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VisitEngland launches accessibility guide alongside Paralympics

VisitEngland launches accessibility guide alongside Paralympics James Berresford, VisitEngland’s chief executive

On the day of the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympic Games, VisitEngland has extended a warm welcome to all of its visitors, including those with accessibility needs.

James Berresford, VisitEngland’s chief executive highlighted some of the changes that have been taking place across the capital as he extended a ‘warm and friendly welcome to all visitors, whatever their circumstances.’

“I think great advancements are being made” revealed Berresford, referring to some of the key enhancements including the addition of over 250 wide-aisle gates on underground stations; interconnecting services in all tube stations and the fact that all 8,500 buses and 22,000 ‘black cabs’ are accessible for wheelchairs.

The launch of a new online guide is the latest part of VisitEngland’s three year action plan that is being rolled out to ensure that tourism partners throughout England improve accessibility for visitors.

“Winning More Visitors” was developed following a survey by the national tourist board, which revealed that 83 per cent of people looking for access information to plan a trip use destination websites - but only one in three (39 per cent) find it easy to locate the information they need.


VisitEngland unveiled its new online welcome guide to industry partners on the day of the opening ceremony for the Paralympic Games

Ross Calladine, VisitEngland’s Skills, Welcome & Accessibility Manager said: “Visitors who have a health condition or impairment - and their travelling companions - spend over £2bn each year in England, and our research shows that many of those visitors will choose where to spend that money based on the access information available on destination websites.

“We have produced Winning More Visitors to help destinations improve their welcome and attract even more of these loyal and valuable visitors,” Ross adds.

The research also showed that three-quarters (74 per cent) of people with access needs say they would be a lot more likely to choose a destination that offered the best guidance.

The online guide contains advice and examples of best practice to help destinations build an Access Information section for their site, and ensure it is as accurate and up-to date as possible.

The guidance also advises destinations on how to display the access information on their sites, such as creating a dedicated ‘Access for All’ section that is clearly signposted from the homepage as well as other pages throughout the site.

Other suggestions include making sure the whole website itself complies with international web accessibility guidelines.

The Paralympic torch has been making its way through London

Ross continued: “I think the Paralympics has given us a great opportunity to talk about how important accessibility is in England and for us and accessible tourism is a real priority.”

“For VisitEngland we have a three year action plan that we are mid-way through, working with tourism partners all through England to improve accessibility.”

He concluded: “It’s not just physical accessibility but it’s about the information and the customer service - the three pillars of accessible tourism.”

Paralympic Opening Ceremony details revealed

As the Paralympic Games draw closer, it has been revealed that physicist Professor Stephen Hawking will feature in Opening Ceremony this evening.

Hawking, who has motor neurone disease, is set to participate in the East London event, which will highlight empowerment and perceptions of human possibility.

The Queen will open the ceremony as 80,000 people are expected to attend.

This year the Games is expected to be attended by 2.5 million people with 4,000 athletes participating from 165 countries. Two billion people are expected to tune in to watch the Games on television.