been piloted in Araguari in the State of Minas Gerais.  Visually impaired visitors experience the stages of coffee production: harvesting, drying yards, pulped coffee, the bean selection process, the levels of roasting, and even tasting the quality of the drink.

São Paulo’s Pinacoteca Museum allows 12 bronze sculptures that are part of the museum’s collection to be touched.  Size, shape, texture and aesthetic diversity facilitate understanding and appreciation of these artistic works when felt with hands.  The selection of works took into account recommendations by the people with visual disabilities.   There are also projects aimed at facilitating access to beaches in Pernambuco, Río de Janeiro, Alagoas, São Paulo and Rio Grande do Sul. These sites make provision for equipment such as mechanical belts or amphibious chairs, and also promote activities like sitting volleyball and an adaptation of traditional bowling.

Rosangela Barqueiro, who is part of the Brazilian Association for Assistance of the Visually Impaired, says that minor adaptations are all that is needed in order to include the visually impaired in tourism.  Barqueiro pointed out that the training of guides and assistants to deal with visually impaired visitors can solve most of the problems in this segment.  Also helpful is the provision of audio descriptions and texts in Braille.

For its part, the Tourism Ministry has created the Acessível Tourism website in collaboration with the Human Rights Secretariat of the Presidency of the Republic and the National Council on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CONADE).  On the website you can check the accessibility of tourist sites, hotels, restaurants and various attractions in Brazil. Users can also suggest new facilities or places of interest which will help people with disabilities or reduced mobility to travel around the country with greater independence. This initiative, which is also available on a Smartphone app, won last year’s National Prize for Web Accessibility.

Follow on Twitter: @Tourism_Review @Laramara_Assoc @MTurismo @DHumanosBrasil

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

Website Accessibility: A New Frontier Of Inclusion

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

Website front page with audio

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

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

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

San Francisco Airport directions app for the Blind, visually impaired

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Using indoors app

San Francisco Airport (SFO) http://www.flysfo.com/  is testing out location-aware beacons, a program it could roll out to the rest of the airport if successful.   The beacons deliver location-sensitive, voice –based directions via smartphones to help people who are Blind, have vision loss, or find it difficult to navigate.  At the moment, the system uses Apple iOS devices, but SFO plans to make it available for Android users and eventually expand the system to provide information for those who can see.  The beacons are provided by indoor mapping firm indoo.rs, http://indoo.rs/sfo/ who have installed 300 of them at various points around Terminal 2 including stores, restrooms, boarding gates, baggage claim and even power outlets. The beacons use triangulation to determine exactly where the passenger is within the vicinity and to relay nearby facilities using voiceover technology.  Each beacon will connect to the phone app to provide information when a user gets within range.

Location beacons are in their infancy in terms of adoption, but are beginning to show up in retail spaces, museums, movie theatres, and some sports venues around the world.  SFO and Indoo.rs say they plan to continue testing this system over the next month with a live version of the site, and public availability of the software in the fall. 

Follow on Twitter: @flySFO @indoo_rs

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

New app to help Blind navigate London transport

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Little India 057

A new phone app being developed by London charity The Royal London Society for Blind People (RSLB http://www.rlsb.org.uk/and digital product studio ustwo (http://ustwo.com/ )  could help blind and vision-impaired passengers by using Bluetooth iBeacons to map out London’s transport systems, writes Kate O’Sullivan in The Londonist (http://londonist.com/2014/08/new-transport-app-for-vision-impaired-londoners.php).  For many vision-impaired Londoners, difficulty navigating the capital’s huge and complex network of busy Tube, bus and rail systems can be a permanent barrier.  The new Wayfindr app will use existing Bluetooth iBeacon technology (BLE) to digitally map out locations. The beacons send out an electronic pulse that allow it to locate the user by comparing signal strengths. Once it has this information, it can send out directions through bone-conducting headphones which carry sound to the inner ear through the skull, making navigating transport systems solo possible for vision impaired passengers. Bone-conducting headphones sit on your cheek, meaning that you are still able to hear what is going on around you: essential if you are vision-impaired.

Transport for London (TfL) already offers assistance to blind or vision-impaired passengers by meeting them at ticket barriers and arranging for someone to meet them at the other end, and at any interchange. It’s a process that can easily involve three, four or more members of staff. This ‘turn up and go’ system is a welcome change to the old one, which required passengers to book in advance for assistance, and communication often breaks down between stations, leaving people stranded.

There is still site testing to be done and, for the new app to be implemented successfully, iBeacons would need to be installed across London’s vast transport network, starting with the Tube. This will clearly come at substantial cost. For it to become a reality, TfL needs to jump on board and fully support this new project, says O’Sullivan.

Source:  adapted from the Londonisthttp://londonist.com/2014/08/new-transport-app-for-vision-impaired-londoners.php .  Follow on Twitter: @Londonist @ustwo @RLSBcharity

SFO Unveils Mobile App for Visually-Impaired Passengers

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Exterior of the San Francisco Inteernational Airport building

San Francisco International Airport (SFO http://www.flysfo.com/ ) has unveiled a prototype version of a smartphone application which can help visually-impaired passengers to navigate through an airport terminal.  The app was developed through San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee’s Entrepreneur-in-Residence Program (http://entrepreneur.sfgov.org/), which paired SFO with the Indoo.rs (http://indoo.rs/), a leader in indoor navigation technology, and was developed in a relatively short span of 16 weeks.

The prototype app works in conjunction with approximately 500 beacons located throughout the terminal to audibly call out various points of interest, including gate boarding areas, restaurants, and even power outlets. The prototype version will undergo additional testing and refinement before being released for use by the traveling public.

Source: Press release http://www.flysfo.com/media/press-releases/sfo-unveils-mobile-app-visually-impaired-passengers Follow on Twitter: @flySFO @indoors_rs

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.

Edinburgh Airport first in Scotland to develop support toolkit for passengers with additional needs

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Logo of Edinburgh airport from the airport website

In the first project of its kind in Scotland, Edinburgh Airport has launched a support package to help passengers with autism and other additional support needs travel through the airport.  Working closely with the charity Scottish Autism, the airport’s corporate charity partner for 2014, and disability equality group Wideaware, Edinburgh Airport has developed the ‘Travelling with Additional Needs’ toolkit as part of a wider support package to help passengers and their families better cope with the what can be a daunting task of navigating their way through a busy airport.  The toolkit is made up of a series of factsheets, each tailor-made to focus on the different parts of the airport journey which may be particularly stressful, for example checking in and going through security. The factsheets are available to view, download and print from the airport’s website at edinburghairport.com/prepare.

The factsheets provide an easy step-by-step airport guide and aim to help passengers prepare for what to expect within an airport. The toolkit will be supported by hands-on initiatives including advance walk-throughs for passengers who may be on the autism spectrum, in a wheelchair, or even someone who may not have been in an airport before.   If passengers feel that they would prefer to discuss their journey in more detail, they can contact the team at Edinburgh Airport who can help familiarise them with the airport and its usual operations.   Text versions of the factsheets are also available for passengers with visual and hearing impairments and work is underway to develop a wider support package for wheelchair users.

The airport is also working with airlines, such as easyJet and British Airways, to help facilitate bespoke courses for people with a fear of flying.   David Wilson, Chief Operating Officer at Edinburgh Airport, said: “We realise that each passenger is unique and may have different requirements so that’s why we’ve been working hard to understand the complex types of barriers which can stop people from being able to fly.   We’ve taken on board expert advice so we can remove these barriers and show that travelling through Edinburgh Airport can be an enjoyable experience. Our specially designed toolkit and the wider support package have been specifically designed for those passengers who may need a little bit of help or reassurance before they fly, whether that is information on where to find their check in desk or how to use a self-service machine.”  Wilson went on to say “We firmly believe that everyone who wants to fly can fly and we’re committed to making sure all of our passengers have the best experience possible. We have an amazing team here at Edinburgh Airport and we’ll continue to work to ensure our services are of the highest standard.”

Charlene Tait, Director of Development at Scottish Autism, said: “We know of many people living with autism who, along with their families, are disenfranchised from air travel because they simply cannot cope with the stress and trauma of an airport.  The busy nature of airports with crowds, queues, security checks and the accompanying noises can be overwhelming for people with autism who often have an adverse reaction to a unique and unpredictable environment which they cannot control.  This new initiative with Edinburgh Airport is a great starting point in trying to change this situation. The toolkit and other support measures have the potential to really help people with autism and other support needs by making them more aware of what they can expect in an airport environment and help them prepare in advance.”

Maria Zedda, Director at Wideaware, said: “”At Wideaware we’ve had the opportunity to work with many transport providers but this is the first time we’ve been able to provide advice on the production of disability-friendly factsheets. This is a fantastic initiative from Edinburgh Airport.   The factsheets will help passengers with a range of impairments and provide crucial information on what to expect when arriving at the airport and using its facilities.   I am so impressed with this initiative. In a profit-driven world of public transportation that often excludes disabled people, it’s great to see Edinburgh Airport working so hard to ensure all of their passengers have a good experience.”

Edinburgh Airport is Scotland’s busiest airport. More than 40 airlines serve 100-plus destinations and 9.78 million passengers a year passed through the airport in 2013 – the busiest year ever for a Scottish airport.

Source: Press release.  Follow on Twitter: @EDI_Airport @scottishautism @wideaware @easyJet @British_Airways

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

 

Manchester Airport: help for families with autistic children

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Manchester airport from the south

Manchester Airport has launched a new video to accompany refreshed ‘Airport Awareness’ literature, aimed at helping families with autistic children when travelling through the airport.  The Airport Awareness initiative was originally launched in 2009 and has now been refreshed to include a booklet and video for each of the three terminals. Singer and actor Keith Duffy is backing Manchester Airport’s Awareness initiative and appears in the videos.  Duffy said: “I’ve been actively fundraising and raising awareness for children with autism for many years now, ever since my daughter Mia was diagnosed in 2001. I think it’s brilliant what Manchester Airport is doing to help both children and parents affected by autism. “  The booklets and videos show a typical scenario from arriving at the airport to checking in, going through security, boarding the plane and the return journey. Chronological information about each stage of travelling through the airport is featured, the booklets are also illustrated with photographs and the video is narrated by Duffy.

Manchester Airport’s Customer Services Director, Tricia Williams said: “This initiative is unique to Manchester Airport and following feedback from parents and carers who have in previous years used our booklet, we decided to create accompanying videos to provide a visual aid as well.  We appreciate that an airport can be a very confusing and even frightening place for someone on the autistic spectrum so we have worked with local autism organizations over the last few years to help autistic children and their families as much as we can when they are travelling through our airport.”  The booklets and videos allow parents to plan their journey with their child, helping them to understand what to expect when they arrive at, travel through and return to Manchester Airport.

Hard copies of the booklets can be requested free of charge via Manchester Airport’s Customer Contact Centre on 08714 777 747 or email customer.relations@manairport.co.uk or alternatively they are available to download from www.manchesterairport.co.uk where the videos can also be viewed.

Source: Press release.  Follow on Twitter @manairport @officialkeith

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

NZ: Review of access for people with disabilities under the Building Code

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Picture of steps

The Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) with the Office for Disability Issues (ODI) is carrying out a disability access review.  The review is being carried out by Malatest International . The purpose of this review is to gain a better understanding of how the requirements for people with disabilities contained in the Building Act and the Building Code are being implemented in new buildings, as well as buildings being altered, and the extent to which these requirements do in fact provide an accessible built environment for people with disabilities.  The review is collecting sector ‘issues’ and ideas for practical changes.

To inform the review, people can do a survey which is about buildings you go into as part of your day to day life such as shopping centres, council or government buildings, shops, theatres, restaurants, hospitals and doctors’ and dentists’ surgeries, parking buildings, offices, factories and any place of work. The review does not
include people’s homes.   As the New Zealand Disability Support Network (NZDSN) points out, the survey is about buildings that are accessible or not accessible to everybody.

If you would like to take part you can do so by:

Source: NZDSN.  Follow on Twitter: @NZDSN @MBIEgovtnz @NZ_ODI

NZ National Foundation for the Deaf calls for better access for Deaf in Christchurch rebuild

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Building crane

The New Zealand National Foundation for the Deaf (NFD) points out that as the rebuild if Christchurch (after the earthquakes) gains momentum, designers and planners are still not including listening support systems in public buildings.  “This oversight contradicts the Building Code caluse G5.3.5, and Article 9 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which says that such spaces should be able to be enjoyed by all people regardless of their age, ethnicity, and disability” writes NFD (p. 7).  “Communal areas, theatres, cinemas, aged care facilities, and other built environments should all support the needs of the hearing impaired” continues the article.  NFD have written to the Christchurch City Council urging them to consider the needs of thousands of local citizens, and consistently incorporate listening systems and other technology when giving building consent.

Follow on Twitter: @theNatFdnDeaf

VisitEngland launches national marketing campaign to promote Accessible Tourism

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Portrait of Richard 111 from the Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre website

In the spirit of Olympic and Paralympic legacy, VisitEngland has launched a national marketing campaign aimed at championing and improving accessible tourism in England, a sector worth over £2billion a year* to the domestic tourism industry, with strong growth potential. The national tourist board has worked with a number of destinations and the Disabled Persons Railcard to develop guides highlighting fantastic and accessible tourism experiences across the country. The Access for All Campaign aims to position England as a leading destination for accessible tourism.

The campaign, funded by £100,000 from the Government’s Regional Growth Fund (RGF) plus contributions from partners, is a cost-effective way for selected English destinations to showcase their accessible tourism businesses and attract more visits from disabled travellers and others with access needs, and their companions.

Each destination has selected top class accommodation and attractions which have then been through an Access for All programme developed by VisitEngland to ensure they’re delivering the highest standard of access for visitors. These places to stay and visit are featured in a series of local guides that highlight key attributes of the destination as well as promoting it as access friendly. The four destinations involved in the campaign are listed below, with a few highlights of what is on offer:

Leicestershire – Situated in the heart of the country, Leicestershire has been welcoming visitors for more than 2,000 years – everyone from Roman armies to medieval Kings and Queens. Visitors to the city and county can explore its unique heritage in a new accessible package, Stay Play Explore Glorious Heritage. Visit the Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre, site of the dramatic conclusion to the Wars of the Roses, where Richard III lost his life and Henry Tudor was crowned king. From here, visit the Richard III exhibition at Leicester’s Guildhall to continue your discovery of this intriguing monarch, before taking afternoon tea at The Belmont Hotel. The National Brewery Centre makes a perfect pit stop, and celebrates the history, art and fun of brewing.  Finally, see the National Memorial Arboretum and Snibston Discovery Museum, the largest science and technology museum in the East Midlands. The Stay Play Explore Glorious Heritage package includes entry to a choice of three out of five attractions and an overnight stay at the 4-star Hinckley Island Hotel for just £109. Each site has completed VisitEngland’s Access for All programme and offers excellent facilities and access.

NewcastleGateshead – A must-see for visitors to NewcastleGateshead is the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, with its four accessible gallery spaces, it has an ever-changing programme of exhibitions. NewcastleGateshead is home to Europe’s largest shopping and leisure centre, intu Metrocentre which offers a range of services for visitors with accessibility needs, including Shopmobility, assisted changing facilities, and free wheelchair hire. The city is also home to one of the world’s premier music venues, Sage Gateshead. This ‘Access for All’ award-winning venue’s extensive access facilities include level access throughout, hearing loop systems, 35 accessible toilets and monitored light levels in all areas.  At the end of a long day, head back to the Hilton Newcastle Gateshead, an award-winning hotel set on the historic Quayside with fantastic views over the River Tyne. There are twelve accessible guest rooms, including three Executive rooms which have access to a private lounge and panoramic views of the city.

Brighton – Bustling seaside destination Brighton & Hove has a jam-packed cultural calendar, making it a top spot for a seaside break. Take in Brighton’s art culture with visits to the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery and the Hove Museum & Art Gallery. Heritage fans can visit Brighton’s spectacular seaside palace, the Royal Pavilion, with easy access throughout the ground floor, or visit the nearby Preston Manor, a delightful Edwardian country house with the ground floor, basement and walled garden accessible for all visitors. Thistle Brighton, Jurys Inn and Hilton Brighton Metropole have all been through VisitEngland’s Access for All programme and feature guest rooms accessible for wheelchair users and visually or hearing impaired guests.  VisitBrighton offers downloadable factsheets about access in the city and a map showing step free access to the main hotels and attractions, and the locations of dropped kerbs around the city.

Bath – For centuries, Bath has enchanted everyone from ancient Romans to Jane Austen and it continues to offer everything required for a perfect weekend break: from heritage sites and contemporary culture to top hotels and excellent food. You can take in the atmosphere and impressive architecture on a fully personalised tour with Bath Parade Guides. Renovations to The Roman Baths – one of the wonders of Roman England – have made the Baths accessible for all, and include a lift to the lower level museum, level access, and ramps across ancient Roman obstacles. The Bath for Everyone offer for £74.50 will transport you to the city’s origins and ensure you get to know the best of Bath. Take in Bath’s culture and visit the Fashion Museum, housed in the impressive 18th century Assembly Rooms. All floors are accessible and equipped with ramps, a lift and level access throughout. Victoria Art Gallery is home to a plethora of international artists from the 15th century to the present day. Make a weekend of it with a stay at the Holiday Inn Express, where seven purpose-built accessible guest rooms have been designed to suit a variety of access needs.

The full list of partners involved in the Access for All campaign can be found in the destination guides which are downloadable from VisitEngland.com/accessforall

James Berresford, chief executive of VisitEngland said: “England is a very accessible destination with plenty on offer for everyone. This is a wonderful opportunity to showcase these particular locations as shining examples of best practice; to build on the legacy of the 2012 Paralympic Games and encourage tourism businesses to make the most of the accessible tourism market, which has enormous potential for growth. Whether exploring the wonders of Roman England in Bath, enjoying a vibrant seaside break in Brighton, journeying through Leicestershire’s heritage, or taking in the bustle of NewcastleGateshead, with these guides you can enjoy a fantastic holiday and feel confident that the places you visit are working hard to meet your access needs.”

Guides can be downloaded in either PDF, large print Word or audio format from  VisitEngland.com/accessforall.  A limited number of printed copies are available for those who cannot access the guides online. Email qad@VisitEngland.org or call 0207 578 1454.  For more information contact Angelah Sparg, Corporate Communications Manager Tel: 02075781482, Email Angelah.sparg@visitengland.org or Sarah Long, Head of Corporate Communications Tel: 020 7578 1452, Email sarah.long@visitengland.orgwww.visitengland.org

*In 2009, 11% of all domestic trips included someone with a health condition or impairment – a total of 11.28 million trips worth £1.9 billion (Great Britain Tourism Survey, 2009). In 2010, 1.8% of all international visits to England were by someone with a health condition or impairment – a total of 576 thousand trips worth £341 million (International Passenger Survey, 2010.) • VisitEngland provides a number of tools and resources to help tourism operators accommodate people with access needs, available at www.visitengland.org/access and tourism information for people with physical and sensory needs at www.visitengland.com/accessforall

Source: Press release.  Follow on Twitter: @VisitEngland @VisitEnglandBiz @JBerresfordVE @RossCalladine