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Venice gondola rides become accessible to wheelchairs

Whether you’ve been to Venice or are merely familiar with its canals and bridges from films and TV series, you’ll no doubt be aware that it was hardly created with the wheelchair user in mind. The steps, high kerbs and steep bridges make getting around difficult, and that’s without taking into account the huge crowds.

One of the most iconic experiences of Venice, the gondola ride, was out of bounds for travellers in wheelchairs, but this year that has changed thanks to an initiative called Gondolas4All. For the first time there’s an access point with a special jetty and an automatic chair lift, designed for wheelchair users to be able to board gondolas.

Find out more about Gondolas4All here (in Italian) and see the full article here.

Singapore looks to Sweden for accessibility lessons

The economic argument for hoteliers to provide fully accessible rooms is growing in acceptance around the world. In an article in Singapore’s The Strait Times, the author urges the country to improve its record of catering to guests with disabilities, citing the global rise of accessible tourism.

To illustrate what can and should be achieved the author describes the approach of Scanic Hotels. They have invested millions in providing a minimum of 10% accessible rooms in their properties around the world. Features include two peepholes in the doors, vibrating alarm clocks, reclinable beds, and wardrobe hangers that can be reached by shorter guests and those in wheelchairs.

See the full article here: Making life easier for the disabled: What Singapore can learn from Sweden

London’s newest attraction – for kids of all ages

Ever since it was erected for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the 114-metre high ArcerlorMittal Orbit sculpture has been crying out to be converted into a slide. Finally the slide has been completed and visitors to the Orbit can now choose to descend in the lift or, for an extra £5, by hurtling down what is the world’s longest tunnel slide. The trip only lasts 40 seconds, but during that time you’ll make 12 circuits of the sculpture and see many of London’s landmarks whizz by (if you manage to keep your eyes open).

The creators of The Slide say that accessibility has been a key design consideration and that they want to accommodate visitors with disabilities wherever possible. In their words, “The Slide is a new venture and a priority for us in the opening months will be to work with our visitors who have disabilities and/or additional needs to learn how best we can facilitate a great experience for as wide a range of our visitors as possible. This will be a collaborative process with our visitors.”

For more information visit the ArcelorMittal Orbit website.

Tips for places to visit in Ibiza

Ibiza has for many decades been a popular holiday destination for Brits – originally it was the refined alternative to Mallorca, and in more recent years it has itself become the party island of choice for the young clubbers and revellers. But step away from the manic bars of San Antonio and you’ll still find a largely unspoilt island which offers plenty of relaxation, culture and fabulous views.

In a recent Guardian article readers shared their favourite tips on what to see and do on Ibiza. From Latin music to lazy seafood lunches and sunset cocktails, there’s plenty to enjoy on Ibiza away from the noisy crowds. Here’s the Guardian article: Best places to visit in Ibiza: readers’ travel tips

Wheelchairs vs buggies – the bus battle goes to court

The average wheelchair user is understandably anxious as they wait at a bus stop. On a typical bus there’s only one space for a wheelchair, and until now that space might well be taken by a parent with their buggy. With bus companies adopting a ‘first come, first served’ philosophy, the wheelchair user is reliant on the parent to make way and fold up their buggy to allow them to board.

The issue is being brought in front of the Supreme Court by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, who make the argument that bus companies should have a duty to accommodate passengers in wheelchairs, and that drivers should have the authority to enforce the passengers’ right to travel.

Full details of the case are in this Guardian story: Bus companies must give wheelchair users priority, human rights group says

Paphos – a safe harbour in turbulent times

Recently published ABTA figures show an increase in British holidaymakers heading to Greece and Cyprus, at the expense of previous Mediterranean hotspots Egypt and Tunisia. With the fear of terrorism deterring many from heading to the North African coast Cyprus is reporting that many hotels are full for the summer months.

Paphos in particular is a favourite with British holidaymakers. The historic port city on the west coast of Cyprus offers a combination of Ancient Greek and Roman sites for those seeking a bit of culture, while the beaches in the region are top class. It’s also a good base from which to explore the wine routes in the Troodos Mountains, as well as the wild nature of the nearby Akamas Peninsula.

Our Accessible Holidays to Cyprus page features more information about the region, along with a list of carefully selected accommodation options.

Would Brexit affect disabled travellers?

It appears that no aspect of life is unaffected by the debate on the UK’s continued membership of the European Union. In a recent exchange of letters in the Guardian the subject of disabled travel across the EU was discussed. One reader claimed that Brexit would jeopardise the Europe-wide acceptance of the Blue Badge scheme, which affects both parking in other European countries and assistance at airports; the EHIC scheme too would come under question.

Brexit supporters have responded to say that reciprocal arrangements exist between the EU and other countries, so there’s no reason to think that the UK won’t set up similar arrangements. See the full discussion here: http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/may/30/brexit-problems-for-disabled-travellers

As with every other issue, the many great unknowns surrounding the remain/leave question offer those who love to argue their case with plenty of ammunition. Roll on June 24th…

A hi-tech 5-star accessible hotel suite is launched

A hotel in Spain has recently unveiled what they claim to be the world’s first 5-star suite designed specifically for people with disabilities. The suite includes multiple gadgetry such as lifting machines, and remote door and window opening; everything is controlled via a tablet device. Here’s a video showing off the suite’s features:

It doesn’t come cheap (€20,000), but we can only hope that some of the innovations it demonstrates will gradually be adopted by other hotels.

For more information here’s an article on the West website: World’s first five-star suite just for people with disabilities

Making Ancient Greece more accessible

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Ancient Greece was not built with wheelchair users in mind, and modern-day visitors wishing to explore the magic of the archaeological sites of Greece might expect a hard time if they suffer with mobility impairment. While it’s true that the Greek authorities can improve onhealthy accessibility at many major sites, it’s also encouraging to see how many have been adapted in recent years to improve onhealthy accessibility.

The Acropolis in Athens benefited from a stair lift which was installed in the run-up to the 2004 Olympics. Other sites (such as the ruins of Akrotiri on Santorini) now provide step-free access; many even offer free admission for a wheelchair user and a companion.

See our website for more advice about accessible travel in Greece, including hotels which we have hand-picked and recommended for travellers with disabilities.

Dissecting the meaning of the word ‘Disabled’

An interesting article on the Huffington Post website recently explores the question of whether the use of the word ‘disabled’ hides a conscious failure by the world as a whole to include people of all abilities. Tarita Karsanji Davenock, an accessible travel specialist, gives the example of a picnic bench which, through lack of consideration during its design, prevents a large chunk of the population from using it – is it the person who is disabled, or has the manufacturer ‘disabled’ the universal use of the bench? Tarita’s musings are abstract and take in half a million years of human history, but they’re well worth a read.

You can read the article here – Is The World Disabled?

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