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.
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.
It’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 studyexamined 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.
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 overviewof the situation using the content of the report.
The current issue of Designs 4 Living has two articles relevant to universal design. The first on page 9 is about creating level access to a home using landscaped design solutions. The second is about sea cruising with a mobility device – page 12. Other articles are aimed at the American market and relate more to assistive technology and specialised designs. Worth a look. The magazine is published onlineon Flipsnack. Not sure how accessible this format is.
While 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.