UK Airports improving service for children with ASD

Listen with webReader

Guest article by Will Davies of Fubra Limited.  Fubra is a small creative technology company located in Hampshire, England.   It runs many websites including Airport Parking Shop and the UK Airport Guides Network.  Recently, it was brought to Fubra’s attention that accessibility at airports for people with disabilities or special needs was something that needed improving and so they decided to create features relating to disabilities and special needs at the airport to spread awareness. So far these have included – looking at facilities across 22 UK airports and adding them to each airport guide, Changing Places Facilities at UK airports and Autism at the airport. This article looks at how UK airports are improving their services for children with autism.

airportsandautism

In years gone by, many parents with children on the Autistic spectrum would have avoided airports like the plague! Whilst it may be true that airports (and planes) aren’t a great place for Autistic children, due to the large crowds, long cues and boredom that can occur whilst on long flights; parents whose children suffer from the disorder cannot be expected to never take their child abroad, after all, they need to see the world too!

This is something that a few UK airports have really taken on board, there may still be a long way to go but it’s great to see some of them making an effort! Manchester Airport is probably the stand out – the airport have created individual booklets for each terminal, videos to help guide parents through the whole process and brightly coloured wristbands to help fast track ASD children (beating the long queues that can cause problems). Gatwick have also got on board with the booklets but it’s clear to see that Manchester have really had a good think about the situation and they even managed to get Keith Duffy (former Boyzone member) to feature in a few of their videos! He has been campaigning for Autism awareness since his daughter was diagnosed at 18 months.

Edinburgh Airport have recently partnered with Scottish Autism in a bid to improve the experience for ASD children at the airport. Families can now book pre-flight visits in order for the child to familiarise themselves with the airport and see how things work.

Airport Parking Shop have put together a really handy piece of content that gives parents some tips on how to keep ASD children occupied at the airport and on the plane; it also looks at things you should consider before setting off for the airport. If you’re travelling from the UK with any other disabilities then be sure to check out the Heathrow Airport Guide, they have a dedicated page for special assistance at the airport and other airports can be accessed from the bottom of the page.

Follow on Twitter: @Fubra @airportparkshop @HeathrowTweets @CP_Consortium @manairport @Gatwick_Airport @KeithDuffyExp @EDI_Airport @scottishautism

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Share

Lonely Planet wants your accessible travel information

Listen with webReader

Tourist in a wheelchair having her photo taken

Here is a great opportunity to get your access information in front of a worldwide travel organisation.   Martin Heng, Accessible Travel Manager at Lonely Planet is in the process of compiling a global database of useful websites for people travelling with access issues, whether through disability, injury or old age. He has already amassed dozens of useful links, but is interested in resources at a national and city level that he is unaware of.  If you have knowledge of online resources that may be useful to people travelling to your region, Martin would be very grateful if you could share some of your local knowledge with him for the benefit of countless travellers worldwide. You can drop him a line at travelforall@lonelyplanet.com.au with the address of any website that you think might be useful and a brief description of what the site offers. If you’re time poor, please just send him a link and he will follow it up himself. It could be a link to a local government access page, a public transport journey planner that has accessible filters, a business that offers accessible tours or someone’s personal blog that you’ve found useful or inspiring – he is potentially interested in anything and everything.

Follow on Twitter: @lonelyplanet @Martin_Heng

Edinburgh Airport hosts guide dog training day

Listen with webReader

Puppy handlers at airport picture from Edinburgh Airport website

The cuteness factor hit new levels at Edinburgh Airport recently as 12 trainee guide dog puppies descended on the terminal for a training day.   The pups, aged between six and 15 months, arrived at the terminal with their volunteer puppy walkers to take part in a full airport walkthrough from arriving at the check-in hall, to going through security and into the departure lounge.   Part of the airport’s wider “Travelling with Additional Needs” programme, the terminal team invited the group from Guide Dogs Scotland along for the special training session which allows the puppies to gain crucial experience of a busy airport environment.

With over 520 registered guide dog owners in Scotland and many being regular air travellers, it’s vital that the puppies are trained for their future role as guide dogs as they have to be ready to deal with all eventualities and get used to busy places.  Sarah Gardiner, Head of Terminal Operations at Edinburgh Airport, said: “We’re very pleased to welcome the guide dog puppies and their handlers into the airport today so we can help give them valuable training for their future.

The “Travelling with Additional Need” programme was launched  a year ago and the airport has worked hard with Terminal and Security teams to better understand the complex requirements that some passengers may have.  “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”, said Gardiner.  “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.”

David Smith of Guide Dogs Scotland, said: “Fully qualified guide dogs are required to face a variety of settings and situations with calmness and confidence, and early tastes of different environments will see them experienced for later life.”   The puppies experienced a number of situations, traveling by public transport such as trains, buses and trams, before experiencing the airport environment.  “We’re keen to expose the pups to the experience of going through security and all that it entails, such as being handled by different people, having their lead and collar removed and going through the scanner”, said Smith.  “It’s a good experience for the pups to get used to the sights, sounds and smells of the airport so it shouldn’t bother them later when they are fully trained guide dogs helping people with sight loss to lead independent lives.

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: Edinburgh Airport.  Follow on Twitter: @EDI_Airport @guidedogsedin

New app: Accessible NYC subway and places

Listen with webReader

Wheelie map of NYC

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

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

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

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

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

Listen with webReader

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

 

Spaghetti junction of roads

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canada: New accessibility standard for self-service kiosks in air, ferry and train terminals

Listen with webReader

Canadian Flag

From December 31, 2016, any newly installed automated self-service kiosks used for such things as check in, printing of boarding passes and baggage tags at Canadian air, ferry and train terminals should be accessible to travellers with disabilities, with the ultimate goal of ensuring that 25% of kiosks are accessible by December 31, 2022.   This is the expectation of the Canadian Transportation Agency’s (CTA) recently amended Code of Practice: Removing Communication Barriers for Travellers with Disabilities. The standard is harmonized with the new United States Department of Transportation (DOT) rule published late last year, providing greater predictability and consistency across North America for travellers with disabilities.

The standard was developed based on input received during consultations with CTA’s Accessibility Advisory Committee, which consists of representatives from associations representing the interests of persons with disabilities, major Canadian airlines, passenger railway companies, ferry operators, as well as with air industry stakeholders and the Canadian Airports Council.  A two-year implementation period gives manufacturers time to design, test and produce kiosks which feature updated hardware and software accessibility standards. The standards address issues such as height, position of monitors, touch screen functions, audio accessories, document readers, and warning tones.

The standard applies to the following terminals and carriers:

  • Airports within the National Airports System linking Canada from coast to coast;
  • Canadian air carriers that operate aircraft with 30 or more passenger seats;
  • Rail carriers and terminals serving 10,000 or more passengers yearly; and
  • Ferry operators and terminals in respect of vessels of 1,000 gross tonnes or more between provinces or between Canada and the United States every year.

“Persons with disabilities have a right to access automated self-service kiosks independently, safely and securely,” said Geoff Hare, Chair and CEO of CTA. “Our experience has shown that the Agency’s voluntary standards approach is effective in increasing the accessibility of the federal transportation network for persons with disabilities.”  The CTA will conduct periodic surveys to monitor the progress in implementing the Code.  Reports on the findings of these monitoring surveys will be provided to the Accessibility Advisory Committee.  In addition to these surveys, the Agency will also undertake periodic reviews of the Code. Any problems identified will be presented to the Accessibility Advisory Committee for consultation and any proposed amendments will be distributed to the public for comment.

Independent of this process, the Agency will also continue to exercise its authority to deal with individual complaints to determine whether there are undue obstacles to the mobility of persons with disabilities.

Source: CTA website; Accessibility News International.  Follow on Twitter: @CTA_gc  @AcNewsca

Germany continues work to broaden and promote accessible tourism

Listen with webReader

Accessible Tourism in Germany covers of two brochures from press release (2)

Germany: The Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs promotes the further expansion of accessible tourism in Germany.  Their project “Tourism for All” was awarded the German Seminar for Tourism (DSFT) Berlin e.V. in December.  With this project, the tourism industry can better adapt to the rapidly growing number of people needing better access, such as seniors, people with disabilities, or families with prams and luggage.   The main objective of the project is to introduce a nationwide uniform labelling system “Travel for All” in the next three years.   In future, all travellers, including those needing better access, can get reliable information about the tourist service provider and can use it for their travel decision.   To this end, there is a comprehensive database on the German National Tourist Board website (DZT) as well as on those of state marketing organizations.  Businesses along the entire service chain are recognized by Germany-wide criteria, rated, and certified.   In addition, providers receive access training.

The label “Tourism for All” has been developed over several years with the input and cooperation of  numerous organizations, the tourist associations state marketing organizations, and other stakeholders as part of a project funded by the German Federal Ministry of Economics (2011-2014). There are already 10 states, a few regions,  and a hotel corporation on the system. Nearly 400 businesses were inspected using an extensive catalogue of criteria.   Support for Project V. is the German Seminar for Tourism (DSFT) Berlin e. V. in cooperation with the Association for Tourism All Germany e. (NatKo).    For information on the project and the labelling system “Travel for All”, see www.reisen-fuer-alle.de.

Tourismus für Alle – ein Zukunftsmarkt

Das Bundeswirtschaftsministerium fördert den weiteren Ausbau des barrierefreien Tourismus in Deutschland – für das Projekt „Reisen für Alle“ erhielt das Deutsche Seminar für Tourismus (DSFT) Berlin e. V. im Dezember den Zuwendungsbescheid. Mit dem Projekt soll sich die Tourismusbranche besser auf die stark wachsende Gruppe älterer, aktivitäts- und mobilitätseingeschränkter Menschen einstellen.

Hauptziel des Projektes ist, das bundesweit einheitliche Kennzeichnungssystem „Reisen für Alle“ in den nächsten drei Jahren einzuführen. Künftig sollen alle Reisenden, darunter auch Senioren, Menschen mit einer Behinderung oder Familien mit Kinderwagen und Gepäck, verlässliche Informationen über die touristischen Anbieter erhalten und diese für ihre Reiseentscheidung nutzen können. Dafür entsteht eine umfangreiche Datenbank, die im Internet auf den Seiten der Deutschen Zentrale für Tourismus (DZT) sowie den Seiten der Landesmarketing-Organisationen abgerufen werden kann. Betriebe entlang der gesamten touristischen Servicekette werden nach deutschlandweit einheitlichen Kriterien erfasst, bewertet und zertifiziert. Außerdem erhalten die Anbieter Schulungen.

Die Kennzeichnung „Reisen für Alle“ wurde in mehrjähriger Zusammenarbeit und Abstimmung mit zahlreichen Betroffenenverbänden sowie allen touristischen Verbänden, Landesmarketing-Organisationen und weiteren Akteuren im Rahmen eines vom Bundeswirtschaftsministerium geförderten Vorgängerprojektes von 2011 bis 2014 entwickelt. Inzwischen setzen bereits 10 Bundesländer, einige Regionen und auch eine Hotelkooperation das System ein. Knapp 400 Betriebe wurden mit dem umfangreichen Kriterienkatalog geprüft. Es gibt bereits eine Reihe guter Beispiele und Initiativen in verschiedenen Regionen, doch barrierefreie Tourismusangebote sind in Deutschland noch lange nicht flächendeckend zu finden.   Träger des Projekts ist das Deutsche Seminar für Tourismus (DSFT) Berlin e. V. in Kooperation mit dem Verein Tourismus für Alle Deutschland e. V. (NatKo).

Aktuelle Informationen zu dem Projekt und Kennzeichnungssystem “Reisen für Alle” finden Sie unter www.reisen-fuer-alle.de

Source: Press release.  Please forgive translation mistakes. Follow on Twitter: @BMWi_Bund

Asia Pacific Network on Accessible Tourism to get country chapters

Listen with webReader

Hotel Hallway

The Asia Pacific Network on Accessible Tourism (APNAT) will soon see the establishment of country chapters, which would help champion barrier-free travel for all people with disabilities in the region.  This move was agreed upon at the recently concluded 5th International Conference on Accessible Tourism.  APNAT itself was formed after recommendations from participants who attended the first South-east Asia Conference on Accessible Tourism in 2012 (SEACAT).   Sia Siew Chin, protem committee chairman of APNAT, said: “Through APNAT, we would like to be able to reach out to governments, people in the tourism industry and service providers to provide for the access needs of everyone in society, in particular people with disabilities.”   Saowalak Thongkuay, regional coordinator for Abilis Foundation Mekong, said: “APNAT gives us a strong and collective voice to negotiate with governments to include accessible tourism into their development agenda.

It is hoped that all links in the tourism chain will become accessible.  Speaking at the conference,  Annagrazia Laura, president of European Network for Accessible Tourism (ENAT), stressed that providing barrier-free environment means that from arrival to departure, visitors must be guaranteed an unbroken and seamless chain of accessibility.  “If just one link in the chain is broken, such as inaccessible monuments and tourist attractions, the holiday experience will be spoilt” said Laura.

Joseph Kwan, chair, International Commission on Technology & Accessibility, Rehabilitation International also attended the conference.  “Once governments realise that people with disabilities and the senior market are a sizable population with disposable incomes to spend and can contribute significantly to foreign exchange earnings, employment generation and social inclusion, they will be more willing to act, to create barrier-free travel for all” said Kwan.   Kwan stressed the importance of governments to do audits on the current status of tourism accessibility in order to develop policies and plans regarding accessibility and human rights.

Follow on Twitter: @EUaccesstourism

UK CAA new tougher airport, airline disabilities information provision requirements

Listen with webReader

DPP_000006a

The United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) recently set tougher requirements on airports and airlines concerning information they must provide disabled passengers (http://www.reducedmobility.eu/20140818497/The-News/uk-caa-tighten-information-rules-for-disabled-passengers.html).   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.
  • the design of websites should take into consideration existing international guidelines on website accessibility
  • airports must publish information on the assistance provided at the airport and how to obtain this assistance;  information on the layout of the airport, on quality standards and airport security,  handling of mobility equipment and assistance dogs, the 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.

Airlines must publish 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 (http://www.reducedmobility.eu/20140818497/The-News/uk-caa-tighten-information-rules-for-disabled-passengers.html). 

Airports and airlines have until 31st October 2014 to comply with the new requirements. The UK CAA told operators it may take formal enforcement action to ensure compliance under sections 86 and 87 of the Civil Aviation Act 2012. This may include imposing a penalty or seeking a court injunction against operators not in compliance with the new rules. 

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

Scottish government boost to ferry network accessibility

Listen with webReader

Scottish ferry Scotland’s transport minister Keith Brown has announced a new £500,000 fund to improve accessibility on Scotland’s ferry network.  The Ferries Accessibility Fund will be open to bids from the public and private sector, and aims to make improvements to existing vessels and harbours that go beyond regulatory standards set for accessibility. Awards will be made on a match-funding basis, which means that operators bidding for money will be expected to match the contribution from the fund themselves. The fund will initially be open to applications until the end of November 2014, with the successful applicants being announced in January 2015. Further calls will be issued in 2015.   Brown said: “Scotland’s ferry services should be open and accessible to everyone, and we want ferry and harbour operators to provide the best passenger experience possible”.  Operators already have strict standards to meet when it comes to accessibility, but this announcement can help them to go further.  “The funding could help a wide range of proposals, from adapting existing ships and harbours to make it easier and safer for people with reduced mobility to embark and disembark, to giving staff training in disability awareness and customer service” brown continued.  “By making awards on a match-funding basis, it means up to £1million could be spent on accessibility improvements across the ferry network.” Anne Maclean, convenor of the Mobility and Access Committee for Scotland (MACS) said: “The Mobility and Access Committee for Scotland welcomes the Ferries Accessibility Fund as an encouraging initiative to go beyond the requirements of legislation and to include disabled people in pointing out and making sometimes small changes which can make the Ferry journey much more accessible, comfortable and enjoyable for the disabled traveller.”    The Fund is open to bids from any ferry or harbour operator providing a service covered by the Scottish Ferries Plan, published in December 2012. This includes local authority and private sector port and ferry services.

Source: Transport Scotland  Follow on Twitter: @transcotland

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

Listen with webReader

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

Taku Helicopter

 

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

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

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

Follow on Twitter: @ccsdisabilitya

Transport for London: additional £75m to invest in access for disabled

Listen with webReader

Regent St and area (12)

Transport for London (TfL) is the local government organisation responsible for most aspects of London’s transport system.  TfL invests billions to upgrade the Capital’s transport network in the areas of improving suburban railways, the cycling infrastructure, tackling vehicle emissions, and access to transport for people with disabilities.  Recently, TfL secured an additional £75m fund to make travel across the network more accessible. This investment will enable TfL to install new lifts over the next ten years, making more Tube stations step-free.   The 30 Crossrail stations in London will also all be step-free, as will 28 more Underground and Overground stations, which already had funding.

TfL have over a dozen guides for using London transport if you are disabled.  They include an audio tube guide, guides to tube toilets and how to avoid steps and stairs, large-print guides, and information about assisted transport (https://tfl.gov.uk/forms/12387.aspx).   TfL also has ‘how to’ films that show what it’s like travelling in London and the facilities and assistance available (https://tfl.gov.uk/transport-accessibility/).

Follow on Twitter:  @TfLAccess @TfLOfficial 

UK CAA tightens information rules for disabled passengers

Listen with webReader

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

Accessibility on VIA Rail Canada

Listen with webReader

Picture of a VIA Rail train from their website

VIA Rail Canada is that country’s national rail service. It operates intercity, regional and transcontinental trains linking 450 communities across its 12,500 km network, transporting  nearly four million passengers annually. VIA Rail recently announced that the Canadian train now includes a newly renovated Park car featuring an accessible cabin designed for people with disabilities. The new accessible cabin for two was designed following extensive research of accessibility requirements within the transportation industry. In total, four Park cars used on the Canadian will be reconfigured to include a fully accessible cabin. “VIA Rail is committed to pursuing the improvement of accessibility on all its services. We are proud to now offer a cabin on board the Canadian between Toronto and Vancouver with a level of comfort designed specifically for our mobility reduced passengers,” said Yves Desjardins-Siciliano, President and Chief Executive Officer of VIA Rail Canada, “from Halifax to Vancouver, VIA Rail is able to accommodate persons with disabilities on board all its trains.”

The newly reconfigured Park cars are amongst many other initiatives undertaken by VIA Rail to improve the accessibility of its services.  Over the past few years, VIA Rail has invested in building new accessible stations and renovating stations in order to improve the accessibility of its facilities.

The corporation has also improved accessibility to its rolling stock on other routes. Renaissance cars, used on the Ocean (Montreal–Halifax), were reconfigured to include an Economy class car wheelchair tie-down, an accessible bathroom and a fully accessible sleeper cabin on each departure. Furthermore, each Renaissance Economy class car was modified to offer seating for passengers travelling with a service animal, and fold-up armrests were installed on 2 two-person seats as well as 4 individual alley seats.  Two rail diesel cars (RDC) were recently modified for accessibility, one of which is currently in use on the Sudbury-White River route. VIA Rail also has an accessible Economy class car on each of its LRC train consists.  As well, VIA Rail’s web site at viarail.ca was optimized in 2012, enabling people with disabilities to better access information on the site.

Source: VIA Rail.  Follow on Twitter: @VIA_Rail

 

New app to help Blind navigate London transport

Listen with webReader

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

Listen with webReader

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

Biggest tourism and travel spenders are the Baby Boomers

Listen with webReader

Tourism Review (http://www.tourism-review.com/) recently carried out a survey of travel agencies and professionals in the tourism industry to get their opinions on changing trends with travel, consumer expectations, and booking.  They came up with seven important trends and their likely effects.  One of these was the fact that it is Baby Boomers – those in their late forties to mid sixties – who are the biggest spenders.  TR notes that for any tourism business, be they hotel, travel agency, or airline, it is crucial to keep up with trends in spending and technology in order to stay ahead of the competition and retain their evolving consumer base.  Businesses within the sector need to keep an eye on where their revenue is coming from.  Spending habits tend to be separated into generations and while agencies focus on attracting the youth market, they only account for 9% of travel expenditure in the last year.  It is the Baby Boomers spending the most, bringing in 60% of the revenue.

Follow on Twitter: @Tourism_Review

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

Listen with webReader

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

Listen with webReader

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

Half of NYC cabs to be wheelchair-accessible by 2020

Listen with webReader

New York City cabs Public Domain Image

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

Follow on Twitter: @nyctaxi @dralegal