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ENAT Study Report No. 1. Rights of Tourists with Disabilities in the European Union Framework

05/05/2008 

Accessibility in tourism in a social right that concerns all citizens in Europe. Accessibility is not only necessary for people with disabilities but also for the elderly, for families with young children, for people with temporary or chronic diseases, among many others. Actually accessibility is a requirement from the environment that we all need, but we are only aware of it when we need it, when there are barriers that restrict it.

In Europe it is estimated that 10% of the population have some type of disability, this means around 50 million people. And this number will continue to grow due to the inevitable process of demographic change as half of them are over 65. It can be then stated and deduced that accessibility is essential for 10% of the population, necessary for 40% and convenient for 100% of the population.

To be able to speak of an Accessible Tourism for All, the tourist industry as a whole should be accessible to everyone. A trip is nothing more than a service chain that begins with the information on the offers, events, destinations and the ways to reach them. Therefore, the information needs to be accessible. This means, among other things, for example, that the web pages of destinations and companies that make up the service chain must also be accessible for people with visual impairments. Another example within the service chain would be the improvement of accessibility in public and private transportation and of the different tourist resources of each destination.

In recent years the rights of disabled people to travel and to participate in tourism, leisure, sport and other activities away from home have been strengthened in a number of areas by legislation and regulations at international, European and national levels.

This report presents an overview of the key legislation and the way in which the rights of people with disabilities are being extended and safeguarded. Although there is still far to go in the delivery of accessible tourism for all, the report shows many examples of how the front-runners in sections of the tourism industry and in particular countries are beginning to respond to the increasing demand for accessible tourism products and services. Examples of good practices related to accessible transport, information, environments and services are drawn from various countries and regions of Europe.

The report concludes that while the demand for accessible tourism is expected to increase in the coming years, due especially to the demographic ageing in Europe, there is a continuing need for human rights based legislation to support access to tourism for all citizens and visitors to Europe. Consequently, in the years ahead, greater efforts will also be required from the travel and tourism industries to deliver tourism products and services that are accessible for all.

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