The European Network for Accessible Tourism (ENAT) has been working on access issues for over two years; however this week they reached another milestone — they are now officially registered as a non-profit organization in Belgium. Three cheers for them.
The organization, which was originally founded by the European Commission, aims to help the hospitality industry meet the needs of disabled travelers; by showing them that there is a market for accessible services and teaching them how to better serve this former niche market. Interestingly enough they also address the access needs of families with small children, who basically need barrier-free pathways for their strollers. Personally I think it?s smart tying these two groups together, as they represent more tourism dollars.
One of ENAT?s goals is to introduce an “Accessible Tourism Compliance Label” as part of a quality assurance scheme for tourism providers. Although the idea is good, I think they need to work on the name a little — it?s just not sexy enough, and travel needs to be fun and sexy. In any case, the UK already has a scheme to identify the level of access (wheelchair-user or slow walker), but this would be something along the lines of meeting a minimum level of access.
It will be interesting to see if they can pull it off and in the end what they come up with for their access criteria. Years ago I sat on a board which tried to determine access criteria for a guidebook. It was a cross disability board, so while the seniors wanted high toilets, the wheelers wanted lower ones. I was utterly amazed at the amount of discourse a mere commode caused. In any case, the criteria ended up being way too cumbersome and in the end the project flopped.
So I wish ENAT much success. And I also have to say that I?m glad I?m just reporting about the issue and not involved in crafting the criteria. Like I said, it got real messy before and I don?t really have any desire to repeat that experience!