Making Tourism Accessible
Visiting castles around Aberdeen. The banks of Loch Lomond. Gleneagles. Downtown Glasgow. A long weekend in Edinburgh. As a disabled tourist these are all the places I have visited across Scotland in the last two years. To be more precise, the 18 months prior to Covid-19 in March. And all in the off-peak season. By the way Gleneagles was for a work conference and I stayed an extra night to explore the wonderful surroundings. Apart from Scotland being my favourite country to visit, it was the staff at the tourist destinations that made me feel so welcomed.
At the start of this year the tourist industry – along with wider UK business plc – was making such good progress with bringing to life disability inclusion. Businesses that understood ‘accessibility’ were starting to tap into the £274 billion Purple Pound, the consumer spending power of disabled people and their families. Organisations like VisitScotland proactively support the tourism sector with advice, guidance and resources. For tourism this is so important. If destinations are not accessible for me, then my family of six will not be coming. A commercial opportunity is missed alongside the social impact. We know tourism enriches lives, connects people to places and creates lasting memories.
Disabled people have lasting memories. I know how I am treated determines whether or not I will return to a place. Businesses have the ability to become more accessible and therefore more attractive to 22% of the population. It is an incredibly hard environment at the moment and probably will stay that way for the immediate future. However, there are simple things businesses can do now to support your recovery plan, and to make that recovery plan inclusive.
In summary they are:
- Making your built environment accessible in a socially distancing and Covid-19 restrictive world. It can be as simple as ensuring accessible parking spaces are not removed/reduced; ensuring accessible toilet facilities are available only to disabled people; ensuring any Plexiglass or Perspex used has clear markings to support those with visual impairments; and that a short accessibility guide is provided (online) which identifies the current restrictions and what disability access services are available. Disabled people do understand restrictions are in place but need to know these so informed decisions can be made.
- Making low cost changes to improve the accessibility of digital and online information, via all devices including smartphones. Websites have become the gateway to your organisation and if the gate is shut people will not come. There are very quick wins to be made.
- Ensuring disability awareness becomes an integral part of training your staff with new ways of working and not a bolt on addition – because it simply won’t happen. This can be as easy as case studies of customers with different disabilities (including hidden/invisible impairments) and the changes which make a real difference. It is back to the point about disabled people feeling welcomed and being a customer rather than a burden and risk hazard!
On 3 November it is Purple Tuesday (www.PurpleTuesday.org.uk), an initiative supporting businesses to improve the customer experience for disabled people through practical changes to their physical, online and staff approaches to accessibility. Every participating business is invited to make minimum of one commitment which could include practical adaptions to accommodation e.g. hand rails, better signage, improved accessibility of the website and other digital services, the introduction of the hidden disabilities sunflower lanyard scheme, plus many more. All these examples are low cost adjustments which can make a real difference to your customers and are becoming increasingly important to your staff – 50% of whom will have a disabled relative or someone in their close network.
Given the current situation, the Purple Tuesday message this year is to make do and mend. In the last two years over 5,000 changes to practice have been made. Adapt, adopt and borrow what others have done and apply this in your own environment. Purple Tuesday reached over 13 million people and trended at #3 worldwide on Twitter in 2019. This November the intent is to go one better.
As I have said disabled people have long memories. They will know which tourist destinations are accessible and/or are making the commitment to change. They will reward them with their Purple Pound.
If you are reading this post make a commitment today to improve your accessibility and become the destination of choice for disabled customers.
Mike Adams OBE
27 October 2020