UK Tourism guide for business

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 learnings 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.

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Able to Fly: Boeing gets going

front cover of handbook of anthropology for businessOne of the first centres for universal design was set up in Japan, so it is no real surprise that Japan Airlines is pushing Boeing to re-think aircraft and air travel design especially as they not only employ many older workers, they also want to appeal to the older traveller. Anthropologist Kenneth C Erickson writes a very interesting chapter on this in Handbook of Anthropology in Business, which is available from Google books. He covers the whole travel experience from a user perspective using ethnographic techniques. It seems that Boeing, in trying to make the flight experience more convenient, might be adopting universal design principles without perhaps realising it. Here is an an excerpt from the latter part of the text:

“Boeing knows how important it is to see where you are, where you are going, and what things look like outside the airplane window. They’ve reconfigured the interior of the new Dreamliner so that windows are … roughly eye-level. The carbon-fiber fuselage allows greater structural strength and affords bigger windows, while light-sensitive glass obviates the need for those window shades that used to be difficult for passengers to manage […] And although we think of Boeing as making only the airplane, they also make jet-bridges and some of the display technology that shows seat availability for passengers waiting at the gate. This is evidence that Boeing already knows that air travel does not begin when passengers enter the plane; it is not inconceivable that they may broaden their view of travel further and include the entire process of baggage handling, making it, too, more transparent. […] And the work of flight attendants on the ground and in the air … can be made visible and appreciated, so they in turn may see and appreciate those whose bodies – and luggage – they care for. That’s where universal design fosters a good kind of globalization: through it we recognize our common, traveling humanity, and the difference between the temporarily able-bodied and the other dissolves, for a time, into thin air.”

The title of the chapter is, Able to Fly: Temporality, Visibility & the Disabled Airline Passenger, in Handbook of Anthropology in Business, 2016

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Listen up hotel managers! You’re missing out

Accessibility and hospitality have been worlds apart. Thatlisenka otte one room for wheelchair users at the end of the hallway, a terrible view, and only one bed. Hotel managers still have ugly design in their minds thinking hospital-looking bathrooms, and fear that “other” guests would never book the room. The Hotel Accessibility website has some great articles aimed at hotel managers. For example, this one titled, Hotel Managers – who is the sexiest of all?  Here is an excerpt:

“In this day and age, thanks to all the progress that has been made, the most sophisticated wheelchairs, stunning design accessible bathrooms and of course smartphones and tablets have helped people facing a disability tremendously. And now they like to travel the world. Just like anybody else.”
As  says, “If hotels invest a tiny percentage of their marketing budget on promoting their accessible facilities – rooms, pool, fitness, wellness – it will bring more than tenfold the investment in no time.” 

While the emphasis of many accessible travel websites is on wheelchair users, it should not be forgotten that not everyone with a disability is a wheelchair user, for example, older ambulant people, people who are deaf, and people with low vision. However, a room that can accommodate a wheelchair user, can accommodate anyone.

Editor note: The Hotel Accessibility website is most useful for its written articles aimed at the hotel industry. It has a way to go before being useful for the traveller. Other sites do this better, for example, Travability.

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Not so Lonely Planet

schonbrunn palace viennaThe Lonely Planet website has a section on accessible destinations. The section is looked after by Martin Heng. On the list of the 10 most accessible places in the world is Melbourne. The others are: Playa del Carmen, Mexico; Barcelona, Spain; Sicily, Italy; Manchester, UK; Ljubljana, Slovenia; Singapore; San Diego, USA; Vienna, Austria, and surprisingly, Galapagos and Amazonia, Ecuador. A short overview of each destination is provided and other information and personal stories are included on the site. With a focus on wheelchair users, it is essentially the most wheelchair accessible destinations.

Picture: Schonbrunn Palace Gardens, Vienna. They have a motorised ‘train’ that circles the site and takes people to the key viewing spots. 

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Inclusion: Rights vs Economics

Sign showing symbols for wheelchair access and baby stroller accessBill Forrester writes in his latest blog post that one problem of moving from the medical model of disability to the social model, is that the issue of rights seems to take centre stage and the discussion of economic benefits gets lost. Tourism and travel is a perfect example of where many economic gains can be made. Too often travel and tourism companies forget that people with disability travel with families and friends. Consequently the losses are far more than just one potential customer. Disability is classified as something different and around that a set of preconceptions are built that shield it from a market view, says Forrester. There is a link to his research on the blog page. He argues that preferences for holidays are the same as the general population. I can attest to that.

Photograph on a sand dune of 18 passengers and 4 driversEditor’s Note: I have just returned from two weeks on the Canning Stock Route in Western Australia. If you don’t know this area, it is desert – sand dunes, and a 2000km string of wells built for cattle and their drovers in a past time. The road is sand, the shelter is the tent you put up each night and take down each morning, and the transport is 4×4 or better still, 6×6 vehicles. On my trip were 18 passengers and 4 drivers. No passenger was under the age of 60 and the eldest was 86. Older people clearly want to keep doing the things they’ve always done. The spirit of adventure lives on!  Jane Bringolf.

The top picture was taken at Gardens by the Bay in Singapore, and the lower picture is of the 18 passengers and 4 drivers on the Canning Stock Route trip.

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Virgin Atlantic’s Special Assistance Team

Distance shot of British Invictus Games team on the tarmac next to a Virgin Atlantic planeAirline travel has featured in the media as problematic for people with disability and other needs. Virgin Atlantic flew the British Invictus Games team to Miami for the 2016 Games and in the process learned a lot about accommodating various additional needs of passengers. While the promotional video below shows what they can do, it is worth noting that this was a one-off flight and passengers did not have to mix with passengers who do not have or understand disability. It remains to be seen if Virgin Atlantic’s claims for accessibility reach throughout the whole organisation and all flights. Virgin Australia has yet to catch up. However, good to see a start – a change in attitude is needed before a change in policy can happen.

Virgin Atlantic has a Special Assistance Team that can be contacted via the airline’s website.

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Better tourism business through better design

CEUD Site-LogoThe Centre for Excellence in Universal Design in Ireland has a great toolkit on improving tourism business by applying the principles of universal design. The video below shows four case studies that reduced their complaints and increased their sales by following the advice in the toolkit.  You can see more on the toolkit page of the CEUD website. There is also an Irish Standard, I.S.373 “Universal Design for Customer Engagement in Tourism Services” available from SAI Global. There does not seem to be an Australian equivalent.

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