Program to improve taxi accessibility first of its kind in Canada

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City of Vancouver taxis from the City website

Vancouver City mayor Gregor Robertson, the Vancouver Taxi Association and the BC Coalition of People with Disabilities have launched ‘Ask-Listen-Act’, a new form of enhanced taxi driver training involving seniors and people with disabilities. Robertson said the training will help make the taxi fleet more accessible and convenient for local seniors and people with disabilities. One in six people in BC has a disability and one in eight people in Vancouver is 65 years of age or older.   “From our new building code to enhanced investments in pedestrian safety, the City is committed to improving accessibility for everyone”, said Robertson.  ‘Ask-Listen-Act’ Enhanced Taxi Driver Training will provide Vancouver taxi drivers with extensive training to ensure customers with different types of disabilities are transported safely and respectfully. In development since April 2012, the program is created by the Vancouver Taxi Association, in partnership with the City of Vancouver and the BC Coalition of Disabilities, and involved consultation with several groups, including the City’s Persons with Disabilities Advisory Committee, Seniors Advisory Committee, Council of Senior Citizens Organizations of BC (COSCO), Access for Sight-Impaired Consumers (ASIC), and GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre, among others.

‘Ask-Listen-Act’ will provide no-charge, specific training for taxi drivers when serving customers with a range of disabilities including those using mobility devices, such as wheelchairs, walkers, and scooters. It also provides guidance for helping customers with developmental disabilities, customers who are blind or visually impaired, customers with guide or assistance dogs, and customers who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Follow on Twitter: @CityofVancouver @BCCPDHealth @VCHhealthcare

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Brazilian study of the tourism behaviour and needs of people with disabilities

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Front cover logo of the Brazil Accessible Tourism report

Brazil has over 45 million citizens with disabilities, and the Federal Government of that country is intent on promoting the rights of people with disabilities.  To this end, the Ministry of Tourism launched an Accessible Tourism programme in partnership with the Human Rights Secretariat of the President of the republic and EMBRATUR (Brazilian Tourist Board or Brazilian Tourist Institute) because tourism is a sustainable economic activity with an important role in employment generation, foreign exchange, and social inclusion. For the development of an effective policy in the area of accessible and inclusive tourism, knowledge of the profile of tourists (both current and potential) with disabilities is seen as critical.  Therefore, research was conducted by CP2 Research in 2013 involving a survey of people with disabilities and tourism.  The results have been presented as a white paper: Estudo do Perfil de Turistas – Pessoas com Deficiência Documento Técnico – 2013The following selective summary of what people with disabilities think of tourism and what their tourism activities are is taken from a translation (Study of the Profile of Tourists with Disabilities) by Scott Rains of the Rolling Rains Report and a global leader in the field of accessible tourism research and promotion.  Continue reading here:

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American museums increasing access for people with disabilities

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Exterior of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

In an article for the New York Times, Tanya Mohn describes how American museums are increasing access for people with disabilities.  The Metropolitan Museum of Art in NY for example, runs programmes for people with disabilities almost every day.  These include tours in American Sign Language (ASL), displays of art created by people with disabilities, and multisensory exhibits.  The Whitney in Manhattan finds that its video tour blogs (vlogs) in ASL are popular with hearing people because they are captioned.   The Guggenheim’s mobile app includes closed captioning for videos, enlarged text capability, verbal tours and other technology.    The Smithsonian – which has many adaptations to overcome barriers – has definitive guidelines to accessible exhibition design which are used globally.  The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston has a universal approach to its mobile multimedia guide, and devices can be used by disabled and nondisabled visitors.  The Art Institute of Chicago plans to try 3-D printing of artworks so that visitors can explore sensory elements of objects.

Such efforts by museums are likely to increase, writes Mohn.  In 2010, about 56.7 million Americans had a disability (18.7% of the population).  This number will increase because of America’s ageing population, increased longevity, and more cases of certain types of learning disabilities.

Smaller museums offer services for the disabled also.  For a description of these, see the full article by Mohn.

Travelling for the blind, visually impaired

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Shynx and pyramid in Egypt

Travel, especially independent travel, is one of the pleasures that many might think becomes unavailable after vision loss. After all, navigating unfamiliar locations is something that can be complicated enough already for anyone no matter their level of sightedness, and vision loss can be an extra hurdle.  However, it’s far from an insurmountable obstacle, writes the San Diego Center for the Blind (SDCB).  Travel and tourism are becoming more accessible all the time as businesses and destinations realize the sense (not to mention the cents!) of offering accommodations such as adapted menus, guide services, and more. And there are many travel companies that cater almost exclusively to people with disabilities, including blindness or low vision (VIs). The SDCB describes two USA-based travel companies that specialize in tours for VIs ( Mind’s Eye Travel, Outta Sight Travel) and one from Denmark (VisionOutdoor ).

The SDCB blog also lists a company specialising in VI travel from the UK.  There are some 157,000 people registered blind in Britain, and 155,000 registered visually impaired (VIs). Only 8% were born with their condition.  When it comes to holidays, beyond travelling with friends and relatives, people with vision disability have shockingly few options, writes Jon Henley in The Guardian.   There is however, Traveleyes, a company set up by Amar Latiff, a 36-year-old Glasgow-born entrepreneur  seven years ago. Amar has been without 95% of his sight since his first year at university, thanks to an incurable eye condition called retinitis pigmentosa.   Not all clients come from Britain: 30% of Traveleyes’s VIs come from abroad, mainly North America, Australia and New Zealand.   Traveleyes pairs up sighted people and people with visual impairments who may or may not have known each other beforehand. The sighted travellers provide descriptions and guidance in exchange for reduced fares, and the pairings rotate daily, so meeting new people is built right into the tour.

For the blind business traveller (or any traveller with vision loss), there is also online help on how to manage negotiating airports more effectively (J.J. Meddaugh), and what to expect when going through airport security (Janet Ingber).

 

UN General Assembly holds first-ever high-level meeting on disability

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UN Enable logo

United Nations General Assembly High-Level meeting adopts document seeking to promote disability-inclusive development, redress absence of disability Rights from the Millennium Development Goals

The UN General Assembly has adopted a landmark outcome document ( A/68/L.1) aimed at promoting disability-inclusive development during its first-ever high-level meeting on that topic (23/9/2013).  Assembly President John Ashe (Antigua and Barbuda) underlined the text’s significance as the instrument to guide efforts towards the creation of a fully inclusive society through 2015 and beyond.  “Given the size of such a marginalized group, the onus is on us all to ensure that any future sustainable development goals include the disabled,” said Ashe.  He pointed out the absence of any reference to people with disabilities in all eight Millennium Development Goals. The international community had now realized that it would be impossible to meet development targets, including the Millennium Goals, without incorporating the rights, well-being and perspective of persons with disabilities.

By the text adopted, Heads of State and Government reaffirmed their resolve to work together for disability-inclusive development and for the international community’s commitment to advancing the rights of all persons with disabilities, which was deeply rooted in the goals of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  World leaders also underlined the need for urgent action by all relevant stakeholders towards the adoption and implementation of more ambitious disability-inclusive national development strategies, while expressing their resolve to undertake various commitments to address barriers, including those relating to education, health care, employment, legislation, societal attitudes, as well as the physical environment and information and communications technology.

The text urged the United Nations system as well as Member States to stay engaged in efforts to realize the Millennium Development Goals and other internationally agreed development targets for persons with disabilities towards 2015 and beyond. It encouraged the international community to seize every opportunity to include disability as a cross-cutting issue on the global development agenda, including the emerging post-2015 United Nations development framework.

Ashe noted that people with physical, sensory, mental and intellectual disabilities were “the world’s largest minority”, numbering more than 1 billion. “They are a diverse and varied group, each with unique gifts and abilities, and each with unique challenges,” he said. “They teach us not only lessons about love and respect, but also about persevering against the odds.”  He went on to say that 134 countries had ratified or acceded to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, adopted by the Assembly in 2006.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon quoted International Labour Organization (ILO) statistics showing that excluding disabled persons could cost economies as much as 7% of gross domestic product (GDP).

Following the opening segment, the Assembly held two round-table discussions, the first on “International and regional cooperation and partnerships for disability inclusive development”, and the second on “The post-2015 development agenda and inclusive development for persons with disabilities”.  The General Assembly  reconvened  on 24 September, to begin its general debate.

Cashel town Ireland working since 2006 to improve accessible tourism – with no budget

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Logo from Cashel Gold Star website showing ruined castle

Cashel heritage town in County Tipperary is not unlike many other Irish towns, with its small streets and old buildings, and tricky navigation for people with limited mobility.  Anne Bradshaw, a Development Worker with the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) was tasked to improve accessibility in Cashel.  The project began in 2006 driven by concerns that people weren’t able to fully participate in the local community.  Issues were broken down into four pillars: access, awareness, social participation, and transport.  With 96% of respondents in Cashel citing lack of awareness as a problem, they decided to focus on that first.   With the ultimate aim of involving everybody in the Cashel community, they set about assembling a task force and then contacted private and public businesses, the local council, and other organisations.

With no budget, funding and volunteer help was sourced throughout the process in the Cashel Gold Star project.  The Cashel Gold Star Disability Task Group aims to  improve awareness and integration of people with disabilities and to assist the community in ensuring all premises and activities are accessible and welcoming to all.  Because Cashel is a tourist destination, the  Task Group highlight in particular the benefits and attractions of the town for visitors with disabilities.

Many heritage sites in Cashel cannot be changed structurally, so alternative solutions were sought.  For example, in some places ramps were put in place, or internal walls removed to allow better access.  The whole community was involved, including children in the local schools, who designed logos etc.  Information was given to businesses about guide dogs, acquired brain injury, and the ‘dos and don’ts’ of disability, and they were approached about the changes they could undertake to be more accessible.  There are now accessible menus in Cashel, which can be listened to by people or read in Braille or in large clear print.  To achieve a gold star for access (or a silver or bronze), businesses are visited by the task group to see how accessible they are, and what changes need to take place. Staff participate in disability awareness training.  So far, there have been 280 participants. The aim is to bring the project to the stage where it is able to self-maintain.

So successful was the project that it has been rolled out to Tipperary Town and Wexford town “It is a general programme that can work anywhere,” said Bradshaw.  It’s not about what’s really wrong, it’s about highlighting what’s right.

City of Madrid promotes accessible tourism

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Exterior of Royal Palace Madrid

Madrid (Spain) has made a strong commitment to making tourism accessible for everyone.  A history of what Madrid has done in the last ten years in order to advance accessible tourism is available here.

Recently, the city published its 6th Accessible Tourism Guide to Madrid. This publication offers up-to-date, detailed information on the accessibility of a wide range of tourist attractions in the city, including 161 accommodations, 129 places of interest (such as museums, restaurants and theatres), as well as seven emblematic routes for exploring the Spanish capital.  It is part of Madrid’s 2012-2015 Strategic Tourism Plan.  The guide provides information on accessibility – gathered in situ by experts from the State Representative Platform of the Physically Challenged (PREDIF).  It is available on CD, can be accessed via the city of Madrid’s official tourism portal, and can be accessed on mobile phones thanks to the Tur4all app, promoted by PREDIF.

A free app also provides accessibility information on more than 1,500 tourist establishments throughout Spain.   It allows searches for information on nearby establishments, their distance from the user, and how to get to them.   Search criteria can be personalized, and places of interest can be bookmarked.

Accessible Tourism initiatives have been made possible through the support of PREDIF, Fundacion Vodafone Espana, the Region of Madrid Federation of Associations of Persons with Physical and Organic Disabilities (FAMMA-Cocemfe Madrid),  Fundacion ONCE (Spanish Organization for the Blind), the Federation of Organizations in Support of Persons with Intellectual Disabilities (FEAPS-Madrid), the Region of Madrid Federation for the Deaf (FESORCAM) and the State Centre for Personal Autonomy and Technical Aids (CEAPAT).

The Guide is not the only initiative through which Madrid makes it easier for everyone to visit the capital city. Madrid is also the first city in Spain to have a tourist office (its main Tourist Centre, located in Plaza Mayor) awarded the Universal Accessibility certification by the Spanish Association for Standardization and Certification (AENOR). This accessibility system, introduced in 2010 and upgraded annually, covers not only the physical accessibility of a location, but also of the services provided at the Tourist Centre.  The Centre has a high-relief map in Braille showing the services available, a description of them, and their location. There are also many informative signs designed with large text and contrasting colors to make them easier to understand. Madrid Visitors & Convention Bureau is committed to offering a standardized tourist service accessible to all.

Podotactile bands have been installed for persons with visual disabilities, along with hip supports for persons with reduced mobility and a magnetic loop that reduces background noise to make it easier to communicate with persons that have impaired hearing. The Centre also has a Spanish sign language service, available every day of the year, and the staff at all tourist centers and information points are specially trained in the protocols for assisting persons with disabilities.

Another initiative that reflects the city’s standing commitment to accessible tourism is the creation and adaptation of guided tours for persons with disabilities. Since 2004, the Official Guided Tours Program has been both increased and enhanced by a number of standardized guided routes available to everyone, regardless of whether or not they have a disability, such as the three “Essential Madrid” tours, as well as the creation of free guided tours specially adapted for persons with physical, visual, hearing or intellectual disabilities.

Source: Mainly eTurboNews

Australia: HRC, CCAN announce new accessible app challenge

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

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

Most accessible mainstream app

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

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

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

Launch of world-first technology to enable blind and vision impaired Australians to enjoy live theatre

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Theatre stage

Australian Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers Amanda Rishworth recently launched a cutting-edge new app that will enable people who are blind or vision impaired to enjoy live theatre by providing high-quality audio descriptions on their mobile devices, including smart phones and tablets.  The GoTheatrical! mobile app was  developed by award-winning Australian company The Captioning Studio.  “People with disability have the right to the same opportunities as other Australians,” Rishworth said.  “This new app will allow users to access the audio description delivered during gaps in the dialogue, and visualize the action taking place from detailed descriptions of costumes, body language, set design and scene locations.   This technology replaces the old portable FM systems, which could be frustrating for theatre-goers as users often experienced interference from radio stations and technical failures such as batteries dying.  By using WiFi and Voice Over IP, this technology allows a much higher quality audio signal with a greater degree of reliability.”

The Australian Federal Government has committed $500,000 to improve access to cinemas for people who are deaf, blind, or visually or hearing impaired, which will see captions and audio description available in 242 screens by the end of 2014.  “Through our National Disability Strategy, which includes $11 million in community initiatives, we are delivering a range of accessibility measures to make it easier for people with disability, their carers and families to participate in community life, including going to the cinema, attending conferences, using public libraries and accessing public buildings”, said Rishworth.

Tourism Barcelona adds extensive access information to website

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Barcelona cathedral roof interior

Tourism Barcelona (Turisme Barcelona Twitter: @BarcelonaInfoEN) was set up in 1993 by the Barcelona Municipal Council, the Barcelona Official Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Shipping, and the Foundation for the Promotion of Barcelona.  It is responsible for promoting the Catalan capital as a tourist destination.  Its website has recently been upgraded to include information about visiting Barcelona for people with disabilities. Museums adapted for the blind and partially sighted, hotels without barriers, accessible beaches and sign-language tours are just some of the options available.  The website uses pictograms and icons for ease of use, and a search engine for accessible places of interest for each type of disabilities.  These include museums, parks, beaches, unique buildings, monuments, and World Heritage sites.  There is also a list of accessible transport facilities (metro, bus, tram), tourism information offices, accommodations providers, activities, tours, and adaptive sports.  There is also a FAQ page.  All information is available in English, French, Catala, and Catellano.

German National Tourism Office in UK to promote accessible tourism in Germany

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German flag

Tourism for All UK reports that guests from some of the UKs most experienced organisations representing disability were given a preview recently of the German National Tourist Office’s (GNTO) forthcoming campaign promoting ‘barrier free’ travel in Germany.  The campaign will be launched later this year.  The term ‘barrier free’ (barrierefrei) is widely known in Germany and applies to any form of restricted mobility, including for families, elderly people, or those with  restricted sight or hearing.  The campaign was outlined during a presentation and follow-up discussion and received a warm welcome from Deutsche Bahn (Europe’s biggest online travel booking tool), Lufthansa and DFDS Seaways, plus specialist UK travel organisations and advisory sites. Some of the main topics discussed included practicalities such as travelling on public transport in Germany, and which regions offer the most choice to anyone with restricted mobility.

Klaus Lohmann, Director for the GNTO, UK and Ireland said “The most important thing is that anyone who travels to Germany should be able to do so with ease and confidence. Restricted mobility could be due to a sporting injury or visitors may be in a wheelchair – our aim is to try and make their experience as enjoyable as possible. Germany is open to all”. He added: “This is a long-term campaign for Germany and the input and feedback we have received today from people who can help us to gain from their expertise is invaluable”.

The rollout comes after GNTO hosted a product workshop and round table discussion in February in London to establish the requirements for promoting accessibility travel from the UK to Germany.  Representatives from tour operator companies, disability charity organisations, travel website specialists, the Deutsche Bahn and the Germany Embassy were all involved in the discussions. These included subjects such as methods of assisted travel, different levels of accommodation, and inspiring activities for all ages and for a wide variety of needs.  At the meeting, Lohmann said: “The London Paralympics set a dynamic and vital example to the world in helping to bring the subject of disability into the mainstream. We want to keep this dynamism going, which is why we will be doing all we can to show that holidays in Germany can offer something for everyone in the most straightforward and rewarding way”.

Spain’s National Parks improve access for people with disabilities

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Wheelchair visitor from Spain Info website

Following on from many recent developments in accessible tourism in Spain (for example, see here,  here, and here), that country is working to make sure its National Parks offer nature for all. Installations are being adapted for people with disabilities, including adapting information panels and leaflets for the blind, having handrails and double-height windows, and having guides who use sign language.  More spacious facilities have been developed, paths have non-slip compact materials that are non-reflective, and trails are suitable for all.

Spain has fourteen national parks with a total of over 325,000 hectares.  The Spanish office of Europarc (the European Federation of Nature Reserves and National Parks) has published a catalogue of good practices carried out in Spain’s parks. These initiatives have removed barriers and continue to operate to make Spain’s National Parks a natural resource for everyone to enjoy.

The Timanfaya National Park in Lanzarote, one of the seven Canary Islands, is an excellent example of an accessible park. Improvements carried out have made the park into a volcanic paradise which is accessible to anyone with a disability. Educational material includes information in Braille in several languages, and audiovisual productions incorporate sign language.  In Tenerife, also in the Canary Islands, the Teide National Park, which has UNESCO World Heritage designation, has a guide service for disabled people. By booking in advance, disabled people can discover the park’s huge biodiversity and enjoy spectacular views of the Teide from its viewing point. The Tablas de Daimiel park in Castile–La Mancha offers a similar service. Its La Laguna observatory adapts each group visit according to members’ disabilities.  The Picos de Europa National Park in the Region of Asturias has a room called ‘the cave’, where visitors can experience the different sounds and textures to be found in the ecosystems of the park. At the Sierra Nevada National Park in the province of Granada, Andalusia, you can recreate the realities of nature at a range of workshops on astronomy, ecology, textile production… all adapted for the disabled.

Some of  Spain’s National Parks offer direct vehicular access, such as Doñana (Andalusia), which also has UNESCO World Heritage designation, and Aiguestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici Park, in Catalonia.

Australian government fund for improving access for PwDs at conferences

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Picture of a kangaroo from WPClipArt

The Australian Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers, Jan McLucas says that conference organisers can now apply for grants of up to $12,000 to improve access for people with disability and their carers at nationally-focused disability conferences held in Australia during 2013-2014.   Organisations can apply for funding under the Australian Government’s National Disability Conference InitiativeGrants can be used to assist people with disability and their carers with the costs of attending the conference, such as conference fees, accommodation or travel.  Services such as Auslan interpreters, live captioning services, hearing loops or note-takers for people who are deaf and hearing impaired can also be covered.  “Attending a conference is something that many of us don’t think twice about but the fact is there are many Australians who face barriers when doing so,” said Senator McLucas. “It is through initiatives like this that we can help ensure that people with disability have the same opportunities as other Australians to fulfil their potential and participate in community life.  The Australian Government is working hard to ensure people with disability have the same opportunities as other Australians.”

Through the National Disability Strategy, the Australian government is delivering a range of accessibility measures to make it easier for people with disability, their carers and families to participate in community life, including going to the cinema, using public libraries and accessing public buildings.

Eligibility requirements and application forms for the National Disability Conference Initiative are  available at: www.fahcsia.gov.au/funding. Applications close at 2pm AEST on Friday 26 April 2013.

NZ Tourism Guide still getting it wrong about access for guide dogs

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Dog at rest

It is heartening to see that, in a new article about “10 Tips to Improve Business” on the New Zealand Tourism Guide (NZTG) website, that Number 5  is ”If your business caters especially well for disabled visitors, make sure you sing out about it – promote it online, in print and to specialist websites and publications”.   However, it is disheartening to see that on an “Accessible Accommodation” page, the NZTG website  STILL (March 2013) has the statement:

For travellers with visual impairment, it is important to check whether accommodations welcome your guide dog”.

Access Tourism NZ first pointed out in May 2010 that under NZ legislation, guide dogs are legally protected from discrimination by three Acts: The Human Rights Act 1993, Dog Control Act 1996, and Transport Services Licensing Act 1989. This legislation entitles guide dogs to go into any public place and on any public vehicle including: motels, hotels, restaurants, shops, beaches, cinemas, hotels, buses ferries, domestic and international flights, ships, taxis, trains, and so on.  Denying access to a person with a guide dog is a serious offence under NZ law, and – as recommended in 2010 -  it would be well if NZTG changed this statement to better reflect the legal obligations of accommodation providers.

It is also disheartening to still see a page headed People with Special Needs, which is an unfortunate use of language.  NZTG is part of the Yellow Pages Group.

New web resource: History of disability in England

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Opening in a church wall

English Heritage is the Government’s statutory adviser on the historic environment in that country.  It is an organisation that promotes caring for, valuing, understanding, and  enjoying the heritage of England.   It recently launched a major new web resource called Disability in Time and Place.  The resource reveals how disabled peoples’ lives are integral to heritage, and how disabled people have had a major influence on many well known, and less well known, buildings. From leper chapels built with leper’s squints (an oblique opening in the wall so those with leprosy could see the service without coming into contact with others) in the 1100s to meeting places for the first disabled self-help groups in the early 20th century, to protests about accessibility in the 1980s, the built environment is inextricably linked to the stories of disabled people, hidden and well-known.  To produce the resource, English Heritage worked with disabled people and specialists in disability history.  All the content has been translated into British Sign Language. The website has information about disabilities through the ages, broken into six sections (Medieval period, Tudor England, 18th century, 19th century, early 20th century, and late 20th century). There is additional information about buildings highlighted in the resource, some of which are open to the public.

New website, app, seek reviews of accessible places with style!

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Glasses of wine

Fiona Jarvis first developed MS in the early 1990s and has since become a wheelchair user, reports Disability Horizons.  She worked for financial software companies, but finding stylish places that were also accessible to people with disabilities to take clients for drinks and dinner became difficult.  She kept a list of such places and was often asked by able-bodied family and friends for recommendations on the latest cool venue or boutique hotel. She realised this could be valuable information for the less-able community, as being disabled and maintaining a sense of style can be difficult and ultimately excludes many people from mainstream society.  There are plenty of guides to cool restaurants, but it is never clear from these guide, or the restaurant’s website, whether they cater for people with mobility issues or other disabilities. There are also many websites out there with information on disabled access and facilities, but none concentrate on style as well. Plus, access information is often out-of-date or not audited by someone with a disability. So in 2007, Jarvis decided it was time to bring this information together on one website, Blue Badge Style (BBS). The website pulls together reviews, information, news and video, plus a Michelin-like rating system, BBS ticks.  Having initially launched Blue Badge Style as a website this year, BBS  have now launched an app too. The app gives you access to the website’s reviews along with directions. It searches for cool venues near you and lets you know what the reviewer thinks of the style, accessibility and facilities.  UCL Advances and Stuxbot jointly developed the app and have recently added a magnifying option and text-to-speech version for the blind.  Importantly, this isn’t just a guide for the less-physically-able, but for their friends too. There are an estimated 10.5 million people with disabilities and 5 million carers in the UK, which does not include those temporarily less-able, or families, friends, and unregistered carers.  Jarvis wants to encourage the wider community to rate their favourite restaurants, bars, shops, cafes, theatres so no-one has to be surprised or embarrassed by a lack of accessibility or facilities at a stylish venue (more information from the source, Disability Horizons).

Survey of visitors to Britain who have an impairment and/or a medical condition

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Visit Britain Logo

In 2010 VisitBritain sponsored a question on the International Passenger Survey that asked:

Do you have any of the following conditions or impairments:

A – I have a mobility impairment (wheelchair user)

B – I have a mobility impairment (non-wheelchair user)

C – I am blind

D – I am partially sighted

E – I am deaf

F – I have partial hearing loss

G – I have learning difficulties

H – I have a long-term illness (e.g. AIDS, arthritis, cancer, diabetes)

None of these

The question was answered by more than 90% of survey respondents (576,000), 540,000 mentioned a single impairment or condition and 36,000 mentioning more than one.  Considering that there were 30 million visits last year to Britain, the numbers reporting an impairment or medical condition was very low at about 1.9% of visits. The majority of visitors with impairments and/or conditions were 65 years old or older.  The total expenditure generated by visits that were by someone with one of the impairments/conditions covered is estimated at £341m, or 2% of all inbound visitor spending.  The average length of a visit was higher than the average across all visits.

The conditions or impairments most likely to be mentioned were those relating to mobility (non-wheelchair user), partial hearing loss, or a long term illness. It is clear that the average length of a visit among this group has a tendency to be higher than the average across all visits.   Between them British and Irish nationals account for one-third of all visits by people who have an one or more of the impairments or conditions.  It is not surprising then that more respondents travel for medical treatment than for any other reason.  British and Irish nationals are followed by American, German, Dutch, French, Canadian, Australian, Swedish, and Italian visitors.

Access to museums, attractions for Blind, visually impaired and how to improve it

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Authors Joe Strechay and Tara Annis have written an article on access to museums and parks for patrons who are Blind or visually impaired on the Access World website.   They point out that museums and parks in the USA have made great strides in accessibility for such patrons.  The use of audio descriptions, GPS devices, and other accessible technologies, along with exhibit design improvements and better information sharing among cultural and educational institutions, have made these resources increasingly enjoyable and accessible.  They list and describe organizations dedicated to improving access to cultural Institutions, and list accessibility devices and strategies used in cultural institutions (Durateq from Softeq, guidePORT System from Sennheiser, the Tourmate System, push-button audio boxes, and tactile representations). Suggestions are given from people with vision loss as to how museums and parks can improve accessibility.  They include:

  1. Braille signage formatted correctly and placed in appropriate, easily discoverable locations.
  2. Audio descriptions, large print, and Braille to provide the same information as the standard print formats.
  3. Signs describing artwork or exhibits, visual displays, and electronic signage should be large and use large sans-serif fonts with highly contrasting colours.
  4. Audio-described tours using portable access devices provide navigation that allows the patron to move around when listening to descriptions.
  5. Museum and park staff trained to effectively interact and communicate with people with disabilities, including those with vision loss, and should be trained in the access devices used in their institutions.
  6. Objects such as sculptures placed in front of high-contrast backgrounds to make them easier to see.
  7. Lighting designed to reduce glare on exhibits and works of art.
  8. Museums provide access through senses beyond sight. Some museums have representations in a smaller tactile version to allow patrons to feel the shapes and design in specific paintings.

The article goes on to recommend a number of USA cultural institutions and attractions accessible to visitors who are Blind or visually impaired, and discusses the future of audio description.

Links:  Accessibility devices and strategies currently  used in cultural institutions to increase access for #Blind and visually  impaired patrons http://www.afb.org/afbpress/pub.asp?DocID=aw130206

Accessibility suggestions for museums and parks from people with vision Loss http://www.afb.org/afbpress/pub.asp?DocID=aw130206

Recommended cultural institutions and attractions for visitors who are #Blind or visually impaired http://www.afb.org/afbpress/pub.asp?DocID=aw130206

 

Audio description a first for NBR New Zealand Opera

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Cartoon of stage lights

Blind and vision impaired audience members will be able to touch parts of the set and key props before audio described performances of The Bartered Bride in Auckland on 27 September and Wellington on 20 October in what is a first for the NBR New Zealand Opera. The Bartered Bride is sung in English and tells the story of a complicated love triangle set in a Czech village. It is accompanied by the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra and the Vector Wellington Orchestra, with the Chapman Tripp Opera Chorus.   New Zealand Opera’s General Director, Aidan Lang, says he is very pleased to be able to provide an audio described performance for the first time. “THE EDGE’s SIGNAL programme for hearing or visually impaired audiences is an excellent initiative that brings theatre and performance alive for patrons.”  The SIGNAL programme offers Sign Language interpreted performances for Deaf and hearing impaire4d patrons, and audio described performances for blind or vision impaired patrons. It is run by THE EDGE, which manages three Auckland venues: Aotea Centre, Auckland Town Hall and The Civic.  Information: New Zealand Opera box office in Auckland (T: 09 379 4068) or Wellington (T: 04 499 8343); New Zealand Opera website.

Source: Arts Access Aotearoa

UK: Roman Baths win award for creating, improving access for people with a variety of disabilities

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Roman Baths at Bath UK

UK.  The South West Tourism Excellence Awards 2011/12 have praised Bath & North East Somerset Council’s Roman Baths for the improved accessibility it offers all visitors.  The Romans Baths received a “Highly Commended” in the Access for All award section in recognition of recent development work carried out by the Council to improve access in a wide range of ways and make the experience more inclusive for people with a wide range of different needs.  Councillor Cherry Beath (Lib-Dem,  Combe Down), Cabinet Member for Sustainable Development, said: “Physical
accessibility at the Roman Baths has improved enormously with the installation of two new lifts and a complete change in the way visitors can move around the site. Understanding of the ancient monument has also become easier for our visitors with new displays and improved interpretation throughout, and there is a wide range of visual prompts that everyone can recognise.

“We have new interpretation for blind and visually impaired visitors with many tactile exhibits. There is a dedicated British Sign Language audio guide, an inclusive personal audio guide in eight languages, and tours for English and French speaking children. The judges even took into account the inclusive way that we cater for people with particular dietary needs in the Pump Room restaurant.”