Virtual tours and accessible tourism

Virtual tours using 3D photography is being used more frequently by tour companies to sell their experiences. For example, most cruise ships have virtual tours of their staterooms (cabins) so you can see what it looks like before you book. But virtual tours are a necessity for people who need to know exactly what a place looks like before they set out.

Visiting an unfamiliar location is a challenge when you have a disability. Will I be able to get in? Will there be loud noises? Is there be someone to help me? An interactive virtual tour can answer these questions.

Image of Hamaren Activity Park, Norway.

A man sits in a bike taxi which is being driven down a section of the boardwalk.

Google Maps got onto the digital image idea quickly and now Street View is accepted as normal. However, once you leave the street to enter a place or space the vision ends. The rest of the journey becomes a visual magical mystery tour. For some people, photographic information is essential to give them confidence to make the journey in the first place.

When it comes to accessible tourism this type of imagery is a really good way to showcase good access features. It gives people with different disabilities the confidence to easily choose visitor experiences and accommodation. It also tells prospective visitors whether the claim of accessibility matches their individual requirements.

People who use mobility devices can see important details such as steps, ramps, lifts and a level path of travel. People who are neurodiverse and experience sensory overload in large, noisy places can either decide not to go, or to be prepared for this in advance. Knowing what to expect helps keep anxiety levels down.

Virtual tours are universal design

Regardless of whether a person has a disability, it is a comfort to know what to expect and avoid nasty surprises. That makes virtual tours and 3D images a universal design concept – good for everyone.

UK company Ocean 3D has a fact sheet with more detail on their website. There are also good examples of what these tours look like. Virtual tours for access purposes are not the same as promotional videos that give a general idea of a place.

A second fact sheet explains the benefits of 3D images for people who are neurodiverse.

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