Frictionless Visitor Experience Sought for People with Disabilities
Tuesday, May 7, 2019
A working group of diverse Bermudians brought together by the National Tourism Plan is developing a strategy to make Bermuda more accessible to people with disabilities. The goal is to release the strategy to the public this fall and motivate the country to execute it in time for the World Triathlon Grand Final in October 2021.
The two-year deadline is significant because Bermuda will welcome a number of triathletes in 2020 and 2021 who have visual impairments or use a mobility device like a wheelchair. Two teams from the 2019 MS Amlin World Triathlon Bermuda have already been interviewed by the working group as part of its fact-finding research.
“Our approach is to leverage the triathlon events to focus the country’s attention on solving a longstanding deficiency in our infrastructure. And once the triathlon is over, Bermuda should have the legacy benefit of a more accessible society—for residents and travellers,” said MP Tinee Furbert, the chairperson of the Accessibility Working Group and a long-time advocate for persons with disabilities.
With the help of the Bermuda Tourism Authority, the Accessibility Working Group will survey the island’s hotels and restaurants this month to better understand the current state of affairs as it relates to accessibility. The surveys will reveal how many local establishments are appropriately outfitted to welcome differently abled customers today and allow the working group to set a target for how many accessible visitor establishments the island should strive for by 2021.
In addition to hotels and restaurants, there’s a plan to conduct an inventory review of transport and vacation rentals, attractions and excursions.
The infrastructure pillar of the National Tourism Plan highlighted high numbers of mobility challenged visitors arriving each year by cruise ship who look to spend money on-island but have limited options for transport and attractions. Research also suggested potential air visitors are likely avoiding Bermuda for fear of difficulty getting around. The National Tourism Plan aims to make the island more attractive to this audience by making it more frictionless and thus easier to experience.
“As we focus the industry’s attention on accessibility, we really want our stakeholders to understand that a more accessible visitor infrastructure equals more visitors,” said Glenn Jones, chief experience development officer at the Bermuda Tourism Authority. “If local businesses lay out the welcome mat for this audience they will come, they will spend money and they will bring their families. But if there are barriers to a good experience for one member of the family in a wheelchair, the whole family chooses to go elsewhere.”
The Bermuda Tourism Authority plans to use the survey results of the working group to highlight accessible establishments more clearly on the GoToBermuda.com website and in other marketing materials. Additionally, BTA officials revised plans at the Hamilton Visitor Services Centre to ensure all three levels were fully accessible to visitors via a ramp and elevator.
Accessibility Working Group Vice Chairperson Keith Simmons said: “While part of our mission is to define where the issues are, we will spend an equal amount of time on solutions. Oftentimes a solution is less costly than business owners think and can generate more revenue for them once the improvements are in place. We will work hard to find those kinds of solutions to make it easier for business owners to say yes to accessibility.”
Removing barriers for the mobility challenged also improves the experience for families with strollers, whether they travelled here on vacation or are residents. Since the National Tourism Plan projects significant growth in the number of “active family” visitors by 2025, improving the accessibility of the island’s infrastructure is an investment in the future for more than one audience.