BootsnAll Travel Network

Flight Centre Launches Accessible Travel Division with Canadian Paralympic Committee Partnership

March 25th, 2009

Press Release:

Travel retailer Flight Centre is pleased to announce it has entered into an exclusive partnership with the Canadian Paralympic Committee, demonstrating its commitment to making travel accessible to everyone. The announcement was made March 24th at the Sport BC Athlete of the Year Awards where Flight Centre sponsored the ‘Athlete with a Disability’ category.

As Official Travel Partner to the Canadian Paralympic Committee, Flight Centre will make all travel arrangements for the Canadian Paralympic Team through to the 2012 Paralympic games in London. This will include all travel for Paralympic Team Canada and mission staff, as well as athletes, friends and family to the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games.

As part of the agreement, Flight Centre will donate a portion of every consumer travel dollar spent with the Flight Centre Accessible Travel division to the Canadian Paralympic Committee.

“The Canadian Paralympic Committee is working to develop the strongest and best-prepared Canadian team for the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games,” said Carla Qualtrough, President, Canadian Paralympic Committee. “Smooth travel will be critical to athlete preparation, and we are very pleased to have Flight Centre, a recognized world leader in travel planning, to support us.”

“We are extremely proud to be leading the travel industry in an area which has largely been overlooked and we are truly honoured to have the Canadian Paralympic Committee as our first client.” said Flight Centre President Greg Dixon.

“Visiting different countries and experiencing new cultures is one of the added benefits of being a Canadian athlete,” said Michelle Stilwell, Paralympian and winner of 2009 Sport BC Athlete with a Disability award. “When possible people should take the opportunity to travel and explore the world.”

Flight Centre has retained an industry-recognized accessible travel specialist as consultant to assist it to develop and refine the company’s offering in terms of specialized product, storefront accessibility, training as to client needs and recruitment. The travel retailer has compiled three Accessible Travel teams in Vancouver, Victoria and Toronto.

“Flight Centre is working with partners to establish expert travel advice to travelers with a physical disability, including seniors, wheelchair users and persons who are visually impaired. We will be relying on the advice of a number of organizations to ensure that we are continually improving the company’s offering.” said Dixon.


About Flight Centre

Flight Centre (Canada) is a leading retailer of travel products and services for the leisure and corporate markets. Flight Centre’s presence in Canada includes more than 150 shops & businesses and over 1,000 staff across the country.

About the Canadian Paralympic Committee

The Canadian Paralympic Committee is a non-profit, charitable, private organization that delivers programs that strengthen the Paralympic Movement in Canada, including sending Canadian teams to the Paralympic Games. The CPC changes the perception of disability by empowering persons with physical disabilities, through sport, at all levels.


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On Safari in a Wheelchair: Inclusive Tourism in KwaZulu Natal

March 19th, 2009

On Safari in a Wheelchair: Inclusive Tourism in KwaZulu Natal

Scott Rains,  Rolling Rains Report


I travel a lot – more than most other quadriplegics that I know. Even so when I first look up at the sky on every trip to the southern hemisphere I am temporarily disoriented.

It’s not like I am a celestial navigator. I couldn’t find my way home from the corner pub by looking at the stars even if all I had to drink was Stones Ginger Beer. Set me sailing out on the ocean at night by the stars – well, I’ve never been sailing at night so I’m not certain – but I image you would never hear from me until I drifted up on a forsaken beach somewhere.

So I kept the shades closed on the 15 hour flight from the east coast of the US to Johannesburg and I didn’t see the night sky until I was safely tucked away in a wheelchair-accessible hut at Hilltop Camp inside Hluhluwe Game Reserve – but that’s jumping too far ahead in the story.

Jennae Bezuidenhout of Access 2 Africa Safaris is an enterprising woman. She is the reason I was able to make this trip.

She and her husband J. J. live in the area of Kwazulu Natal Province South Africa known as the Elephant Coast. Surrounded by about 400 game reserves, animal rehabilitation centers, sporting, leisure, and vacation destinations she lives and breathes travel industry in a corner of the country north of Durban. Since her husband’s paralysis she has taken what she has learned from her personal and business environments and woven them into something unique. She has become a provider of and an evangelist for safaris that include travelers with mobility impairments and other disabilities.

Jennae invited me to sample one of her safaris as a Visiting Journalist through the sponsorship of Tourism Kwazulu Natal. I later learned that I was the first journalist with a disability that they had agreed to sponsor.

Arriving on a connecting flight of one more hour in the air I met my smiling tall blonde South African hostess and the other specialist in Inclusive Tourism who would be part of this 11 day tour. Monica Guy is a sparklingly intelligent young British travel writer. She came with a pedigree including having written the first campus accessibility guide for Cambridge University, a prolific collection of online and print tour guide writing, and experience as part of the team that travels with Dr. Stephen Hawking. Introduced to our driver Aubrey who would accompany us throughout the tour we used the tailgate lift to enter the van provided by Budget rentals and began the journey.

Jennae’s wisdom was apparent from the start. Rather than rushing off to ‘relax’ in the bush we spent some time settling into a City Lodge in Durban. We ambled through the adjacent Gateway Mall purchasing the odds and ends that inevitably get forgotten when packing for a month-long trip.

Well-provisioned – and impressed by the indoor climbing rock and standing wave surf facility in the mall – we took a day trip to North Beach and uShaka Marine World. Ushaka is the largest marine theme park in Africa and includes the fifth largest aquarium in the world.

The park’s Zulu themes are immediately apparent. So is the good integration of accessible paths of travel. Unifying design themes were noticeable while passing through shops lining the first several blocks beyond the entrance. I was captivated by my first exposure to what I later came to know as “wiremen.” These are sculptures made of wire (sometimes beaded) and then illuminated.

The snorkeling pond was closed and the surf a little too vigorous so we watched the water world rather than entered it. The park’s aquarium is housed in what looks like a beached shipwreck. Charming – and easily wheelchair accessible via the same series of long ramps used by all visitors.

From Durban our trip took us to nearby Kloos and a stay at the remarkable Makaranga Lodge and Spa built on the 30 acre grounds of a botanical garden. The owners have augmented the beauty with a collection of Shona stone sculptures. From regal to playful these works of art set throughout the grounds are only part of the personal touch. Each room has original artwork collected by the owners. One half of the rooms are wheelchair friendly. Even the pool can be rolled into in a wheelchair. Makaranga is a rare find among high-end lodgings.

The overland portion of our adventure began with the journey the drive to Hlulue Game Reserve. The van ride, uncomfortable ride while sitting in the wheelchair, improved somewhat after I transferred to one of the narrow jump seats and gained a view out the side window. The hut at Hlulue was spacious and convenient. Situated at a distance from the restaurant and its imposing view the hut was a quiet retreat in an already relaxing environment.

A side trip to Ilala Weaver’s Co-op store was a feast for someone with a strong desire to support local craftspeople and indigenous arts. The business model is Fair Trade with works purchased from local artisans who are in turn compensated fairly. In turn they have the guaranteed income that allows them to mature in their art form. The results were obvious on every shelf. If there are any regrets about my trip it is that I did not have a few hundred more dollars on hand to purchase the beadwork, wood carvings, and Zulu baskets that so captivated me.

But the heart of the trip were the game drives!

It would be tedious to read in print the long list of all the types of animals we saw. Of course the “big guys” were there: Giraffe, Cape Buffalo, Rhino, Wildebeest. So were colorful birds, tiny Steenbok, humorous Wart Hogs, moody hyenas, and majestic leopards. Just driving from one place to another was never such an adventure immediately apparent immediately apparent immediately apparent in “firsts!” Tour Guide Dave Davies of the nearby Hluhluwe Backpacker’s Lodge was superb.

Later our nights in the accessible hut at Bonamanzi Game Reserve were very enjoyable. We had more food than we could eat and a permanent show of Inyala and Wart Hogs grazing on the lawn. A whole new set of skills and senses are awakened in the bush. The ranger amazed us by spotting a chameleon no larger than my index finger clinging to a bush during a night drive – pitch black with only a lamp to see by.

Before returning to Durban and another delightful stay at Makaranga Lodge we had two other adventures.

We got a warm welcome at Dumazulu Cultural Village. We watched the athletic Zulu dancers. Then I sang a capella with them (in Zulu!) wearing an animal skin hat with a tail flopping in back. It reminded me of the raccoon-skin caps we used to call “Daniel Boone hats.”

We also headed to St. Lucia and its World Heritage estuary network. Literally risking life and limb to get from the inaccessible dock to an Advantage Tours cruise I was immediately rewarded when we came up on a Fish Eagle, a colony of brilliant yellow Weaver birds, and a family of Hippos. I was later impressed to see Advantage Tours’ new wheelchair-friendly boat waiting on land for permission to launch.

South Africa’s Elephant Coast is an underexplored tourist gem. With the slower pace, professionals like Jennae and her Access 2 Africa Safaris can offer close personalized service. The area’s “hidden secret” identity is about to change however. The new Durban airport with direct inbound international flights will go online in time for the 2010 World Cup. You can be sure that people will go home talking about this itinerary. Don’t wait until it is mainstream. Go now.

There is a story that circulates around the Rains’ family. It surfaced as we did some digging into our genealogy recently.

It generally starts with the lines, “The Rains came over the mountain (the Cumberland Gap during the westward expansion in the US) with Daniel Boone.”

 Maybe it’s just a rationalization for my wanderlust. Still, I sense a kinship of spirit with Daniel Boone who is reported to have said, in answer to the question, “Have you ever been lost?” – “No, but I was once a might confused for a few days.”

I recommend taking a chance on a few confused nights under South African skies. Get lost if you are so inclined.

If you run into one of those cool Zulu “Daniel Boone hats” send me one, ok?


Contact details

Jennae Bezuidenhout

0027 842642194

PO Box 159

Hluhluwe, Kwazulu Natal


Dave Davies

Hluhluwe Backpackers

next to Hluhluwe Game Reserve Memorial Gate

cell 0027 3753831


New Book: Accessible Tourism: Challenges and Opportunities

December 2nd, 2008

Accessible Tourism Darcy.jpg

The Sustainable Tourism Cooperative Research Centre (STCRC) has recently produced a new publication Accessible Tourism: Challenges and Opportunities. This is a FREE resource available here:

From the book:

“American adults with disabilities or reduced mobility currently spend an average of $13.6 billion a year on travel.
Creating accessible cruise ships, accessible ship terminals, accessible ground transportation, and accessible tourism destinations is not charity. It is just good business.”

Dr Scott Rains, a US expert on disability issues
This publication provides an easy-to-read summary of four key research pieces into accessible tourism, including:

* Setting a Research Agenda for Accessible Tourism
* Developing Business Case Studies for Accessible Tourism
* Tourist Experiences of Individuals with Vision Impairment
* Visitor Accessibility in Urban Centres

The research can be used to assist in better planning for and addressing the needs of visitors with disability and other access issues.



Sustainable Tourism Cooperative Research Centre (STCRC) was established under the Australian Government’s Cooperative Research Centres program in 1997, and has grown to be the largest dedicated tourism research organisation in the world. STCRC has more than 300 tourism research reports available for free download at


Amber Brown
General Manager, Communications and Industry Extension
Sustainable Tourism CRC
Gold Coast Campus
Griffith University QLD 4222

Ph: (07) 5552 8116

Mob: (0434) 622 466
Fax: (07) 5552 8171


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The “Incredible India” Campaign and Universal Design

July 22nd, 2008

At ETurboNews:

The Incredible India campaign has taken off for the country making the tourism sector witness huge buoyancy in recent times. The marketing strategy has helped India achieve unprecedented growth in terms of both volume and value.

Foreign tourists arrivals to the country have grown at a cumulative annual growth rate of 15.86 percent touching almost 4.2 million in 2007, an increase of 12.4 percent compared to 2006. Foreign exchange earnings from tourism registered a cumulative annual growth rate of 30.97 percent in the same period with figures for 2007 closing at $ 11.956 billion – an impressive spike of 33.8 percent over 2006. Domestic tourism continues to surge, showing more than encouraging trends with tourist visits over 461 million in 2006. By 2010, with the Commonwealth Games to be held in New Delhi, India expects to hosts 10 M tourists.

Everything seems perfect. The problem: lack of rooms.

But all rooms are not created equal. Some discriminate by design.

Will these rooms be accessible by national standards? Not if they are 1 and 2 star venues. And maybe not even if they are 3, 4, or 5 star class unless enforcement drastically improves.

At the same time the Minimum Hotel Accessibility Recommendations prepared by Rollon Travel can offer simple solutions for all hotel rooms if followed. Download file

For the full story:

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Travel Safety: The SPOT Satellite Messenger

July 2nd, 2008


Ever find yourself asking, “Who designed this thing anyway?” I do. I also found

someone who figured out what to do next. Her story might someday impact us all.

Julie Jones is founder and CEO of Engineered Travel. Engineered Travel, LLC ( ) works with manufacturers of existing products and shows them how to apply Universal Design thinking. The result can be anything from product improvements involving simple engineering changes to the development of entirely new products to meet the needs of the disability market. The company is busy at both.

Julie has teamed up with Bob Davis of the GEOS Travel Safety Group GEOS provides integrated security, safety and resilient communications services for corporations as well as domestic and international travelers. With former police, military, and government security professionals in-house and having extensive knowledge of search and rescue (SAR) practice GEOS partnered with the manufacturers of the SPOT Satellite Messenger to provide a new type of personal safety device.

I have been field testing it.

I like it!

Let me reiterate that the purpose of Engineered Travel LLC is to take products that were not designed with our community in mind and make them accessible. That said, even with opportunities for design improvements I have had fun playing with SPOT as I traveled from Brazil to Alaska. It evoked a satisfying round of “tech envy” as I took it out of my briefcase during a meeting of technology innovators in San Francisco recently. I am getting quite a few requests to be added to the list that receives a SPOT “Check In” email pinpointing me on a Google map as I globe trot with SPOT.

There is always inconvenience, even risk involved in travel. For someone with a disability what may be inconvenience for some can be a risk – a vehicle that goes dead somewhere out of cell phone range for example. This is where a personal location device like SPOT literally becomes a life saver.

SPOT 911.jpg

The orange and black ruggedized waterproof unit has several functions. These include 9-1-1 mode, a less urgent Help mode, and a simple Check-in mode.

From the SPOT website here is how 9-1-1 mode works:

Once activated, SPOT will acquire its exact coordinates from the GPS network, and send that location along with a distress message to a GEOS International Emergency Response Center every five minutes until canceled. The Emergency Response Center notifies the appropriate emergency responders based on your location and personal information – which may include local police, highway patrol, the Coast Guard, our country’s embassy or consulate, or other emergency response or search and rescue teams – as well as notifying your emergency contact person(s) about the receipt of a distress signal.

In Help or Check-in mode SPOT contacts those who you have designated to receive an SMS message or an email. The email also includes a link to a Google map showing your location within 15 feet. At your SPOT account online you compose the email and select who you want to receive the message before you travel.

SPOT Alert Map.jpg

Something that seems ingenious is the SPOT Tracking feature. It is the second function to the OK button used for Check-in mode. This “Optional feature” ($49.99/yr) is very useful so in the event you need to be located but also need to move. Tracking leaves a breadcrumb trail of where you have been. Once activated this feature plots your location every 10 minutes for 24 hours, without having to re-push a button.

SPOT distinguishes itself from existing products in a number of ways. It uses satellite technology and the GEOS Emergency Response Center that is not dependent on cell phone reception, Electronic Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) or the PSAP (Public Service Access Points) network. This adds a layer of human contact which, in one case described to me by Bob Davis of GEOS, led to additional lives being saved.

I was told one story about a rescue using SPOT. In an avalanche situation a SPOT owner’s distress call was verified by GEOS. (Note: SPOT is not designed to function under snow.) GEOS’ call to the owner’s emergency contact revealed that the owner’s party included eight people. That information allowed the Search and Rescue team to be prepared and make a successful rescue.

SPOT is waterproof although it is not designed to signal effectively when submerged in water.

This feature, that SPOT is waterproof for up to 30 minutes even when submerged at 1 meter, was quite a reassurance as I kayaked through an ice floe in Alaska last month with the unit in my pocket. Doubly reassuring as one iceberg chose to imitate a rotary saw blade by flipping top for bottom just after we passed it.
More often I suspect that the waterproofing feature will come in handy when I am juggling coffee cups or at the pool.

In my analysis of the product, and the team behind it, my opinion is that the three part team involving SPOT, GEOS, and Engineered Travel LLC is what makes this product/service bundle such a potential benefit to the disability community. Team members express genuine interest in achieving usability for, to quote the classic definition of Universal Design, “the widest range of people operating in the widest range of situations without special or separate design.”

For some of us the current SPOT form factor will work just fine. If it works for you as is you can pick one up online here: (Although I do recommend that you read to the end of this review to find the discount code.* )

For others of us Engineered Travel LLC needs to work its magic. In its present form SPOT controls lack sensory redundancy for those of varying abilities.

I found the buttons took effort to push under warm conditions and required me to use a pen or other implement to activate when my fingers became weaker in the cold. The size and non-slip material along the edges were a benefit in gripping the unit but the protruding belt clip on the back makes the unit unstable when laid on a flat surface in order to work the buttons. The easy release fasteners made opening the case for battery insertion possible. The color makes it easy to locate.

Whether you need a safety device for when you are in a cell phone dead zone, a monsoon downpour, or just want to accurately geo-tag your photos on Google maps this is a handy unit to have. Thinking ahead to travel, emergency, or disaster situations where normal communication channels are unavailable I am reminded of yesterday’s post and the Bonn Declaration that “Disasters are Always Inclusive.” This unit could also be a lifesaver.

SPOT is useful in its current version for those with good to fair visual acuity and fine motor skills. Given my conversations with representatives of the GEOS Travel Safety Group and Engineered Travel LLC I suspect that we will see modifications. These in turn will show concretely how the consumer power of the disability community is coming of age and once again demonstrate the “Curb Cut Effect” of Universal Design to the benefit of us all.

* Engineered Travel LLC provides a promotional/discount code for purchasing SPOT but only here ( ) through their direct relationship with the GEOS Travel Safety Group: etllc4d (a seven character alpha/numeric code)

(Full Disclosure Statement: As a result of meeting Julie Jones I have joined Engineered Travel’s Disabled Advisors Board. In that role I field test products on loan to me such as SPOT but receive no financial compensation or free product and provide design, usability, and market analysis to Engineered Travel LLC- as well as early product reviews for readers of the Rolling Rains Report.)

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TripWolf Jumps onto the Travel 2.0 Path

July 1st, 2008

OK, this site could be a big development for sharing travel information in the disability community. Now is the time to determine that for yourself. It went publictoday.

If you like it share it with your friends. Where you see it needs improvement you can share that directly with TripWolf.

Either way, as soon as you register, add me as a Friend. I’m on the site as Rolling Rains.

From their press release:

New York City, July 1, 2008. Today ( is released publicly to the US market. tripwolf is a new social travel guide that
covers the whole world, focusing mainly on Europe. tripwolf combines
professional editorial content with user-generated content from globetrotters

tripwolf is backed by MairDumont, Europe’s largest publisher of travel guides
including Baedeker, Dumont and Marco Polo
. Through collaboration with
tripwolf, MairDumont has taken the unprecedented step of putting all of its
content – covering more than 200,000 destinations and points of interest – online for free.

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Sydney for All Portal: A Model to Replicate Around the World

June 29th, 2008

Sydney for All Travel 2.0 Portal

Sydney for all logo

The inclusive tourism market incorporates people with disabilities and those who are ageing and who have access needs (mobility, vision, hearing and communication). Significant numbers of Australians and people from overseas have disabilities – 600 million worldwide. The Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates that 4 million Australians have a disability [1]. Based on the National Visitor Survey 88 per cent of these people travelled within Australia in the previous year, 7 per cent travelled overseas and most travelled in independent groups with an average size of 4.1 people. The accessible tourism market has recently been valued at $4.8 billion to the Australian economy [2] with significant latent demand.

Yet, finding tourism experiences and day trips that are accessible has been a major issue for people with disabilities and those with access requirements. Many disability organizations provide member created word of mouth lists, tips and stories to help others plan their day trips and holidays more easily. However, these information systems are incomplete and problematic.

A prototype Web “portal”,, aims to make it easier to find accessible destination experiences around Sydney for those with access needs.

The portal reflects the findings of a research project and seeks to provide accessibility information about key tourism experiences that people can enjoy when they are in Sydney. The area covered by the portal includes The Rocks, Circular Quay, The Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain. It also includes the Sydney Fish Markets, a ferry trip to Manly and a visit to North Head. The research project was sponsored by the Sustainable Tourism Co-operative Research Centre, Tourism NSW, the Tourism and Transport Forum and the NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change. The project was led by Associate Professor Simon Darcy of the University of Technology, Sydney.

One key feature of the portal is its ability to provide information to people with vision impairment. The portal has been developed to meet international W3C Web Accessibility standards and was independently assessed by Vision Australia to verify compliance with those standards.

Sydney portal

The information provided on the portal was gathered by people with disabilities actually experiencing the attraction and documenting that experience. Information was also provided by the attraction, many of which have implemented strategies to improve their access for people with access needs. For example, the Sydney Opera House has not only started to improve mobility access but also access for people with vision and hearing impairment.

The web portal offers information by icon, text, photographs and links to additional information. It embraces ‘wayfinding’ maps, transport, parking, toilets and most importantly the experience itself. The portal will also help providers within the tourism industry plan to market collaboratively, improve their services and encourage more tourists with disabilities to visit them.

As this is a test site and will be reviewed at the end of three months, feedback on the portal and suggestions are welcome. People can complete the independent survey that is linked to the portal, or you can contact either the researchers directly on or

The long-term aim is to have a more expansive portal that will assist people to plan their holidays and will incorporate detailed transport, accommodation and disability support information.

[1] Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2004). Disability Ageing and Carers Summary of Findings, 2003 (Cat No. 4430.0). from

[2] Dwyer, L., & Darcy, S. (2008). Chapter 4 – Economic contribution of disability to tourism in Australia. In S. Darcy, B. Cameron, L. Dwyer, T. Taylor, E. Wong & A. Thomson (Eds.), Visitor accessibility in urban centres: Technical Report 90040 (pp. 15-21). Gold Coast: Sustainable Tourism Cooperative Research Centre (forthcoming).

Further Information, please contact:

Dr Simon Darcy, University of Technology, Sydney – 61 2 9514-5100

Bruce Cameron, Easy Access Australia –

Web Portal Front Page

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Peace through Tourism Course Launched

June 28th, 2008

Peace through Tourism Course Launched

World Leisure International Centre of Excellence logo

While I have not reviewed the final curriculum I did contribute in the research phase of this promising new course:

At the 4th IIPT African Conference, May 20th – 25th 2007, Kampala, Uganda, a course on Peace through Tourism was launched, discussed and enthusiastically received by the international community. WICE – World Leisure International Centre of Excellence at Wageningen University, The Netherlands – developed this course; course director is Dr Jan te Kloeze.The course is an initiative aiming to consolidate the concept of Peace through Tourism. It is open to external participants, members of institutions interested in the subject, and tourism and peace policy makers.

The course – duration 4 weeks – is divided in four thematic units:

1. Sustainable tourism and the world today;
2. Theory of peace making and peace keeping in a national and international context;
3. The role of tourism in promoting international understanding;
  4. Tourism and community development: tourism as an agent for poverty reduction.

Peace through Tourism Course Launched
A trans-interdisciplinary approach is used to outline the potential of tourism as a peace tool. Lecturers from WICE together with international academics, carefully selected from the WICE world wide network of renowned experts are giving the lectures.

The classes will take place at Wageningen University in the Netherlands. When certain conditions are met, the course can be given in other guest countries too.

Costs and fees: € 3,770.—[including living costs, travel costs, and fee; fee only: € 1,750.–].

About World Leisure International Centres of Excellence (WICE)
In 1988 the Association began exploring the concept of a truly international post-graduate programme in leisure studies. Ultimately this led to the creation of a framework for the World Leisure International Centres of Excellence (WICE). The purpose was to provide an unique opportunity whereby postgraduate students from countries around the world and international leisure specialists come together in one location for a two-year program leading to a graduate degree.

The first such program was established in The Netherlands in 1992, with substantial support from the Dutch government. Today, through a contract with Wageningen University, a leading international institution in Holland, the WICE program gives students access to the resources of the University and at the same time provides instruction and consultation through a visiting faculty of 40 professors in any given year. Up to 25 students are admitted each year. Students completing the program receive a M.Sc. degree in Leisure and Environments. Many of the graduates have gone on to occupy senior leadership positions in their home countries.

A WICE Advisory Panel, responsible to the World Leisure Board, reviews and advises on existing programmes and new initiatives. For more information, visit

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Accessibility Improves in New Zealand Tourism

June 11th, 2008

The Department of Conservation (DOC) on the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand is sitting up and taking notice of access tourism.

Knights Point 1.JPG

DOC manages more than 1.9 million hectares (about 4.7 million acres) of land on the West Coast, which is about a quarter of New Zealand’s protected public land. Within its 600 km (373 mile) long West Coast boundary are two kiwi sanctuaries, five national parks, two Wilderness Areas and a World Heritage Area. The West Coast has remarkable collection of natural features which includes rainforests, glaciers, wetlands and an ocean habitat that is home to the world’s stronghold population of Hector’s dolphin. DOC also looks after more than 150 actively managed historic places on the West Coast ranging from historic buildings to mining sites. This richness of natural and made-made heritage attracts about 1.2 million visitors per annum to the region, but to date, little attention has been paid to tourism for PWDs.

A report by Dr. Sandra Rhodda of Tai Poutini Polytechnic on access tourism on the West Coast ( and a talk given by her at the New Zealand Eco Tourism Conference in 2007 highlighted the issues for people visiting the coast with some level of disability. The report highlighted specific design elements required at sites that need to be taken into consideration where tourism operations are providing facilities for people with mobility difficulty. These include ensuring appropriate surfaces in car parks and on footpaths, providing access through kerbing and channelling, having suitable access to toilets, and removing barriers at the entrance to tracks.

The examples of issues faced by people with mobility difficulties outlined in the report highlighted the need for DOC to have a whole of site design approach when carrying out upgrades to facilities and attention to detail. As a result, DOC has carried out some projects to improve access for PWDs and is planning to undertake further work at front country sites in the coming years.

Work completed in the last twelve months includes:

knights Point car park.JPG

• Knights Point, South Westland: provision of parks for PWDs; sealing of the footpath to new viewpoint; provision of accessible toilets. The design brief included wheelchair access through kerbing and channelling (previously, footpath was gravel, there was no break in the kerbing, and no provision for PWDs parking).

• Pororai Walk, Punakaiki. New sealed car park at the eastern side of the State Highway now provides a safe access to the Pororari Walk and a picnic area which includes wheel chair access. A short walk up the Pororari River has been resurfaced providing people with limited disability the opportunity to enjoy this valley. Previously, people who use wheelchairs did not have access to this location.

Work planned for the future includes:

• Ship Creek, South Westland. Upgrade of short walks. Improve access for PWDs (mobility) to both the Dune Lake walk and Kahikatea Swamp Forest Walk. This will involve redesign of the car park, boardwalk to the beach, resurfacing of the swamp forest walk, and identifying any impediments to those who use wheelchairs e.g., lack of manoeuvrability on the track.

Lk Math.JPG

• Lake Matheson, South Westland. Development of a design for a new car park and toilets at Lake Matheson. Design elements in the brief are to cater for those with disability. The project also includes upgrading the walking track from the car park to the jetty viewpoint. Currently sections of the walk are to steep and the viewing area at the jetty needs to be improved.

• Cape Foulwind, Buller. Planned upgrade of the toilet facilities.

• Various short walks. Upgrade of two of the 6 kilometres (about 4 miles) of accessible walks to reduce grade, widen surface where required, compact surface, removal of loose material, and remove gated structures where present.

• Improving access to some of the DOC visitor centres, particularly doorways at the entrances to these buildings.

“Given that currently about 17% of Kiwis report a disability, and given that this number is probably going to rise steeply because of our ageing population, it is timely that DOC on the West Coast is improving access. Already about half of tourists in New Zealand are 45 years old or older. Because the worldwide population is ageing the same as here, these improvements can’t help but act as a draw card for both international and Kiwi tourists who need an accessible tourism product” said Rhodda.

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Alaska by Kayak – and Wheelchair

June 8th, 2008

Alaksa tests the language of comparatives and scrambles metaphors: “Land of the Midnight Sun,” “the No-See-Ums are so big you can see them.”

From May 25 to 30, 2008 I was invited to tour Glacier Bay Alaska on the Sea Wolf.

Waypoint Charter Services books the wheelchair-adapted wood-hulled yacht the Sea Wolf. Small enough to be intimate (six cabins/ three wheelchair usable) and retrofitted with wheelchair lifts to each of the three main decks cruises in Glacier Bay, Alaska on the Sea Wolf include sea kayaking because the owner has installed a unique lift system. I was out of my wheelchair and into my kayak with the splash skirt fitted down in 3 minutes thanks to a skilled and attentive crew.

Here are two videos to give a flavor of the excursion —

Getting into the tandem sea kayak using the McKinnon Hugger co-developed by the late husband of Kimber Owen (owner of the Sea Wolf, Gustavus, AK and main deck hand in this video.): 

Returning to the Sea Wolf after a day at Reed Glacier:

To take the trip yourself contact:

Sherri Backstrom
Waypoint Yacht Charter Services

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