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

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

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

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

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

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


Be Able Travel: businesses miss customer revenue if inaccessible

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

Be Able Travel logo

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

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

New guide for wheelchair visitors to Paris

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

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

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

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

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

Tips for travelling in Barcelona for people with disabilities

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

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

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

2.How can I move around the city?

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

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

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

4. Where to eat?

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

5. What to eat?

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

6. Can I go to the beach?

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

7. Free Museums:

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

8. What to do that is different?

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

Follow on Twitter: @bcnzerolimits

Tourism in Italy for people with disabilities

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

Rome and Italy Tourism Service showing wheelcahir tourists

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

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

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

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

New app: Accessible NYC subway and places

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Wheelie map of NYC

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

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

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

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

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

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


Spaghetti junction of roads

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Taku Helicopter


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

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

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

Follow on Twitter: @ccsdisabilitya

Half of NYC cabs to be wheelchair-accessible by 2020

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New York City cabs Public Domain Image

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

Follow on Twitter: @nyctaxi @dralegal

Five Safe-Travel tips for People with Disabilities

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Guest article by Rohit Agarwal, an architect by profession and the owner of Trans India Travels.  Rohit is a dedicated travel enthusiast who likes to explore various places around the world.

Woman in a wheelchair on an escalator picture provided by Rohit Argawal


Travelling is an essential part of our lives. While it is now practiced widely as a recreational activity, most of us travel for various other circumstances. One of the most cumbersome situations relating to travel is when travelling with a disability or with a disabled.  This situation is troublesome for both the disabled and the caretaker and special care needs to be taken by both. It is not common for a disabled person to practice independent or recreational travel, but it is easily possible if certain careful measures are taken. The following tips will help you take care of yourself or the disabled travelling with you making vacations and recreational trips not only possible but a whole lot easier. If you’re fit to travel according to the physicians then you should be fit to travel alone and enjoy the fruits of independent travel.

1. Plan In Advance

Planning as far as you can is the key to easy travel. Making early reservations will not only ensure cheaper but also more comfortable travel. Advance booking will ensure you get the best options according to your preference. Many airlines allow just one wheelchair per flight so make sure it is yours by booking in advance. Make sure you do a proper research about your destination before making any reservations and ensure that the hotels and the cities you’re checking in and visiting have the proper facilities for the disabled.

2. Careful Packing Is A Must

Make sure you pack your medications or any other supplements properly and always carry a spare set. Keep one set where they can be easily accessed especially while on a plane, train or a bus. Many medicines are supposed to be kept at certain temperatures so make sure you have the required things like a cooler bag and a place to store them when you reach your destination. Make sure you keep your prescriptions handy in case you lose your medicines and would need to buy more. Make sure you specially request your physician to write the generic name of the medicine rather than the name of the brand or the product name on the prescription.

3. Taking Special Care During The Journey

Special care needs to be taken before the journey actually begins. Arriving early at the airport or the bus or the train station is a must and is advisable if you do not want to risk missing a flight, bus or the train. This not only ensures hassle free boarding but also help lower that pre-trip anxiety. During your journey make sure you have all your necessary equipment and medication handy. Take note of the closest and the most easily accessible washroom from your seat. Keep your foldable wheelchair or scooter handy but if not then label them clearly so they can be returned in case they’re lost.

4. Get Travel Insurance, if possible

Travel Insurance is a type of a health insurance which is supposed to cover the medical, financial and collateral loss occurred while travelling. There are various types of travel insurance plans available which cover national and international travel. Many insurance agencies also offer a temporary insurance that simply cover the losses incurred during a particular trip or journey that can be nation or international. It might cost you a few more dollars or your choice of currency but will ensure a hassle free travel and a relaxing trip.

5. Careful Planning While On Your Trip

It is necessary that you understand your own limits and do not try to expand them at a huge risk. Planning too many activities in less time can leave you exhausted and can threaten your condition. If it’s a vacation make sure that you spend more time relaxing than sightseeing and simply alternating the balance between rest and play. Do proper research about the various facilities you can avail in the city to help facilitate easy getting around. Carry important medicines and do not over tire yourself with more activities than you can handle.

Disability can be a small halt to your independent lifestyle especially when travelling. However, with careful planning it can be easily overcome and you can totally enjoy your trips and vacations without letting your ailment keep you away from the fun.

Follow on Twitter: @TransIndiaTrvls  On Google+ https://plus.google.com/+RohitAgarwal87#+RohitAgarwal87/posts

New Mobility magazine survey of wheelchair-user air travel

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Plane in flight

New Mobility magazine was launched in the USA in 1989 to serve an underserved readership – wheelchair users.  Founder Sam Maddox recognized that this group wanted more information on how to lead active, healthy lives.  In 2010, United Spinal Association acquired New Mobility as part of a series of mergers with grass-roots disability organizations, including National Spinal Cord Injury Association and UsersFirst. Today New Mobility, edited by Tim Gilmer, remains an independent editorial voice and continues to be recognized as the premier wheelchair lifestyle publication in the world.  New Mobility is running a short survey to explore the state of air travel for wheelchair users today.  This is because there have been many stories about wheelchair users being mistreated by Transport Security Administration (TSA) agents or forced to crawl across the tarmac.   With a view to improving air travel for wheelchair users, New Mobility wants to ascertain if this is typical, or if these incidents are few and far between.  They want to find out if some airlines are better than others for wheelchair users, and are also interested in how often equipment is damaged or destroyed by airlines.  The survey can be found here  http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/airline-accessibility

Scott Rains: People with disabilities are THE market, not a niche

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Scott Rains with a lion from Vimeo website

International travel and inclusion design consultant and author of the Rolling Rains Report, Scott Rains discusses accessible (or inclusive) tourism in New Mobility magazine.  Rains says that it is time for people with disabilities (PwDs) to “stop insisting we’re a market niche”.  This is because PwDs “cross-cut all niches and all demographics.”   Rains goes on to say that PwDs cover all economic brackets and travel for the same reasons as everyone else.  “We date, we marry, we have families” says Rains.  The article goes on to describe results from a survey carried out by New Mobility.  The survey found that about 44% of PwDs travel for family vacations, 32% for couple getaways, and 19% for work-related trips.  That’s a “lot of family members, lovers, and co-workers all benefiting from access technically needed by only one person”, says the article.  The survey also found that about 34% of PwDs aim to book rooms in the US$50-$100 range, 45% in the $100-$150 range, and 11% in the $150-$200 range.

Follow on Twitter: @srains @NewMobilityMag

New York City launches new resturant access programme

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New York City Mayors Office for People with Disabilities restaurant sign

New York City has launched a Restaurant Access Programme (RAP) designed to provide restaurants with the ability to advertise if they are wheelchair-friendly.  To qualify, restaurants  complete a “RAP Survey”, which can be done online or by calling the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD). If the restaurant qualifies, it is given a RAP decal that can be posted in the restaurant window to promote the fact that it is “Wheelchair-Friendly”. The MOPD will also promote accessible restaurants  as being “Wheelchair-Friendly”. The survey is voluntary and does not affect restaurant licensing.    NYC is implementing the programme to assist restaurants to increase business by tapping into “a customer base comprised of people with disabilities who are often overlooked and may not be aware that they can be accommodated at many of New York City’s fine restaurants”.  The survey has detailed drawings and measurements to assist restaurants in assessing access at their premises.  For more information, go to http://on.nyc.gov/rwfd or www.nyc.gov/mopd/rap

Follow on Twitter: @NYC_MOPD

New Mobility: How to get an accessible hotel room

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New Mobility magazine logo

The latest New Mobility magazine has a number of guests discussing accessible accommodations.   Ashley Lyn Olson, CEO and founder of the organization Wheelchairtraveling.com writes about the good, bad, and ugly in her travels, and is upbeat even in the face of marginal accessibility.   “There have been so many times where hotels are supposed to be accessible, and they generally are, but maybe they have an older building,” says Olson. Her pet peeve is bathrooms.   “Some hotels say ‘you can roll into the bathroom, totally,’ but I need a roll-in shower. Of course I can roll into the bathroom. And they don’t know the difference,” writes Olson.  And then there is bed height.  “Sometimes I’ll use the bed sheets as a rope and climb up the bed……there’s no requirement for bed height by the ADA (Americans with xxxx) which blows my mind.”  She has learned a trick that usually works when reserving an accessible hotel room. “If you need something really specific, when you make a reservation, talk to someone in housekeeping or maintenance, since they know the hotel intimately,” she suggests.  Be very specific, recommends Olson. It’s not good enough to just ask if a hotel has a shower bench — you have to find out if it’s big enough, and even if it has a back.

Kleo King is senior vice president of Accessibility Services for United Spinal Association, and a member on one of the U.S. Access Board’s advisory committees.  She writes that newly-disabled people may not know they have to specify that they need an accessible room with particular features, and “even those who do specify that on their reservation can have it get messed up,” Even when people know exactly what they need, they still might not get it. “Since the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design, hotel reservations are supposed to be better. They’re supposed to take your request offline, if you use an Internet portal, and have that roll-in shower for you,” says King. “So if someone comes in and demands it, they’re not supposed to get that room. You reserved it, you need it. If all the rooms are booked, then they can call other hotels in the area to get a room, maybe send the customer to the other Marriott, that kind of thing.” But your room that you reserved, with all the specific accommodations you requested, ought to be there when you arrive.   “The bigger chains do better with this,” says King. “There are some accessibility features the ADA is very specific about, but there are still “glaring areas that need improvement.”

Scott Rains, an international consultant on travel and universal design, and author of the Rolling Rains Report, says that the lack of consistency from hotel to hotel in how bathrooms are laid out can be odd. “Some of the bathrooms are so tiny or made so weirdly you can’t get in past the door, sinks or toilets. In an accessible bathroom that meets the standards, the height range may not be good for some people. In some people’s opinions, even ADA-standard toilets are not sufficient.”   To keep accessibility in the U.S. in perspective, Rains talks about how the burning issue in Asia is to get hotels to stop putting in a 3-inch-tall, 1-inch-wide curb between the guestroom’s bedroom and bathroom.

The article concludes with a list of resources, an assessment of the most important aspects of access, lists of hotel chains that are the most accessible and most reliable when it comes to honouring a reservation for an accessible room, and notes about equipment.

Follow on Twitter at: @NewMobilityMag @WheelchairTrav @UnitedSpinal @srains


Good practice guide to creating an accessible stadium and matchday experience

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Soccer ball in front of a goal public domain image

The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) based in Switzerland has produced a guide entitled Access for all: UEFA and CAFÉ good practice guide to creating an accessible stadium and matchday experience.  The 115 page publication has extensive information on what makes good access at football venues, including approaching and leaving the stadium, moving around in the stadium, access to information, access in viewing areas, and amenities, and training in disabilities issues.  It also discusses why good access is important, the different models of disability, equality legislation, accessibility auditing and planning.

There are more than 80 million disabled people living in the European Union alone (equivalent to the populations of Belgium, the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, and the Netherlands combined).  The UEFA estimates that about 500,000 of these are likely to be active football spectators, a number the charity CAFÉ  (Access to Football in Europe) thinks will rise considerably with improved stadium access.  In addition, one in four Europeans has a family member with a disability, while 60% know someone who is disabled.  This is a big fan base and a big market.  In 2009, the UEFA donated its Monaco Charity Award to the National Association for Disabled Supporters (now known as the Level Playing Field) to help establish CAFÉ.  CAFÉ was created to “ensure disabled supporters across the UEFA’s 53 member associations can enjoy attending football matches and to make it a problem-free and inclusive experience for all”.  CAFÉ cooperated with organisations such as the European Commission Committee for Standardization (CEN) to ensure a pan-Euro approach to building standards and good practice for sports stadiums.

Follow on Twitter: @UEFAcom @cafefootball @lpftweets @Standards4EU

Costa Rica working to improve Access Tourism

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Accessible Tourism is growing in Costa Rica writes Shannon Farley. So far, reports are positive from tourists who have enjoyed accessible vacations in the country. Some of the top Costa Rica tours that are wheelchair-friendly include Pacific Rainforest Aerial Tram near Jacó Beach, Monteverde Cloud Forest Train in Monteverde, Lankester Botanical Garden near Cartago, and Veragua Rainforest Research & Adventure near Limon in the Caribbean region.

Several of Costa Rica’s national parks and tour attractions either have fully accessible designs or have added elements that are wheelchair-friendly and designed for people of all abilities.  Carara National Park opened the country’s first “universal access” trail in the rainforest in May this year (2013). The trail is made of permeable concrete and provides easy access for persons in wheelchairs and elderly visitors, with special ramps and wheelchair accessible bathrooms. There are information signs in Braille, along with wooden sculptures of animals, for visually impaired visitors to touch at nine stations along the 1.2 km (3/4 mile) loop trail; an audio guide also is available.

Poás Volcano National Park, in the Central Valley, is also completely accessible with paved walkways, ramps and information aids. Visitors can go right to the volcano’s immense 1.7-kilometer-wide crater and viewpoint. Irazú Volcano National Park is mostly accessible due to its relatively flat terrain by the main crater and concrete walkway leading from the parking area to the first crater viewpoint; there are plans for more improvements.

Since national parks are public places, and Costa Rica’s Equal Opportunities Law for Persons with Disabilities requires disabled access in hotels and other public places, the National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC) is investigating how they can make more of Costa Rica’s national parks accessible to people of all abilities. There are plans to improve Manuel Antonio National Park on the Central Pacific Coast, Tenorio Volcano National Park in Guanacaste, and Guayabo National Monument in Turrialba.

Barcelona – Highly accessible city for visitors with disabilities

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Mik Scarlet outside Gaudi's La Pedrera photo from Huffington Post article

Broadcaster and journalist Mik Scarlet (above, outside Gaudi’s La Pedrera) has just returned from a trip to Barcelona, and written a piece for Huffington Post about access for visitors in the city.  Scarlet and his wife – who have paid many visits to the city over the last ten years – have seen many changes there.  Already disabled friendly ten years ago, the city has not stopped improving in this regard.  The city’s sea front, transport system, the sea front, and much of the old city have been improved for access.  “In a city filled with world famous and important historic buildings, some from as far back as medieval Moorish Spain through to Gaudi’s ground breaking architecture, it seems their drive is for everyone to be able to used these buildings no matter what changes need to be made” writes Scarlet.   He points out that building an accessible environment has early roots in Barcelona.  For example, Gaudi’s La Pedrera is very accessible, with the original lift having plenty of room for wheelies, and a seat for the unsteady.  In the apartments, doors are wide, rooms are spacious (including the bathrooms), and there are marble kick-plates covering the lower half of the walls.

Scarlet’s visit to Barcelona has spurred him on in trying to improve access in London (his home town).  Apart from his journo activities, he runs an access and inclusion advisory service, and advises his clients to aim “to create good design that has access built into it and not bolted on as an extra”.  He has been involved as an advisor in this capacity for over 10 years, and started by working with the team developing the Ocean Venue in Hackney, which was one the UK’s first fully accessible venues.  He then went on to advise venues throughout London, such as The Ministry of Sound, and worked with the owners of the Koko nightclub in Camden on ways to make the listed venue accessible to disabled people. This has led to the venue winning awards for its accessibility.  He is currently working with others to improve disabled access throughout the famous Stables Market in Camden, London, and to ensuring the new Camden Lock Village development on the Hawley Wharf site is fully inclusive in its design and build. He is about to roll out a package of disability awareness measures for all market staff and stall holders.

Photo (above) from Huffington Post

Global improvements in accessible travel

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Skier with a disability Photo Larry Pierce

Skier with a disability. Photo by Larry Pierce

The BBC reports that last month, New York City launched a new dispatch system for wheelchair-accessible taxis, making it easier for visitors with disabilities and locals to get around the city. Prospective passengers can book the taxis online, use a free smart phone app called Wheels on Wheels, send a text message to 646-400-0789 or call a cab the old fashioned way – dialling either 646-599-9999 (direct line) or 311 (citywide information line). Though there was a regular dispatch system for all taxis before, there was nothing specifically for wheelchair-accessible vehicles.  Philadelphia is working on a similar project, hoping to have 300 wheelchair-accessible taxis by the end of 2012 and to make all city cabs accessible by 2016. Likewise, on Dublin, the public bus system Dublin Bus is planning for a fully-accessible fleet by the end of this year, with more than 90% of the buses already remodelled.

Other places around the world that have recently made (or are in the process of making) improvements with visitors with disabilities in mind include:

Smooth sailing in Turkey
Turkey is updating its sea ports, harbours and sea transportation vehicles to catch up with the country’s already handicap-accessible airports, train stations and trains. The goal of the “unhindered seas project” is to make improvements such as increasing the number of accessible toilets and the number of available resting areas for the elderly and anyone with physical handicaps.

Better buildings in Dublin and France
In Dublin, all new or newly renovated commercial or non-residential buildings are required to pass a disability access certification process, and all government buildings are expected to be fully accessible by 2015. France has the same goal, but unlike Dublin it is not on track with its timeline. Today only about 15% of government buildings are accessible, a delay that is being blamed on the country’s economic austerity.

Updates in a winter wonderland
Just in time for ski season, Colorado’s Monarch Mountain Ski Resort is remodelling its base lodge to include a wheelchair-accessible elevator. For something a little different right outside the resort, the outfitter Monarch Dog Sled Rides offers scenic winter sled rides through the San Isabel National Forest that can accommodate people with disabilities.

Source: Travel Tips by Suemedha Sood, BBC Travel.


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

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Glasses of wine

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

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

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Visit Britain Logo

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

Do you have any of the following conditions or impairments:

A – I have a mobility impairment (wheelchair user)

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

C – I am blind

D – I am partially sighted

E – I am deaf

F – I have partial hearing loss

G – I have learning difficulties

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

None of these

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

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