Merseyrail in the north of England has a set of new trains with a low floor at each doorway with an intelligent sliding step. The technology uses a sensor to detect the distance to the platform. Then a reinforced automated step slides out to bridge the gap between the train and the platform. It’s commonly used in Switzerland which means it is well tested. If other countries can order trains with universal easy access, why can’t that be done across Australia?
Perth in Australia has a similar convenience to Merseyrail so that no-one has to mind the gap when getting on and off. You can read more about the Merseyrail project on the Intelligent Transport website: Improving Accessibility on Merseyrail with New Trains.
The new Sydney Metro has designed a close match between the train doors and the platform. It means that most wheeled devices can make the transition from the train to the platform. But every other train system in Sydney, including Light Rail, still requires a station attendant to put out the ramp for wheelchair users. And this has to be pre-arranged. Parents with prams, people with luggage or people a little unsteady on their feet still need to “mind the gap”. How about some retrofitting with this technology? That would save staff time and provide dignified independent access for all. Other passengers would be happy too.
The top picture is the Merseyrail train, and the bottom picture was taken in Perth. You can just see the yellow “bridge” between the train and the platform.
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.
Many places in the U.K. offer accessible features for guests with disability. But 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. 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.
There’s 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.
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.
Inclusive tourism has received a lot of attention recently. One area that hasn’t had a lot of attention in Australia is accessible AgriTourism. A well designed conference poster published by Ohio State University encapsulates the key points. The poster poses this question: “Ohio has almost 700 farms with an agritourism feature, which brings visitors to vineyards, orchards, and corn mazes, but are these farms welcoming to everyone?” Using photos it explains how to make farms and vineyards more accessible to everyone. Tasmania also has a 2017 draft Agritourism Strategy, but it doesn’t say anything about inclusion and accessibility.