How to Verify and Evaluate Accessibility2
The review of accessibility of a venue and its services involves a number of steps, following – more or less – the “Visitor Journey” (as described in Module 1).
The accessibility assessment may include all or any of the following procedures:
- A review of the information provided by the venue owner/manager. This will often be in the form of a Website or mobile app and/or paper-based information. The Website analysis may be carried out remotely. It should focus on the Web Accessibility (for persons with disabilities), which will include the use of automated checking tools and human checking, and the Web content with respect to descriptions of accessible services, which should also be present on the Website. The review may include an on-site or telephone interview with the Web Manager or other personnel responsible for online information and marketing.
- A review of management policies and procedures concerning accessibility for persons with disabilities and other guests with specific access requirements. These policies may be published on the venue’s Website or can be obtained though interviews with section managers. Management procedures (regarding accessibility) may be assessed through interviews with the relevant section managers.
- A review of the buildings, physical environment and facilities – also referred to as a “Building Access Audit”. This assessment must be carried out on-site by a trained auditor and should cover all areas and facilities where customers have access and are served. For this purpose a detailed checklist shall be used. Measurements, descriptions and photographs of facilities are normally included in the Audit.
- A review of the services/activities available to customers, including specific measures that are taken to ensure that these are accessible for all customers. This assessment must be carried out on-site, through observation and with interviews with the responsible manager/personnel. Visitor satisfaction surveys may form part of the input where an in-depth review of customers services is required. Customer feedback may also be collected continuously (using feedback forms or a suggestion box) and may be used internally by the venue management to assess its performance of the services.
Conducting an Access Audit of a tourism venue typically involves the following steps:
- Phone call: preliminary instrument for on-the-spot review, to find the most detailed information possible
- On-site visit: by the trained auditing team;
- Application of the access audit questionnaire designed to detect all the features and elements necessary to ensure comprehensive services in relation to the diverse range of visitors’ access requirements;
- Taking photographs and measurements to provide accurate descriptions of facilities may be supported by a photo and measurement guide 3
- Report: reports information on accessibility acquired during the review/audit and does not give subjective judgments.
The review of accessibility:
- may be characterised as a sort of “photograph” of the buildings or activities with respect to all the elements that characterize its accessibility and usability;
- must be carried out by trained personnel in the field of access audits and accessibility, who are very familiar with both the technical regulations for accessibility and the requirements of people with disabilities (e.g.: motor, sensory, intellectual, cognitive, etc.). and with other requirements related to groups such as small children, older people, people with dietary requirements, etc.);
- contributes to understanding the organisation of the buildings, services and spaces, so that each customer, is able to assess whether it meets their access requirements, according to their judgement of the suitability of the premises and services for them;
- provides all the necessary information to the technician / expert in order to perform the evaluation in an orderly, clear, complete and reliable manner;
- must always take into account the needs of those who may have multiple or complex access and support requirements.
The assessment of accessibility is the next step after review. The “photography” is not enough, we must also couple it with a process that “judges” how much the photography / review responds to the minimum usability principles.
The objective is to provide a technical and complete description of the level of usability of the structure itself. It is not appropriate to give a value judgment “accessible: yes or no”, since visitors’ requirements can vary across a wide range.
In general, facilities must be designed and managed in a way that ensures good access for people with disabilities and those with specific access requirements. The access audit and the resulting published information in the form of an Access Statement must give clear, complete, up-to-date and, above all, reliable information in order for the user to decide whether the venue or activity meets their own needs.
The basic principles for ensuring accessibility are listed below:
- Autonomy: possibility for customers with disabilities to move and use spaces and services in the most independent and autonomous way (i.e. without the need for help or with available assistance if the person with disability requires it);
- Safety: preparation of adequate safety and evacuation plans to guarantee the evacuation and safety of visitors with disabilities in case of emergency;
- Self-determination: possibility of assessing the access conditions objectively, in relation to one’s own access requirements, based on accurate descriptions delivered by an appropriate Accessibility Information Scheme.
- Aesthetic satisfaction / value: importance of the aesthetic value of the design solution or of the proposed service, which must not be of inferior quality compared to the other interventions;
- Universality of the intervention: based on solutions that are designed “for all”, wherever possible and not dedicated, separate or segregating, according to the principle of “Equitable Use”
- Flexibility of the solution: to favour different design and communication solutions with respect to human diversities and needs by seeking, as much as possible, multi-optional solutions.
An example of a widely used open-source assessment tool for performing an Access Audit of tourism facilities is the Pantou™ questionnaire . This questionnaire is: :
- modular, allowing customized questions according to the type of venue and services offered ;
- structured with predominantly closed answers to facilitate the process and avoid complexity;
- organized to detect the static and dynamic aspects of hospitality;
- organized with regard to facilities that are:
- specific to the venue, or
- not strictly related to the structure, nonetheless available
- available in any structure (stairs, elevators, corridors, etc.)
- structured to assess the conditions of accessibility with respect to different user requirements, including: motor impairments, sensory impairments, food and environmental intolerances and/or allergies, – services for children and families, attention to older people etc.;
- organized with regard to the main facilities and spaces that:
- are connected by access routes/paths;
- are equipped with technical aids and equipment of various types to support access and communications;
- are usable by customers with specific needs through some dedicated services or equipment;
- can be organized through a computerized check-list, with the possibility of: self-assessment, proposal of solutions to solve accessibility problems, changes, updates.
The accessibility and usability characteristics of a venue or facility are not static, as such, and should, ideally, be under continuous improvement. This applies especially in the case of tourism businesses or projects in which owners and managers, are supported by an Accessibility Advisor to develop their awareness and pursue progressive improvement of accessibility of their information, their premises and their services.
The accessibility assessment therefore takes a central position in developing the awareness for the manager, owner or staff member who aims to give a warm reception for all guests.
2 Contents developed by CPD – Consulta per le Persone in Difficoltà ONLUS
3 Photo and Measurement Guide (from Pantou.org) https://pantou.org/sites/default/files/public/Photo%20and%20Measurement_guide__v2.0-small_en.pdf
4 See: The Principles of Universal Design: https://projects.ncsu.edu/design/cud/about_ud/udprinciplestext.htm