Destination in focus Accessible Australia

Australia is putting accessibility first with a dedicated Disability Strategy. Julie Baxter takes a closer look

Two years ago the Australian government launched a 10-year Disability Strategy to drive accessibility across Australian society. Bringing together state, territory and local governments, the strategy drew on the views of over 3,000 people with disability and their representatives, and it has already spawned a raft of initiatives to support travel opportunities Down Under.

States of play…

Among destinations leading the way is Queensland, which designated 2023 as The Year of Accessible Travel and backed it with a $12m investment to ‘ignite change and create opportunities’ for tourism operators.

The state had already gained experience of the issues in 2018 when The City of Gold Coast was the first Commonwealth Games host city to integrate the para-athletes programme into the main programme. It also hosted the 2023 Accessible & Inclusive Tourism Conference for the Asia-Pacific region. Much of the progress achieved is now featured in the recently-launched Accessible Visitor Guide presenting information on accessible accommodation and experiences across the state.

Victoria has focused its efforts on a Universal Design Policy pushing accessible infrastructure in all areas of state development; while Melbourne has launched a practical accessibility map which shows street gradients, toilets, parking and public transport options as well as accessible attractions from sensory forests to audio-described galleries and museums.

In New South Wales, a Companion Card programme allows carer’s free entry into participating venues and events. Sydney has prioritised making bucket-list attractions accessible so there are beach wheelchairs at Bondi Beach and accessible lifts up to the Sydney Harbour Bridge walkway; there are wheelchair accessible performances and tours at the Opera House, full accessibility to the Sydney Tower Eye viewing point, accessible pathways through the Botanical Gardens, and the new waterside precinct, Barangaroo, has been designed with accessibility in mind. Taronga Zoo includes a stimulating Backyard to Bush area for children with special needs and opens early for free autism-friendly entry on set dates.

Change for good..

Among those supporting the accessibility drive is Push Adventures, founded by wheelchair user Scott Crowley and his wife Clair. They support the tourism industry to understand what it means to be accessible and inclusive, and then help staff upskill and identify improvement opportunities.

Often changes are simple. James ‘Buck’ McFarlane, Founder of Cocky Guides, creates tactile and sensory small group tours for blind and low-vision travellers.
He says: “To read a menu many have to put on glasses. The experience would be better if the menu had a simple font, larger text, and a high contrast colour scheme.”
Those seeking travel-related support Down Under should contact Travellers Aid Australia at travellersaid.org.au

Acces logo new

Accessibility in action

Access Guide: TUI has launched a series of Detailed Access Guides for an initial 200 hotels in collaboration with accessibility specialist AccessAble, which worked with over 1000 disability groups to make the guides as helpful as possible. Full details can be found at TUI.co.uk

Signing in: British Airways has partnered with Signcode UK for signed video content to support booking and travelling for the deaf and hard of hearing. The content is available at ba.com.

Upgrade: easyJet has relaunched its Assisted Travel Advisory Board to better support its mission to make travel easy for all. Board members include former MP David Blunkett, aspiring paralympian and wheel chair designer Josh Wintersgill and disabled broadcaster Emily Yates.