Disabled facilities at UK tourism venues 'must improve'

Man in a wheelchair by water

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British tourist venues are being urged to provide better access for disabled visitors by the minister for disabled people.

A survey of 52 of Britain's 100 most visited attractions by charity Vitalise found 63% were not fully wheelchair-accessible.

It also found that many did not train staff in disability awareness.

Mark Harper MP said businesses were "missing a trick" by not actively attracting this group of visitors.

Vitalise surveyed the venues that were recorded as the 100 most popular tourist attractions in the UK during 2013 by the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions and 52 responded.

The survey said:

  • 63% of attractions said they were not fully wheelchair accessible
  • Of the 27 venues that charged for entry, 44% offered no discount at all for disabled people
  • Hoists were available in 19% of places, a facility which Vitalise describe as "an indispensable item for some disabled guests"
  • 25% did not have fully accessible approaches to their doors, including from parking areas
  • 13% of Britain's most popular tourist attractions said all their staff had disability awareness training
  • 26% of attractions did not have accessibility information available on their websites

The Disability Holiday Directory, Britain's biggest disabled holiday company, says it is unable to accommodate 20% of clients looking to have a holiday in the UK because of a shortage of accessible accommodation.

Mr Harper said: "Everyone needs and deserves to enjoy a summer holiday - and people with disabilities are no exception.

"I'm calling on everyone in the British tourist industry to look at what more they can do to better cater for disabled travellers.

Nicki Shepherd Nicki Shepherd says he was prevented from going on a ride at Blackpool Pleasure Beach

"Businesses are missing a trick by not doing more to tap into this market. There are 11 million people with a disability in Britain.

"Britain is also visited by 32 million people from abroad every year. So, as part of our long-term economic plan, improving the accessibility of hotels and self-catering apartments and tourist attractions for disabled travellers is a no-brainer."

Vitalise's chief executive, Chris Simmonds, said its survey showed that many of Britain's tourist attractions are not taking accessibility seriously.

"That has got to improve," he added. "But, just as importantly, these venues need to work just as hard on how they communicate essential accessibility information to people with disabilities.

"Our own research shows two-thirds of disabled people decide against visiting attractions because of a lack of clear information about how accessible it is."

Blackpool complaint

Paul Nadine, managing director of the Disabled Holiday Directory, said: "The situation is quite bad at the moment.

"It's often easier to arrange a holiday for someone abroad than it is here in Britain. Many will want to go abroad, but for those with more serious disabilities or who prefer to enjoy what Britain has to offer, it's become more and more difficult."

Nicki Shepherd, 14, from Burnley has cerebral palsy and says he was turned away from Blackpool Pleasure Beach because of his disability.

"A staff member said if you can't walk unaided then you can't go on a ride.

"Putting a ramp up to a ride and saying it's accessible is not right. It's only accessible if you let people in wheelchairs actually go on the ride.

"Everybody in society should be able to access everything that is there."

A spokesman for Blackpool Pleasure Beach said: "We are extremely sorry to hear about Nicki Shepherd's experience during his visit and we are communication with Nicki and his family regarding his comments received.

"We are taking Nicki's comments very seriously and have launched a comprehensive review with external assistance.

"Blackpool Pleasure Beach has a duty of care to its guests and takes the health and safety of its guests and staff to be of paramount importance, and working within such will try and ensure inclusivity."

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