All aboard for accessibility

In the train carriage, a woman is seated in a manual wheelchair and is sitting next to a man in a standard seat. They are looking at an in-seat screen, probably for movies.Queensland Rail has improved accessibility on the Spirit of Queensland. This journey from Brisbane to Cairns over 25 hours can accommodate most types of power wheelchairs or mobility scooters. Seating car E has three wheelchair spaces, with four additional accessible seats for people who transfer to a seat. It also has an accessible toilet and shower compartment. There is captioning on messages and selected movies as well as hearing loops. Nice contrasting of colours on seats and flooring, plus Braille and tactile signage. 

The Queensland Rail website has a lot more information about accessibility on the Spirit of Queensland and there is a factsheet. The Tilt Train from Brisbane to Rockhampton has similar facilities.Other trains have narrow doors and aisles which makes access difficult. There is no information about toilets on these trains. It will be a great day when all rolling stock is inclusive.  

Editor’s note: I found it difficult to navigate the website to find the relevant information for this post. 

Photo from Queensland Rail website. 

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I just can’t find it

screnshot of expedia websiteIt’s one thing to create accessible, universally designed places and spaces, it is another to let people know they exist. Being physically accessible is not enough. People who need access information require detail – and they need to be able to find that detail. The tourism industry is gradually realising this, but restaurants and entertainment venues have yet to catch up.  A recent study examined publicly available access information and found that it varied considerably across the board. In many cases information was provided but its accuracy was not necessarily correct or complete. 

The title of the article is, “Publicly-Researchable Accessibility Information: Problems, Prospects and Recommendations for Inclusion”.

Abstract: Despite worldwide attempts to improve accessibility for consumers with disabilities, barriers still exist that exclude persons from consumer participation in daily life. Although legislation and lawsuits have addressed this issue, marketplaces designed for able-bodied persons are commonplace with minimal accessibility standards tied to costs rather than the needs of this overlooked group. The present article examines a seemingly obvious, but understudied aspect of inclusion: the provision of publicly-researchable accessibility information. Ironically, businesses and public venues may create accessible spaces, yet fail to provide the level of detail needed by consumers with disabilities when planning a shopping excursion, dinner and entertainment, or travel and overnight stays. That is, the provision of factual accessibility content has lagged and is not required by law. This article reports on an exploratory study in the United States that examined the accuracy and completeness of publicly-researchable accessibility information for restaurant and entertainment venues in a large metropolitan area in the Northeastern United States. Observations were gathered from websites and social media of specific venues, as well as travel rating services like TripAdvisor. Findings were mixed. While some venues provided full and factual accessibility information, others revealed just the opposite both in online and follow-up telephone interviews. Implications are discussed along with recommendations for future study.

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Inclusive Tourism; What to do in Australia?

Front cover of the summary report. Two people are watching a sunset over the ocean. One is sitting in a wheelchair.Austrade commissioned a report into accessible tourism in Victoria and Queensland. Once again we are given the economics and the size of the tourism market. It shows Australia is missing out on both international and national tourism opportunities. Clearly economics and legal obligations aren’t sufficient to change the attitudes of tourism operators, otherwise change would have happened by now. There is much information in this document for anyone who wants to include this sector of the market in their operations. Many forget inclusive travel includes companions and family members. Nevertheless, one hotel, or one attraction alone is not enough. It needs a community-wide approach where operators of venues, accommodation, attractions and destinations work together. Having an accessible room is of no use unless there are accessible places to go to. An article in the West Australian provides an overview of the situation using the content of the report.

The title of the report is, “Accessible Tourism in Victoria and Queensland Final Report“. Or you can read the Summary Report.  

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Inclusive Tourism: Global Report

Front cover of the report showing a yellow two storey building with blue doors and shutters. A man sits in a tuk tuk outside.Inclusive tourism has two outcomes: individuals and their families can benefit from participating in tourism activity, and it can help with sustainable development and the reduction of poverty. The Global Report on Inclusive Tourism Destinations is a large document by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation. It has practical advice and success stories from across the globe. Good resource for anyone interested in following the Sustainable Development Goals as well as inclusive tourism in general. In developed countries the same holds true – more participation equals more customers.

“The report highlights the need to foster discussion on and examine new approaches to inclusive tourism in order to drive long-term sustainability in the sector. The Model for inclusive tourism destinations presented in this Global Report is a formula for practical and realistic public action that can be applied to different types of destinations. It is a path towards inclusion that is adaptable, modular and scalable, and facilitates the transformation of tourism models towards socially and economically inclusive models.” 

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Destinations for All: A Guide

man in a powered wheelchair looking out between Roman columns and across the water in the Roman BathYet another excellent resource for the tourism and travel industry – an industry now leading the way in best practice. Importantly, the principles and learning from case studies can be applied everywhere. The business world should take note of the good advice in Destinations for All: A guide to creating accessible destinations.

Included in the guide are several case studies, some statistics on the number of people left out if the destination if it is not inclusive, engaging with other businesses, and dispelling myths. It even challenges the notion that heritage issues make it impossible by showcasing the Roman Baths project. This guide is informed by research and can be applied as much to a day out in Sydney or Melbourne as a two week holiday in Scotland. Facebooktwitterlinkedinmail

Accessible but not usable: Mapping tourist destinations

Front cover of a tourist guide showing Trieste at twilight. A scene with buildings and water with small boats.Promoting tourism and making it more accessible is the goal of a group of tourism operators in Trieste in Italy. The University of Trieste is helping with a study focused on whole of journey information including facilities, attractions and destinations. They found that while some destinations were technically accessible they were only “usable with difficulty”. During the process, researchers found that some tourism operators, while supportive of accessibility, were reluctant to change anything citing heritage as a barrier. However, Italian legislation has allowances for accessibility requirements in heritage sites. The method involves mapping the usability of facilities using a process that gathers information from both academics and from representatives from the disability sector. The article covers the methodology, the development of tools and the processes for collecting data. The title of the article is, Tools to Upgrade Facilities for All: How to Improve Business Dealing with Tourism

Abstract: Providing quality services to any traveller requires constant efforts to
ensure that tourist destinations, products, and services are accessible to all people, regardless of their health condition, physical limitations, gender, origin, age. This entails a collaborative process among all the interested parties: administrators, tourist agencies, tour operators, and end users, who expressing their points of view can objectively contribute to reach shared and effective solutions. A single visit destination can involve many factors, including access to information: the project A Region for All, promoted by Promoturismo FVG in collaboration with CRAD FVG and the University of Trieste, focused on this issue. Promoturismo FVG is a semipublic destination management organization. Its mission is to develop the regional tourism system collaborating with all the active subjects to improve the promotion and to optimize the resources by concentrating the efforts. The organization pursues its objectives by planning and organizing the offer through specific tourism products. In 2016 a mapping process has been started to investigate the usability of the relevant services to tourists / visitors with special needs along the itinerary of eight tourist centers of the Friuli Venezia Giulia region. To date, more than 200 facilities (bars, restaurants, pharmacies, cash machines…) have been detected. The paper will present the development of the work conducted by TrIAL – Trieste Inclusion & Accessibility Lab at Department of Engineering and Architecture within the University of Trieste for the management of the mapping process. On the strength of the mapping experience developed during the previous project LabAc (Laboratory of Accessibility) for the Province of Trieste and the project Trieste for All for the Municipality of Trieste (from 2013 to 2016), the research group has adopted and set a series of digital tools, has identified specific indicators and has focused on an efficient return of data to Promoturismo FVG. The overall project is still ongoing: collected data have not yet been published by the organization. Overall monitoring and evaluation activities are still lacking and will be part of a future phase of research.

The article is from the proceedings of the UDHEIT 2018 conference held in Dublin, Ireland, an open access publication.Facebooktwitterlinkedinmail

Inclusive tourism starts with information

Hotel bedroom with polished floors, orange and red pillows on a couch and textured wallpaperWill the hotel room be suitable? What’s the accessibility of public transport like? Will any shops and restaurants be accessible? The answers to these sorts of questions will dictate where people with disability, older people and their families will take a vacation or have a day out. Too much inconvenience and frustration will turn them away. And this includes not being able to find the relevant information on the destination websites. Probono Australia interviewed Lonely Planet’s accessible travel manager, Martin Heng, who has more to say on this in “Making Tourism More Inclusive For All”.

The Victorian Opposition party has announced their policy on Accessible Tourism in the lead up to next month’s state election. Bill Forrester writes about this on his blog and points out the level of missed business in the tourism market. 

Both articles point to the lost business of tourism operators by not considering the high number of people with disability who travel alone and in groups. Facebooktwitterlinkedinmail

Mapping Access: People, Place and Justice

picture of a Google map with icons for parking and transportCreating access maps using data collected from individuals is part of a Google Maps project. But there is more to this than just knowing how to get from one place to another when you are a wheelchair user. What does it say about architecture and how we value citizens? Codes for architectural compliance do not include the human perspective of how people actually use places and spaces and relate to each other. This point is made in a philosophical article by Aimi Hamraie, “Mapping Access: Digital Humanities, Disability Justice, and Sociospatial Practice“. She covers the history of access mapping and uses a university campus as a case study, and challenges notions that access mapping is just a database of directional information. Hamraie claims she has developed a methodological tool for “excavating the politics of design embedded in the most banal features of everyday built environments”. A good read for anyone involved in mapping, GIS projects and the architecture of digital inclusion.  

Note: This article uses academic language and concepts, but is thorough in discussing all aspects if the issues.Facebooktwitterlinkedinmail

England and Scotland Guidebooks for the accessible way

A street scene. Cobbled roadway between five and six storey heritage buildings with Scottish flags flyingWhile many places in the U.K. offer accessible features for guests with disability, 63 percent don’t promote the fact according to Bill Forrester in his TravAbility newsletter. VisitEngland and VisitScotland have launched a website for tourism businesses to produce accessibility guides to help overcome this problem. Chris Veitch, who helped devise the guides will be talking about these at the upcoming Universal Design Conference along with Bill Forrester. People with disability and older people rarely travel alone – at least no more than the general population. So it is not just one person avoiding inaccessible places – it can be a whole family or travel group.

Tourism operators can use the new, free website, www.accessibilityguides.org, to produce and publish their accessibility guides. These guides should also be useful for Australian tourism operators as well. Facebooktwitterlinkedinmail

Comprehensive Universal Design

Indian hotel swimming pool at sunset.Comprehensive Universal Design is a concept from India. It refers to the classic principles of universal design, concepts of sustainability, and culture, that is, a “country-centric approach which considers poverty, caste, class, religion, background both rural and urban”.  A Conceptual Framework for Barrier Free Hotels in Smart Cities covers most of the basics written in many other papers about universal design, links it to the hotel and tourism industry and all the economic benefits that can bring. Weaving in cultural aspects such as poverty and religion takes universal design thinking another inclusive step forward. The article proposes a conceptual framework to explain.

Abstract: Cities are key for business, Job creation, and the growth of society. The Government of India planned to develop smart cities which are sustainable, inclusive and act as a reference for other aspiring cities. Smart cities in India will work on four principles such as wellbeing of habitants, equity, foresight and efficiency. Existing laws and design principles can act as a hurdle in achieving the four principles laid down. The principles of Universal Design (UD) are user centric, work on the social goals of inclusion, equality and independence. Universal Design India Principle (UDIP) is a set of design principles that focus on a country centric approach which considers culture, caste, poverty, class, and religion. There is an overwhelming need for environmentally sustainable designs for hospitality services. Considering the current requirements, a conceptual framework ‘Comprehensive Universal Design (CUD)’ has been proposed which includes principles of UD, UDIP and environmental sustainability. Adopting comprehensive universal design principles in the hotels in smart city will help the planners to realise equity, quality of life, social inclusion and environmental sustainability.

The article is by Partho Pratim Sea*P. Senthil KumaranFacebooktwitterlinkedinmail