Examples of best practices for improving accessibility
From train stations to youth hostels and tourism offices, best practices in accessibility are now in place in France, thanks to the Law of February 11, 2005, which promotes the equality of rights and opportunities, participation and citizenship of people with disabilities. This law, in effect, recognizes the principle of accessibility for all, regardless of disability.
What are best practices in tourism accessibility?
According to a report carried out by Kéroul, in cooperation with the Canadian Tourism Commission, best practices in tourism accessibility must:
- Foster accessibility with short-, medium- and long-term actions involving destinations and municipalities as well as tourism organizations.
- Be transferable, that is, reproducible as is or with adaptation.
- Inspire action by highlighting the importance of acting “outside the box,” for example, by bringing together new players and mobilizing them around common issues.
- Encourage involvement of public and private organizations.
- Address real needs.
In France, six criteria were used to help determine the selection of 14 exemplary accessibility projects, out of the 220 submitted to the Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development, Transport and Housing:
- Quality of use
- Quality of urban planning, aesthetics and innovation
- Environmental quality
- Governance and cooperation
- Overall structure of the project
The 14 best examples were published in the Compendium of best practices for making cities more accessible (Recueil de belles pratiques et de bons usages en matière d’accessibilité de la cité) and we present some of them below.
Auberge de jeunesse l’Escale
The Escale project meets the needs of all types of impairments: mobility, visual, audio or intellectual. During the construction stage, this youth hostel opted for integrated accessibility, which means adaptations are only perceived by the users who need them. “Ordinary” clients will not notice the following: the pattern of lobby tiles, some of which are coarse-grained, indicates a path; toilets are installed on darker backgrounds so they can be seen by people with visual disabilities; the signage combining text and images was created largely for those with intellectual disabilities; the elevators talk and doors have low threshold heights. The Dunkerque urban community managed to involve all the partners in the project, particularly the development company and the future operator.
Vanoise National Park mountain hut
Plan du Lac, a mountain hut built in the Maurienne valley at an altitude of 2351 m, was designed to be accessible to people with mobility or visual impairments. It features adapted bathrooms, special signage (panels with raised letters, audio tactile tools), inclined surfaces, an exterior ramp and specially arranged furniture. Visitors can also borrow a device that transforms a city wheelchair into an “all-terrain” wheelchair (see picture), as well as audio guides and booklets for people with visual impairments. All the local players—elected officials, technicians and associations—worked very closely together to create Plan du Lac.
Gîtes Les Salicornes
This holiday rental offers two kinds of accommodation: one is adapted for the four types of disabilities, while the other is for mental and hearing disabilities. Access to the lodgings is facilitated by a parking lot with compacted ground, access ramps, an absence of door thresholds and paths with tactile elements in contrasting colours. The bathroom, kitchen and bedrooms are fully adapted, thanks to features like grab bars, contrasting colours, low furniture on wheels, and plugs and light switches positioned at the proper height.
The quality services and high degree of accessibility enable travellers with disabilities to enjoy a vacation home with as much autonomy as possible.
Saint-Cloud/Val d’Or train station
In February 2006, the SNCF (French rail company) created an advisory council of people with disabilities or reduced mobility from eight national associations representing all types of disabilities. The Saint-Cloud/Val d’Or train station project was the result of this cooperation. It includes a new footbridge that overlooks all the tracks and connects the two platforms, which were completely renovated and outfitted, along the edges, with tactile warning strips. Passengers can access the footbridge via elevator or escalator. The train station features the following facilities and accommodations:
- An arrow with an audible alert to help people with visual impairments navigate within the train station
- Double indicator strips that are recognized and reassuring for people with visual, mental or intellectual impairments
- Ramps to facilitate the movements of people with reduced mobility and those encumbered with luggage or strollers
- A virtual character named Jade, who translates any audio announcements into French Sign Language
Office de tourism/Vitrine des métiers d’arts in Villedieu-les-Poêles
When the tourism office/showroom for handicrafts was built in Villedieu-les-Poêles, it was designed to be accessible in every way. It features physical accommodations aimed at all disabilities, as well as adapted pedagogical tools for visitors (tactile tours, Braille guides, portable induction loop systems in all the rooms to enable hearing aid users to hear more clearly, etc.) and special staff training. Initially designed for members of the public with disabilities, some of the features are now offered to everyone: guided tours, interactive games for people with intellectual impairments and improvements to the visual comfort of exhibition spaces.
The grounds of the building were renovated to facilitate access and connect it to downtown and other nearby facilities via a safe, accessible route.
In France, there were 5,000 certified sites in 2011 (30% of rental homes and furnished apartments, 12% of hotels, 17% of holiday accommodations and 10% of heritage sites). In Québec, the Accessible Road includes 170 cultural and tourism establishments such as hotels, theme parks, heritage sites, cultural attractions, tourist information sites, gardens and nature parks. In the United States, tourism accessibility should increase with the March 2012 implementation of new guidelines for places like hotels, airlines and attractions, the goal of which is to increase accessibility for people with disabilities and make it easier for them to travel. There are surely other examples of best practices. Do you know of any? Let us know by leaving us a comment at the bottom of this article.
– Kéroul and Canadian Tourism Commission. “Best Practices in Tourism Accessibility for Travellers with Restricted Physical Ability,” APEC Tourism Working Group, October 2003.
– Masson, Annette. “Tourisme et handicaps : déjà 10 ans et 5,000 sites labélisés“, handicap.fr, December 1, 2011.
– Michaud, Annick. “Accessibilité aux divers handicaps : des lauriers pour L’Escale“, La Voix du Nord, March 14, 2012.
– Ministère de l’Écologie, du Développement durable, des Transports et du Logement. “Recueil des belles pratiques and des bons usages“, developpement-durable.gouv.fr, consulted March 23, 2012.
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