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Member Forum on Accessibility

Posted 20 Dec, 2019

3rd December was International Day of Disabled People and was the ideal day to discuss Accessible Tourism’ at our Members Forum.

Accessibility is one of the key elements of the UK Tourism Sector Deal and an area in which a lot of work has been done in Northern Ireland to ensure that our tourist attractions, experiences and services are accessible to all regardless of their physical limitations, disability or age. Everybody agrees that if we can get this right, not only will we be providing accessible and integrated experiences for everybody, but it will provide opportunities to grow the number of visitors and increase spend.

The UK Government’s ambition is to make the UK the most accessible tourism destination in Europe by 2025 and increase the number of international disabled visitors by a third.

Some of the key statistics provided by Visit Britain include:

  • In 2018, 500,000 adults stated ‘lack of accessibility provision’ as the reason they did not make a domestic trip

  • Britain scored just 25 per cent on its accessibility credentials in the National Brands Index (2016)

  • 700,000 inbound visitors in 2018 had a disability – 1.9% of overnight visits

  • Accessible Tourism market estimated at £12bn – purple pound

To set the scene for our discussion Sandra Pryce from Hillsborough Castle talked about their experience in incorporating accessibility as part of their refurbishment project and the challenges of making a historical building accessible especially given the topography of the site. Working with partners has been critical, e.g., Autism Awareness. Hillsborough Castle are progressing to become Autism Champions. They are also part of SEND, a community access scheme in partnership with RNIB and Open Arts. The next phase of their accessibility plan includes the introduction of dark tents and Audio Tours. Sandra's presentation is available below.

Judith Owens CEO, Titanic Belfast, which was one of the case studies used by DCMS, spoke about how the organisation have incorporated accessibility into everything they do. This included working with Orchardville to enable people with learning difficulties to experience working in Titanic Belfast which has led to permanent jobs. Judith talked about the positive impact this has had for both staff and visitors alike. Judith's presentation is available below.

Dave Vincent, COO for Tourism NI and the Accessibilty lead, led a discussion with members which discussed a number areas:

  • How can NI be seen as a leading accessible destination?
  • How do we balance compliance and culture
  • How do we ensure that accessibility is an integral part of everything we do – inclusive not separate?
  • How do we work together to be a recognised Accessible/Inclusive Tourism Destination?

The actions from the discussion were:

  1. Dave Vincent will set up a working group in the New Year - this will be outcome focussed with a focus on key wins.
  2. Accessibility Audit to establish our baseline and the regional proposition
  3. Identify the key contacts - Accessibility officers - and create a network for sharing best practice.
  4. Check out AccessABLE which is a UK Accessibility Guide - how to we ensure that all organisations are registered?
  5. What information is available in NI, how do we make this consistant?

NITA will play our part in ensuring this is taken forward and provide a conduit to and from our members.