Requests for wheelchair assistance grew 30% between 2016 and 2017 according to a recent IATA press release. Airlines and airports know they need to improve their operations as well as consider assistance for passengers who are mobile but have difficulty getting around airports.
The other issue recognised by IATA at it’s recent meeting, is the damage caused to mobility aids. Airlines are working with stakeholders to find ways to improve this. One option is to develop standard procedures related to the loading of mobility aids. You can read more about IATA’s plans for improved air travel in their press release and download the resolutionsfrom their recent meeting. (IATA – International Air Transport Association.)
Holidays for All is a key section in a new research report by Barclays. It is a pity it ends up in the latter part of the report because it applies to all other sections. The tips and case studies in a pdf document cover all aspects of the hospitality and tourism business. Although the report focuses on the UK domestic tourism market, the principles for improved business are applicable elsewhere. This is a very readable report and the section on holidays for all is worth a look, and it ends with strategies for success with key points from each of the chapters:
Know your demographic
Capture early bookers
Add value through collaboration
Reap digital dividends
Provide options where possible
Take them behind the screen
Be accessible to all
It is not unusual to find references to accessibility and inclusion somewhere in a subheading of a research report. This is unfortunate because this is the one part that applies to all other sections.
Visit England has produced a guide for tourism venues on welcoming autistic people. A list of characteristics gives an overview of what it is like to be autistic. Having one or more members of the family with autism can make family outings difficult. But it need not be so. Giving people pre-visit information is essential for helping them cope when they arrive. Case studies highlight successful venues and experiences. The top five tips at the end of the 20 page guide are briefly:
Be patient and give the person space during a meltdown
Notify people of changes to services
Help to alleviate social anxiety
Give people plenty of processing time
Take steps to reduce sensory overload
The National Autistic Society has an annual award process to recognise businesses and venues committed to improving access to their sites and services. They look at customer information, staff understanding, physical environment, customer experience and promoting understanding.
Theme park rides often have rules about who can ride based on body size, health conditions and ability. But these rules are sometimes needlessly excluding. Ride manufacturers’ produce a manual for the park owners with very broad references to disability. These rules are set with the idea of protecting riders. But are these needed? With enough information most people would self select.
A new paper reports on the accident rates for ride attractions and found that obesity, not usually mentioned in the rules, is responsible for more accidents than those for people with disability. The analysis found that restrictive criteria exclude people with disabilities broadly, while permitting other vulnerable populations to self-determine their participation. Publicly available injury data do not provide evidence to justify the extent of mandatory exclusion.
Using information from 100 amusement ride manufacturers’ manuals, the article reports on eligibility criteria and safety for people with disability, and where disability is reported in an injury. The conclusion is that people with disability are excluded more often than is warranted. “There is no clear evidence that people with disabilities are at undue risk when permitted to self-select”. However, they will need appropriate information so they can make the right decision.
Artifical Intelligence (AI) has the potential to solve some difficult problems. One of these is the many inconveniences of air travel – the security checks, waiting at the gate, and the speed at which passengers board. An interesting article on FastCo website brings us up to date with what is emerging, and what we can expect in the future for air travel. The article covers problems with boarding processes, linking ground transport with air transport, and minimising poor passenger behaviour. How this will support inclusive travel and tourism is something still to be discussed in these articles. However, often mentioned are issues of privacy, potential for abuse, and algorithms based on prevailing societal biases, such as, racism, sexism, and ageism, among others.
“The basic task of accessible tourism is to stop focusing on the features of disability and to concentrate on various social needs and adjusting the conditions of geographical (social and physical) space to them”. This quote from a new research papersums up the situation well. The paper focuses on the information aspects of inclusive tourism, particularly online information. It reports on a case study and lists several “rules” for accessible tourist information. The author, Anna Kolodziejczak, laments the lack of consistency of language and description across the inclusive tourism platform. The conclusion sums up the issues well:
Visibility, reliability and up-to-date facts are the basic features of tourist information. An increasing number of publications and internet websites are created for tourists with disabilities. However, due to the principles of both universal design and costs of publication it is advisable to include information on the accessibility of facilities and services in all publications intended for tourists. It ought to be emphasised that tourists, as main subjects of all activities aimed at enabling them to relax in the way they dream, need information at all stages of their journey. To this end, they use various databases of tourist information which, despite having many recipients, have also many creators. Only consistent and systematic cooperation of all information providers and the ability to react quickly to the needs of tourists can make the system work efficiently and the desired results will be achieved.”
If local and state governments aren’t listening to residents about mobility, walkability, and wheelability then perhaps they might consider visitors and tourists with money to spend locally. But are they really interested in the extra tourist dollars? Does the local Chamber of Commerce think it’s all too difficult to create greater access and inclusion? The walkability issue isn’t just about footpaths, seating and toilets – it’s about all the links in the chain to make it happen – joined up thinking. Otherwise we end up with islands of access and inclusion. And you can’t be a bit inclusive – it either is or it isn’t. That means business, community and governments need to work in unison on the design of physical environments, customer service and tourist information. And of course the reverse of the question is, “Can walkability improve tourism?”
International travel is a great experience for everyone especially when operators get on board with inclusive thinking. In his latest article, Martin Henggoes beyond the rights arguments to explain the economics of inclusive travel. With a growing market of older travellers tourism and travel businesses need to step up to take advantage. Heng also picks up the issue of terminology: “accessible” makes people think of compliance for wheelchair users. But he rightly points out that wheelchair users are a small proportion of the population that has some kind of disability or chronic health condition. That’s why we should be calling it “inclusive travel”.
Heng goes on to list the easy, cost effective things that businesses can do. And not just thinking about the building. Easy to read fonts on menus and other information materials, TVs with captioning options, and websites that provide relevant visitor information about rooms, attractions and services. The article has several pictures showing Martin in various overseas locations. The title is What is accessible travel, and why should we be talking about it? Martin Heng works for Lonely Planet as their Accessible Travel Manager.
Scandic has embraced the principles of universal design throughout its hotel chain for more than ten years. This makes for an interesting case study in inclusive tourism because it goes deep into hotel operations. So it is not all about wheelchair accessible rooms – it is much more. And as always with customer service, it is the little things, such as being able to reach the coffee cups at the breakfast bar. The article on the Norwegian Inclusive Design website, is short and to the point and shows how all hotels can benefit from small but effective changes to practices. The video below shows how they took a universal design approach. The architect said it was more about use of materials than wheelchair circulation space.
“The best evidence on that we are doing something right came from a guest. She told me that when she is staying at Scandic she is treated like a regular guest, not a disabled one”. Magnus Berglund, Scandic.
A new magazine, Travel Without Limits, is specifically aimed at individuals and families living with disability. The first issue is 48 pages of information, personal stories of travel experiences from around the world, and of course travel advertisements. It also contains travel tips for people with specific disabilities from small children to older adults. The publisher is Travel with Special Needs which also runs a website with holiday information.
Editor’s Note: This online magazine is on the Issuu platform which, in my opinion, is not the most accessible. Even expanding the page size 200% did not help the small size or clarity of the font. I couldn’t see an option to download a PDF version. It will be interesting to see if the magazine improves matters for people with disability when they travel. My feedback about a successful trip has more to do with the quality and availability of the information about accessibility, as well as staff competence in welcoming guests with disability. Good to see this as an addition to the inclusive tourism sector. Perhaps we should have a magazine for older Australians as well?