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Athens Hosts International Accessible Tourism Seminar

Nikos Voulgaropoulos of Disability Now, Greece, with Ivor Ambrose, OSSATE's coordinator for EWORX Greece, during the former's speech on the development of One-stop-shop for Accessible Tourism in Europe.

Nikos Voulgaropoulos of Disability Now, Greece, with Ivor Ambrose, OSSATE’s coordinator for EWORX Greece, during the former’s speech on the development of One-stop-shop for Accessible Tourism in Europe.

Participants from across Europe joined with individuals and organizations in Greece last month to learn more about the current European Union project that centers on creating a One-stop-shop for Accessible Tourism in Europe. Athens hosted this second workshop of the OSSATE project team.

The overall aim of the project is to create a new trans-national e-service in Europe, which will allow disabled citizens and their families to find information about the accessibility of tourist destinations.

The service will be offered via the Web and by mobile phones, and will employ data gathered by national, regional and city-based tourism organizations.

The prototype service – its launch is expected in January – will be developed with the participation of Greek and UK national and regional tourism organizations, and will demonstrate a “live” e-service during the course of the project.

The launch will test the organizational, technical and financial viability of such a service, and will provide a concrete platform for the roll-out of a future pan-European Accessible Tourism service. At present there is no such existing or comparable Europe-wide service.

Meanwhile, the aim of the recent Athens workshop was to create an informed awareness of the project to and across Europe. Representatives from public sector bodies, the tourism industry and NGOs presented their experiences and plans for delivering Accessible Tourism Information, both in Greece and across the European Union, focusing especially on the role of information services and new media.

The OSSATE team presented its analysis of the “state-of-the-art” in Accessible Tourism Information Schemes. In break-out sessions, delegates identified and dis-cussed “best practices” for gathering and delivering access information, leading to recommendations for the planned OSSATE service network.

The first session was chaired by Ivor Ambrose, OSSATE’s coordinator for Eworx Greece, which is the lead partner for the entire project.

Part two of the event was devoted to workshop ses-sions which gave delegates the opportunity to contribute to discussions on the following key issues: Challenges to presenting accessibility information via new media channels; The all-round benefits of Web personalization/Customer Relationship Management; The 45 million Europeans needing special require-ments, which is a major commercial opportunity; And challenges and opportunities for destinations in presenting a holistic experience for visitors with access requirements.

During the two days, paricipants learned that in the 25 EU member states there are approximately 45 million citizens of all ages who have a disability of one kind or another and, due to a lack of accessible transport, accommodation and venues, the vast majority of them and their families are unable to travel as they wish. Many never go on holiday at all.

The difficulties, disappointments and disasters of disabled people’s travel exploits have been reported on a myriad of occasions by individuals and disability organisations. Most disabled travelers have experienced severe inconvenience, many have been denied access to places or services enjoyed by non-disabled visitors, and some have even suffered severe accidents as a result of incorrect advice or a lack of appropriate provisions.

Given the demographic ageing of populations in the world’s industrialised countries, it is inevitable that the current demand for accessible venues and hotels is going to increase markedly over the next 30 years.

Most disabilities are acquired during older life, as are chronic diseases. But such difficulties need not stop people from travelling and enjoying holidays in other countries and regions of Europe.

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