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PART 1: Best Practices of Accessible Tourism Around the World

Accessible Transportation

Last October of 2003, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation published a report which provided an international overview of the best practices for tourism accessibility for travelers with restricted physical ability.

In this 5-part blog series, we will be showcasing the best accessible tourism programs that are offered around the world. With all these information readily available for both stakeholders and lawmakers alike, we at Chitown Cabbie believe that just like them, we can also provide for a better future and journey to all our handicapped friends.

Without further ado, here are the best international transportation practices for persons with disabilities!

Accessible Transportation — What Gives?

Transportation is a crucial issue, representing a major portion of a tourism-related trip. While air travel, in general, has become easier, some problems still arise from time to time. Often times, this can seriously inconvenience a traveler with a restricted physical ability (RPA). For example, an issue among some travelers with RPA is the damage to and loss of wheelchairs on airplanes. Other constraints facing wheelchair travelers include the difficulty of boarding and disembarking the aircraft, and the inaccessibility of airplane restrooms. For persons with visual impairments, identifying and retrieving luggage becomes another obstacle in the course of their already difficult journey.

For local or regional trips, persons with RPA use various modes of transportation trips. Private automobiles equipped with customized features have the advantage of providing schedule flexibility if used for pleasure travel. However, only a small group of affluent persons with RPA can afford such cars. Modern technology greatly facilitates bus travel, as those with RPA can now journey in buses equipped with hydraulic lifts. “Low-floor” buses are gradually becoming the standard for intraurban public transportation in a growing number of countries. These buses have the floor some 50 cm above the street level. They feature a hydraulic “kneeling” function, which reduces the step to some 25 cm.

However, in most countries, the availability of such specially designed buses remains limited. While trains could better accommodate the travel needs of persons with RPA, the gap between car door and platform is often too wide; access to toilets and compartments also remains a constraint, especially for persons with physical disabilities and wheelchair users.

Australia’s Initiative: The Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport 2002

The Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport provide practical measures for transport operators and providers to make public transport more accessible, both for persons with disabilities, as well as the elderly and those traveling with young children.

Furthermore, transport standards ensure that public transport is more accessible for persons with disabilities, the elderly and parents with infants in strollers. The standards take into account the range of disabilities covered by the Act and apply to a range of public transport conveyances, premises, and infrastructure, with some limited exceptions. They provide greater certainty about rights and obligations under the Disability Discrimination Act.

Moreover, the standards prescribe detailed requirements in relation to accessibility issues such as access paths, maneuvering areas, ramps, and boarding devices, etc.

As a result, public transport is becoming more accessible. It is mainly by the replacement or upgrading of conveyances, premises, and infrastructure at the end of their service lives.

Hongkong’s Initiative: Provision of convenient transportation services for persons with disabilities

During the last decade, the government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region promoted accessibility by improving the transport system and by encouraging transport operators to provide facilities for citizens with disabilities.

Moreover, the Transport Department promotes access to transportation through the provision of accessible public transport services and on-street facilities.

Public transport and railway operators are encouraged to make their vehicles and services accessible as far as is practicable.

As a consequence of the implemented measures, Hong Kong is better able to meet the transport needs of persons with disabilities. The government provides accessible traffic facilities, such as over 10,000 audible traffic signals, tactile warning strips and dropped kerbs at pedestrian crossings.

Furthermore, the bus operators in Hong Kong have introduced about 2,000 wheelchair-accessible buses in Hong Kong. These buses are equipped with a fixed ramp and wheelchair parking space inside the compartment. This number should increase to about 3,200 by 2006.

This spells good news to cabs as well. In fact, taxis have been adapted for persons with visual impairment. At present, 95 percent of all taxis have a Braille and tactile vehicle registration-number plate inside the vehicle compartment. By 2004, all 18,000 taxis in Hong Kong will be equipped with this plate.

Canada’s Initiative: Intercity Coach “To Accompany” Card and Access to Travel Website

Canada, by far, is doing the best job at ensuring PWDs have access to quality transportation. First, the Quebec Bus Owners Association introduced a free travel card for those who accompany persons with restricted physical ability. The “To Accompany” travel card further enhances the network’s accessibility by eliminating the fare for the person accompanying a person with restricted physical ability who is unable to travel alone. Furthermore, the ”To Accompany” card is meant for all persons with restricted physical ability over eight years of age who need to be accompanied on their intercity journeys.

The card is important because, although intercity coach transport is increasingly accessible to persons with restricted physical ability, there are still some limitations and some personal needs that carriers cannot meet. For these reasons, an accompanying person is essential for some travelers.

Eventually, the “To Accompany” card is now part of the service offering of intercity bus carriers. The card has become a standard service that travelers with RPA and their attendants have come to expect. In Quebec, 2,699 cards have been issued.

We hope you enjoyed and learned a few more things with us. Tune in for our next blog where we will be discussing the best accommodation practices for persons with disabilities!

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