Airbnb has acquired Accomable, a travel site that focuses on accessible rentals. Accomable’s listings, which are live in more than 60 countries, will be rolled into Airbnb’s over the next few months. For hosts, Airbnb will offer detailed descriptions of what an accessible feature means, such as a “wide doorway” being defined as one that is at least 32 inches wide. Airbnb will gather information from hosts and pass it on to guests to make their own selection. So you will be able search for accessibility features by the room. The new access filter is available now on the web, and will arrive on Airbnb’s iOS and Android apps soon. There was a previous post with more information about Accomable.
Historic buildings and places not only hold cultural heritage and national identity, people also work, live and enjoy everyday activities in these places. But how best to maintain them and make them accessible to everyone? Once again Ireland has come up with a resource to help: “Improving the accessibility of historic buildings and places”. The booklet is designed to guide those responsible for historic buildings on how best to maintain, repair and adapt their properties. The chapters provide practical advice including: improving access in and around buildings, providing accessible information, and the process of preparing to improve access. It begins with the principles of getting the balance right, universal design and architectural conservation. More information on related topics can be found on the NDA website.
Tourist and visitor destinations often offer guided experiences, but are the tour guides able to provide inclusive experiences for everyone? There are several studies on the experiences of tourists with disabilities, but few on the experiences of guides who have encountered people with disability in their daily work. Developing countries have become popular holiday destinations precisely because they offer different experiences and adventures. For example game parks, wilderness treks, and points of interest with different cultural perspectives. This is where tour guides are essential in interpreting the tourist experience. But do they have the skills and abilities to provide inclusive experiences for everyone? The results of research in Zimbabwe found that many tour guides did their best to support people with disability, but this often entailed undignified solutions, or no solution at all. The title of the paper is Tour guides experiences with tourists with disabilities, and provides an interesting perspective on inclusive tourism.
Expedia gets a good write up from the Accessibility Wins blog site. Curator Marcy Sutton went looking for inaccessible tourism websites for a project she was doing and said she found many. However, she liked Expedia and claims: “They have a skip link, labeled form controls and icon buttons, and intuitive navigation. They’ve made it easy to navigate with a keyboard and a screen reader”. The blog site is aimed at web page designers and developers. Other posts are a bit more technical such as Google Chrome’s Color Contrast Debugger which tests the colour contrast ratios. Useful for anyone needing to brief a web developer as well as web designers and developers.
Editor’s Note: I haven’t checked this site out personally, but it seems Expedia is keen for any feedback about the accessibility of their site.
Historic landscapes, gardens and open spaces are there for everyone to enjoy. Historic England has produced a guide for anyone working to open up historic sites to a wider audience by providing easier access for all visitors. This revised edition of the 2005 guide promotes an inclusive approach to ensure that every visitor to an historic park, garden or landscape has a meaningful experience – not just physical access. Property owners and managers designers, and planners should find the guide helpful in tackling all aspects of the visitor experience. The key elements of the guide are:
1. Why access matters 2. Planning better access 3. Making access a reality 4. Published sources of information 5. Where to get advice This is a companion to Easy Access to Historic Buildings.
The Restaurant at the End of the Universe may be a place to visit in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but many restaurants on Earth may as well be at the end of the Universe for some people. With the release of new Australian research putting the Accessible Tourism market at $10.8 billion and with the second Destinations for All conference coming up in October in Brussels, the need is greater than ever for leadership in the tourism industry. Accessible Tourism is still generally regarded as a physical access issue. There are some that have embraced a customer focussed experience model to create inclusive products and services. In his article, Disabled Traveller’s Guide to the Galaxy, Bill Forrester says that changing from an access model to a product development model is the key. This is a significant and growing market that is worth the investment of both time and money. Moving the language from “accessible” to “inclusive” tourism could be a good start. See also Local Government NSW free online learning program about creating inclusive places and activities for tourists and local residents alike. Many improvements can be made with little or no cost. So in the words of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, DON’T PANIC.
How can you make an hotel, a place of interest, an event, or holiday accessible and inclusive? What’s actually involved and why should anyone bother? The answer to these and many other questions are found in a comprehensive e-learning program – and it’s free! The course was developed by Local Government NSW to help tourism operators make the most of their potential clientele. There are several modules and each has learning content followed by quick questions. You can access the course, the case studies and resources on the Local Government NSW website.
The course was developed as a result of a collaboration with the Australian Tourism Data Warehouse when it became clear that information about accessible and inclusive tourist destinations and activities was often incomplete. Although this was developed with local council tourist centres in mind, the content is applicable broadly – including shops, cafes, restaurants and novelty places – anywhere for visitors whether they are local, interstate or international.
Buildings from previous centuries didn’t consider access and inclusion, so the two don’t always go together well. Historic England has taken on the challenge with their updated guide, Easy Access to Historic Buildings. The guide also includes information for businesses and attractions within an historic site, such as shops and cafes that aren’t necessarily historic, but add to the overall visitor experience. The guide is comprehensive and replaces their 2004 edition. It can be downloaded in sections.
The visits4u access guide is for businesses, organisations and their staff involved in the tourism industry: hotels, restaurants, tour operators, travel agencies, tourism authorities, art and cultural attractions. The recommendations are aimed at improving the accessibility of tourist services. The short document on Who is the Customer of Inclusive Tourism provides some basic but important advice. There are separate sections on hotels, shops and restaurants, cultural attractions, wayfinding and signage, hearing augmentation, and marketing and promotion. There is also an online training course and much more to be found on the website. In the section on Routes, partners in Greece, Latvia and Spain designed itineraries that promote local history and modern culture, with up to date access information for routes and places to visit. And there is much more.
The guidelines are the result of seven European countries collaborating to improve user experience and sustain inclusive design across the partner countries, and to build capacity in the tourism sector. visits4u is co-funded by the COSME Programme of the European Union.
Travability’s travel blog has an article about Accor hotels and what they are attempting to achieve with their accessible room designs. Accor calls it their “smart room”. It features many of the design aspects that you would expect in a room compliant to disability access requirements plus a bit of design polish – something else you would expect with an up-market hotel chain. A closer look at the picture of the bathroom might make an access consultant question a few things – particularly the juxtaposition of some elements with each other and placement within the room. Maybe it is just the angle of the pictures. Accor claims the room to be universally designed, and it is, from the perspective of almost anyone could use it provided the bathroom suits. Some of the really good things are in the technology – this is what makes the room smart and where the biggest gains have been made. See the article for the full description and pictures.