UNWTO FITUR session on accessible tourism and technology

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Person with a disability using an iPhone image from UNWTO

The UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has for a number of years supported the facilitation of tourist travel by people  with disabilities as a vital element of any responsible and sustainable tourism development policy.   The Role of Technology in Accessible Tourism For All is one of several topics to be addressed at the International Tourism Trade Fair (FITUR) in Madrid January 28-February 1.   FITUR is a global meeting point for tourism professionals and the leading trade fair for inbound and outbound Ibero American markets.   It was attended by 9,083 exhibiting companies from 165 countries/ regions, 120,231 trade participants and 97,549 people from the general public in 2014.  Also present were 7,368 journalists from 60 countries, a turnout that demonstrates the importance of FITUR on the international circuit of tourism sector events.

The Role of Technology in Accessible Tourism For All is a session at FITUR organized by UNWTO, Fundación ONCE and PREDIF (Plataforma Representativa Estatal de Personas con Discapacidad Física) in collaboration with IFEMA and Vodafone España.  It will highlight good practices in the development and use of new technologies in the fields of travel, tourism and leisure. It will also address the major challenges for generalizing the use of these technologies in the various links of the accessibility chain in tourism.  New technologies can contribute to making the tourism experience more accessible and rewarding for everyone, including seniors, persons with disabilities and others with reduced mobility.   During the session, there will be a presentation of the Manual on Accessible Tourism for All (UNWTO/ONCE Foundation/ENAT) by Marina Diotallevi, Programme Manager, Ethics & Social Responsibility, UNWTO.

Follow on Twitter: @UNWTO @UNWTO_pub @EUaccesstourism @Fundacion_ONCE @feriafitur @Predif_Estatal #FITUR2015


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

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Logo Destinations for All

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

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

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

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

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

UNWTO, San Marino to hold first European Conference on Accessible Tourism

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San Marino scenic

Policies and measures to promote universal accessibility in tourism will be at the centre of the first UNWTO European Conference on Accessible Tourism, jointly organized by UNWTO and the Government of the Republic of San Marino (RSM) on the 19th of November, 2014.  Accessible Tourism for All ensures that people with disabilities have access, on an equal basis with others, to the physical environment, transportation, information and communications, and facilities open to the public or for public use.  The conference is being organized in recognition of the importance of accessibility in tourism, and will look at how to maintain and develop quality, sustainability and competitiveness in accessible tourism.  The agreement to hold the conference was signed at ITB Berlin by UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai and Teodoro Lonfernini, Minister of Tourism and Relations with Public Utilities State Corporation of San Marino.  “Accessible tourism benefits everyone and advancing the rights and opportunities of people with disabilities should be seen as an opportunity as well as an obligation; UNWTO and the Republic of San Marino are both deeply committed to taking concrete action in this area”, said Rifai.  “Accessibility has become a fundamental issue in tourism. Many countries are devoting special attention to this topic and are adjusting their tourism systems and legislations. After being recognised as 2013 European Destination of Excellence (EDEN), San Marino is being offered by UNWTO the opportunity to focus on accessibility through the organisation of a European Conference in the Republic, which fills us with pride. This is a major challenge for the future that we all must meet”, said Lonfernini.

According to the World Health Organization 15% of the world population has a physical, mental or sensory disability. In its efforts to mainstream universal accessibility within the tourism sector, UNWTO works closely with disabled people’s organizations (DPOs). In 2013, the General Assembly adopted the Recommendations on Accessible Tourism for All which incorporate the most relevant aspects of the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities and Universal Design.

Additional highlights include the publication of Manuals on Accessible Tourism, one of which has been already released in partnership with the Spanish ACS Foundation. The manual co-produced with the ONCE Foundation is expected to be issued soon.

The 1st UNWTO European Conference on Accessible Tourism will be held alongside the 14th meeting of the World Committee on Tourism Ethics (WCTE), which recently declared accessible tourism for all one of its top priorities.

Source: UNWTO press release.  Follow on Twitter: @UNWTO @RisiMarcelo @Fundacion_ONCE @SanMarinoxTutti

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

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Building crane

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

Follow on Twitter: @theNatFdnDeaf

Lonely Planet launches accessible travel project

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Map of the World from the Lonely Planet website

On the International Day of People with Disability (3 December – a United Nations–sanctioned day that aims to promote an understanding of people with disability and encourage support for their dignity, rights and well-being) Lonely Planet (LP) has launched an accessible travel project.  LP hosts the world’s largest, most well-known, highly respected and frequented online travel community, and they want to extend that to the accessible travel community.  The new project seeks to make travel possible for more people.  LP believes that travel is a force for good when practised responsibly, and that travel enriches those who are touched by it either directly or indirectly. Travelling with a disability requires a lot of organisation, but information on accessibility is often hard to find. Around 50% of people with a disability would travel more if they could be sure more accessible facilities were available. With almost a billion people in the world (about 15% of the world’s population) have a physical, mental or sensory disability, and LP believes it’s important to ensure their access to travel opportunities is not limited.  LP hopes to become the world’s premier provider of accessible travel information, the first port of call for all accessible travel needs, not only for those with a disability, but for anybody with access issues.

LP will give people with disabilities the platform to share their information and experiences, through their  existing Thorn Tree forum, and social media channels such as Google+, Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest.  They know that there is no group of people better qualified to assess the accessibility of venues than those themselves affected by access issues and none more highly motivated to provide advice and recommendations for their peers.   The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) recommendations on ‘Accessible Tourism for All’ (2013) have been approved by the General Assembly. The recommendations outline a form of tourism that will enable people with access requirements to travel independently through universally designed tourism products and services. These recommendations were developed within the framework of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  A manual on ‘Accessible Tourism for All’ is set to be published in late 2013, designed to guide tourism stakeholders in how to improve the accessibility of tourism destinations, facilities and services worldwide. The development of the manual is a joint effort between UNWTO, the European Network for Accessible Tourism (ENAT) and two Spanish institutions, the ACS Foundation and the ONCE Foundation.  As UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai says, ‘We must come to appreciate that accessible tourism does not only benefit persons with disabilities or special needs, it benefits us all.’

Source: LP press reease. For more information visit the LP website: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/travel-tips-and-articles/travel-for-all-join-lonely-planets-accessible-travel-project  Follow on Twitter: @lonelyplanet @UN_Enable @UNWTO @Fundacion_ONCE

EC conference on Accessible Tourism in Europe

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Banner from the EU Justice website showing people with disabilities

The European Commission (Director General Justice, and DG Enterprise and Industry) will celebrate the “European Day for People with Disabilities” and the “European Tourism Day” 2013 with the Joint Conference on “Accessible Tourism in Europe” on December 3 and 4, 2013 in Brussels.  The aim is to raise awareness on the right of everybody to have equal access to tourism services and destinations and to present some success stories and best practices in the field.  The conference is part of the EU’s wider efforts to promote the mainstreaming of disability issues in line with the EU Disability Strategy 2010-2020 and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD).  Interpretation will be provided in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish and Sign Language.  Participation is free but registration is mandatory

Tourism is an important source of growth for the economy in Europe, representing today 1.8 million businesses and approximately 9.7 million jobs. However, travelling can still be a real challenge for some people as finding the information on services, checking luggage on a plane, booking an accessible room often prove to be difficult, costly and time consuming.   On December 3rd, the conference will examine access and accessibility for tourists and residents from the users’ perspective. Examples of good practices in Accessible Tourism for All and possible solutions for the obstacles most frequently encountered will be discussed.  Also on the 3rd, Viviane Reding, Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for Justice, will chair the Access City Award 2014 (the European Prize for making cities more accessible to people with disabilities and older people).    On December 4th, the conference will cover the practical, political and economic aspects of these issues, focusing on how to overcome barriers that are limiting the potential of a more open Europe to international tourism and benefit from the tourism industry.  Antonio Tajani, Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for Entrepreneurship and Industrial Policy, will make a presentation to conclude the event.

On Twitter: @EU_Enterprise @VivianeRedingEU @EU_Commission @EU_Justice @AntonioTajaniEU

Philippine government to hold Accessible Tourism forum

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Philippines beach

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

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

Follow on Twitter: @TourismPHL @PIANewsdesk

International Day of Persons with Disabilities, 3 December 2013

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UN Enable logo

The theme of this year’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities is: “Break barriers, open doors: for an inclusive society for all”. A major focus of the Day is practical and concrete action to include disability in all aspects of development, as well as to further the participation of persons with disabilities in social life and development on the basis of equality. Activities to commemorate the Day, work to highlight progress and obstacles in implementing disability-sensitive policies, as well as to promote public awareness to break barriers and open doors to realize an inclusive society for all.

By 3 December 2013, the outcome document of the High-level Meeting of the General Assembly on Disability and Development (HLMDD) will also be available and may be used to provide a blueprint for action to help realize the full and equal participation of persons with disabilities in society and shape the future of development for all.  The HLMDD took place at UN Headquarters on 23 September, the day before the opening of the General Debate of the 68th session of the General Assembly. The outcome document of the HLMDD is informed by Member States and the many inputs received from organizations of persons with disabilities and other relevant stakeholders, including regional and online consultations.

US Businesses support signing CRPD

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Globe of the world public domain image from Colourbox

Business groups in the US have spoken out in favour of ratifying the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).  These include the Chamber of Commerce, US Business Leadership Network, Assistive technology Industry Association of America, Information technology Industry Council, and many individual US businesses large and small.  They support signing because it will promote global commerce and US business leadership in international markets, amongst other reasons.  In regards to accessible tourism, signing CRPD they believe will increase access to international travel and tourism and advance international community living.  More at   http://image.slidesharecdn.com/crpdbusinesscase-131007175910-phpapp01/95/slide-1-638.jpg?1381187083  (G3ict, The American Association of People with Disabilities – AAPD,  U.S. International Council on Disabilities – USICD;  Assistive Technology Industry Association – AtiA )

UN International Civil Aviation Organization new Manual on Access to Air Transport

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Aeroplane in flight

People with disabilities (PwDs) make up a significant and growing percentage of the world’s population and constitute the world’s largest minority. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that this number is increasing through population growth, medical advances and the ageing process.  Aviation, like all other transport modes, needs to recognise and accommodate this growing passenger segment.  The International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO) – which is a United Nations Specialized Agency – has published a new guide, the Manual on Access to Air Transport by Persons with Disabilities in which they point out that PwDs have the same international rights as other citizens, such as accessibility, and full and effective participation and inclusion in society, including freedom of movement and freedom of choice (United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), articles 3.c and 3.f). Persons with disabilities should have equivalent access to air travel.

These international rights apply to air travel as to all areas of life. There have been many changes in the provision of accessible facilities and services to persons with disabilities in air transportation worldwide, and this trend requires renewed attention at an international level.  In keeping with the general obligations of States under the CRPD, to promote universal design, to provide accessible information, and to promote the training of professionals and staff working with persons with disabilities (article 4, paragraph 1, f, h, and i), the new ICAO manual provides general guidance on services and features needed to meet the needs of persons with disabilities in air transportation. The guidance material in the manual was created by the Facilitation Panel’s Working Group on Persons with Disabilities for the purpose of elaborating on the relevant Standards and Recommended Practices in Annex 9 — Facilitation and assisting the civil aviation community in their implementation.

In summary, the manual highlights that all procedures forming part of an air travel journey, including reservations, check-in, immigration and customs, security clearances, transfers within airports, embarkation and disembarkation, departure, carriage and arrival should be adapted to the needs of PwDs in order to facilitate the clearance and air transportation of such persons in a dignified manner.

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.

UN WTO approves accessible tourism recommendations

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UNWTO logo

The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) recommendations on “Accessible Tourism for All” (2013) have been approved and endorsed by the General Assembly. Updated from the 2005 version, the recommendations outline a form of tourism that involves a collaborative process among stakeholders to enable people with access requirements to function independently through universally designed tourism products, services and environments. These recommendations were developed within the framework of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) of 2007.

Accessible Tourism for All defines the appropriate measures to ensure that persons with disabilities have access, on an equal basis with others, to the physical environment, transportation, information and communications and facilities open to the public or for public use.  “Accessibility is a central element of any responsible and sustainable tourism policy. It is both a human rights imperative and an exceptional business opportunity,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai. “Above all, we must come to appreciate that accessible tourism does not only benefit persons with disabilities or special needs, it benefits us all,” he added.

Along this line, a manual on “Accessible Tourism for All” is set to be published in late 2013, designed to guide tourism stakeholders to improve the accessibility for tourism destinations, facilities and services worldwide. The development of the Manual is a joint effort between UNWTO, the European Network for Accessible Tourism (ENAT) and two Spanish institutions, the ACS Foundation and the ONCE Foundation.

According to the World Health Organization World Report on Disability (2011), there are approximately 1 billion persons with disabilities in the world, or 15% of the world population having a physical, mental or sensory disability. UNWTO´s “Declaration on the Facilitation of Tourist Travel (2009) underlines travel and tourism facilitation for persons with disabilities as an essential element of any policy for the development of responsible tourism.

Source: UNWTO

New Zealand will contravene the UN Convention on Human Rights with new rule on building upgrades after Christchurch earthquakes

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Damaged cathedral Christchurch earthquake

Leading New Zealand human rights and disability lawyer Huhana Hickey says that  New Zealand will contravene the UN Convention on Human Rights, of which it is a signatory, if it goes ahead with a change to the building code which removes the requirement to fit buildings with disabled access and facilities when doing earthquake strengthening.  So reports Lisa Gossage on the Infrastructure website. Under current regulation, councils cannot issue consents for strengthening works unless the owner upgrades the building’s disabled access and fire escapes in line with the building code. The Royal Commission on the Canterbury Earthquakes has recommended this obligation be removed because of concerns around the costs it would impose on building owners. Up to 25,000 buildings are expected to need earthquake strengthening.  Disabled advocacy groups are already putting in reports to the UN to complain about New Zealand’s discriminatory treatment of disabled people.  “Going backwards on disabled access is not just bad economics it is also cruel. There are currently hundreds of thousands of disabled people who are contributing significantly to New Zealand’s economy and many thousands of disabled children and young people whose ambition is to do the same. This proposed building code amendment would literally shut doors in their faces and make them even more isolated than many are already,” says Dr Hickey, referring to the possible removal of the requirement to make buildings accessible when doing earthquake strengthening works.

17-19 July: Sixth session of Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

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Participants at a United nations meeting

The sixth session of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities will take place in New York from 17- 19 July and will focus on standard of living.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) was adopted by the General Assembly on 13 December 2006 and came into force on 3 May 2008. Since then States Parties to the Convention have met in five sessions at UN Headquarters in New York, to address issues regarding the implementation of the Convention, as well as share experiences and best practices.

This year, the sixth session will be held from 17-19 July that will focus on the ways to ensure and adequate standard of living and the empowerment of persons with disabilities. Thematic discussions will include economic empowerment through inclusive social protection and poverty reduction strategies; disability-inclusive development in national, regional and international processes, and community-based rehabilitation and habilitation for inclusive society.

A day prior to the Conference, a Civil Society Forum will be organized by non-governmental organizations, including organizations of persons with disabilities, with the support of DESA, to network and share experiences in implementing the Convention.

This annual Conference is fast developing into the largest international disability meeting that includes high-level representation from Government ministries, UN system organizations, civil society organizations, academia, the private sector and other stakeholders. In conjunction with the Conferences held at UN Headquarters in 2011 and 2012, over 35 side-events, covering a range of disability issues, were conducted by the stakeholders, during each of the two and a half-day sessions.

For more information: http://www.un.org/disabilities/default.asp?id=1606

Keroul Quebec to participate in the 6th UNenable conference of States Parties on CRPD

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Keroul Quebec logo

Kéroul Quebec will participate in the Sixth session of the Conference of States Parties to the UN’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), in New York July 16-19 (UN Enable).  Kéroul will host a Side-event regarding the World Summit Destinations for All (Twitter #D4All2014), July 17, from 3.00 to 4.30, Room Conference E.  The World summit “Destinations for All” will be held in Montreal in October, 2014.  Keroul is a non-profit organization that provides information about accessible travel in Quebec, develops, promotes, and lobbies about accessible tourism, and is the key consultant for Tourisme Quebec regarding accessibility.  Co-sponsors of the Keroul side-event include the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the European Network for Accessible Tourism (ENAT), and the International Organization of Social Tourism (OITS-ISTO).

The theme of the sixth UN Enable session is “Ensuring adequate standard of living: empowerment and participation of persons with disabilities within the framework of the CRPD”.   Sub-themes  include 1., Economic empowerment through inclusive social protection and poverty reduction strategies; 2., Disability-inclusive development in national, regional and international processes, and 3., Community-based rehabilitation and habilitation for inclusive society.


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

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

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

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

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

Presentations made at first South East Asian Conference on Accessible Tourism now available

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Kuala Lumpur mayoral reception for conference members

The first South-East Asian Conference on Accessible Travel (SEACAT2012) was held in Kuala Lumpur 23-25 November, 2012.  More than 200 participants from China, Hong Kong, India, the Philippines, Taiwan, Nepal, South Korea, Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand attended.  Sandra Rhodda, of Access Tourism New Zealand (ATNZ) gave an invited plenary presentation and a workshop.  The conference was organized by the Beautiful Gate Foundation for the Disabled, the Malaysia Council of Rehabilitation, and 12 disability-related organizations in Malaysia.  The event was supported by the Malaysia Prime Minister Department with a grant of RM150,000, and Ministry of Women, Family, and Community Development.  Guest speakers and others were welcomed after the conference by the Mayor of Kuala Lumpur at a reception at the Botanical Gardens.  The conference received excellent coverage in local Chinese and English language newspapers (for example, 1, 2, 3), and on radio.

An interim committee was formed for an Asia Pacific Network on Accessible Travel, made up of members from various countries and organizations (including ATNZ).

The presentations made at the conference are now available in PDF format here:  http://seacat.beautifulgate.org.my/download/

United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities, 3 December 2012

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United Nations Enable logo

The United Nations’ International Day of Persons with Disabilities will be held  3 December 2012Theme: Removing barriers to create an inclusive and accessible society for all.  Over one billion people, or approximately 15% of the world’s population, live with some form of disability.  Persons with disabilities, “the world’s largest minority”, often face barriers to participation in all aspects of society. Barriers can take a variety of forms, including those relating to the physical environment or to information and communications technology (ICT), or those resulting from legislation or policy, or from societal attitudes or discrimination. The result is that persons with disabilities do not have equal access to society or services, including education, employment, health care,  transportation, political participation or justice.  Evidence and experience shows that when barriers to their inclusion are removed and persons with disabilities are  empowered to participate fully in societal life, their entire community benefits. Barriers faced by persons with disabilities are, therefore, a detriment to society as a whole, and accessibility is necessary to achieve progress and development for all.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) recognizes that the existence of barriers constitutes a central component of disability. Under the Convention, disability is an evolving concept that “results from the interaction between persons with impairments and attitudinal and environmental barriers that hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.”  Accessibility and inclusion of persons with disabilities are fundamental rights recognized by the CRPD and are not only objectives, but also pre-requisites for the enjoyment of other rights. The CRPD (Article 9, accessibility) seeks to enable persons with disabilities to live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life and development. It calls upon States Parties to take appropriate measures to ensure that persons with disabilities have access to all aspects of society, on an equal basis with others, as well as to identify and eliminate obstacles and barriers to accessibility.

In spite of this, in many parts of the world today, lack of awareness and understanding of accessibility as a cross-cutting development issue remains an obstacle to the achievement of progress and development through the Millennium Development Goals, as well as other internationally agreed outcomes for all. The commemoration of International Day of Persons with Disabilities in 2012 provides an opportunity to address this exclusion by focusing on promoting
accessibility and removing all types of barriers in society.  The UN Enable website lists how the day may be observed.

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

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European Commission logo

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

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

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

International Global Disability Rights Library increases content

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