When planning a conference or incentive, considering the inclusiveness and accessibility of a destination is now standard practice. Australia is a shining example of one country where inclusiveness and accessibility are being incorporated into all aspects of tourism and events. Collated here are resources to help plan your next inclusive experience in Australia.
WHAT IS INCLUSIVE TOURISM?
Inclusive tourism is the ongoing endeavour to ensure destinations, products and services are accessible to people of all physical abilities, disabilities, age and cultural beliefs.
Everyone has specific needs. These can be a dietary requirement, language or physical restrictions. Thus everyone require two things: to feel welcome to participate and to know how their needs will be met.
In Australia, around 18% of the population, or 4.4 million people, have a disability. According to the World Health Organisation, this figure sits at approximately 15% or one billion globally.
We explore how Australia is meeting the demand for inclusive and accessible business events and tourism experiences.
TRAVELLING IN AUSTRALIA
All major cities in Australia offer a version of a discounted or free public transport travel pass for those with disabilities such as vision, physical or cognitive impairments. Fully accessible public transport is government legislated under the Disability Discrimination Act and required by the end of 2022.
In Sydney, trains, buses and most public transport services are already accessible. Even the historic ferries are wheelchair accessible, allowing anyone to catch the ferry to nearby Manly and rent a beach wheelchair for the day. A list of access maps and further information for travellers can be found on the Sydney website here.
In Victoria, the City of Melbourne publishes mobility maps, transport info and accessible facilities. Travellers Aid Australia provides services like mobility equipment hire, volunteer assistance, recharge points and buggy services at Southern Cross and Flinders Street Stations. Also available in the city are computers with screen reading technology and dedicated public toilets and changing facilities for people with complex disabilities.
Transport Victoria has installed beacon wayfinding technology, called BlindSquare which is in six train stations to help vision-impaired people to access public transport. Melbourne Metro trains has the Stop Here App to assist people with vision or hearing impairments travelling by public transport. The App uses your smartphone’s GPS to provide alerts when you’re approaching your selected public transport stop.
All Adelaide Metro trains and most buses are accessible, welcoming accredited assistance animals and fitted ramps at the front of trains. Vision impaired travel passes are available for those who are unable to use a MetroCard.
Brisbane has created the Inclusive Mapping Project, an interactive map providing current road and path conditions for those with wheelchairs.
AIRPORTS IN AUSTRALIA
Airports in Australia are committed to being accessible and open to all. Infrastructure and services are in place in all major airports in Australia including the terminals, car parks and hospitality outlets.
Adelaide Airport has a Disability Access Facilitation Plan in place that includes a sensory map of the airport showing low, medium and high areas of access the airport.
The Melbourne airport has a Disabled Access Facilitation Plan in place and the popular Skybus is wheelchair accessible and permits free travel for vision impaired individuals, companions and Veterans. The Melbourne Avalon Airport is one of the most accessible airports in the country with no stairs to navigate, no long walks and the car parking is right out the front of the terminal.
Recently the Sydney Airport become even more accessible with the installation of a new 360 square metre bathroom including an assistance animal toilet.
Sydney Airport also promotes the use of a service for anyone who is blind or with low visibility to navigate through the international and domestic terminals called Aira. Aira is an app that connects to a remotely located and trained human agent.
The Brisbane Airport has developed an Accessibility Journey Planner and offers a Medical Travel Companion Service at various levels of support for an additional fee.
Adelaide Airport along with Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Gold Coast and Perth Airports are all part of the Hidden Disabilities program where those who may suffer from a disability that is not obvious such as autism, anxiety, dementia, mental health conditions, visual impairments, deaf or hard of hearing can request a special lanyard that is worn whilst visiting the airport. Wearing the lanyard is a discreet way to indicate to the staff that a person may need extra help and support.
The Hobart Airport has collaborated with Autism Tasmania to create videos of travellers moving through the Hobart Airport to prepare those with Autism or cognitive impartments for travel and understand how the airport works. Scenarios include checking in with the various airlines, going through security, departing Hobart and arriving in Hobart. See the videos here.
For further information about accessibility at airports around Australia see relevant links below:
VENUES IN AUSTRALIA
Australia offers a variety of choices when it comes to choosing your next event venue. Australia is home to over ten major convention centres that all cater to those with hearing and vision impairments and are fully accessible. Inclusive events rely on accessible venues and we’ve collated information on some of the most common conference locations in Australia below.
The Adelaide Convention Centre (ACC) is completely accessible with lift and escalators to all three levels as part of their Access and Inclusion Plan. Accommodation at inner city hotels including the Ibis, Stamford Grand and Mayfair all offer accessible rooms.
Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre (PCEC) is fully equipped to welcome everyone of all abilities. Accessibility features include ramps, elevators, dedicated drop off, wheelchair seating zones, wheelchair accessible baby change facilities and guide dogs, and other registered assistance animals are all welcome.
The International Convention Centre, Sydney (ICC, Sydney) provides step-free access to every conference, exhibition and entertainment venue. Wheelchairs and assisted hearing services are available free of charge at the centre. Braille is included on all room door signage and fixed signage.
The Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC) also has wheelchairs and hearing loops available for hire.
The Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre (BCEC) is fully accessible. Along with wheelchair hire, hearing loop access, braille and other inclusions, the BCEC is connected to the Rydges Hotel which has installed a ramp for access directly to the hotel.
An hour’s drive south of Brisbane is the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre (GCCEC). It includes dedicated sensory rooms for guests with sensory processing difficulties and a list of local suppliers for equipment and transport hire.
Cairns, Canberra, Darwin and Hobart Convention and Exhibition Centres are also accessible with hearing loops, ramps, lifts and easy access bathrooms available.
It’s not just Australian convention centres that offer great accessibility. Having hosted the 2000 Olympics and Paralympics, Sydney Olympic Park offers a truly accessible and inclusive space for events. Venue spaces can host intimate groups of 10 to a convention with 21,000 attendees encompassing dignified, universal and inclusive access. Watch this video to learn more.
With over 16 event spaces fully wheelchair accessible, South Adelaide Museum is dedicated to ensuring all visitors have an enjoyable experience. They have spaces to host gatherings up to 550. The museum offers a range of accessible programs including Australian sign language and audio-described tours.
SIGHTSEEING IN AUSTRALIA
Australia is filled with unique and iconic destinations to visit or include as part of travel plans, and the big bucket list items are accessible to everyone.
A trip to Sydney would not be complete without seeing the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge. The Sydney Opera House offers sign language interpreted, captioned, sensory and Autism-friendly talks, events and performances throughout the year, including a daily access tour designed for people with limited mobility. Sydney Harbour Bridge is accessible to everyone following the installation of elevators in 2018.
The Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens, Taronga Zoo and Sydney Fish Market are all fully accessible. The Blue Mountains situated two hours from Sydney have accessible trails to major viewing platforms. The Cableway and Skyway adventure experiences in the Blue Mountains are both wheelchair accessible and allow for sensational viewing of the mountains suspended in the air.
Adelaide Zoo, Botanic Gardens, Gallery of South Australia and National Wine Centre of Australia are all accessible.
The Great Ocean Road (Victoria) is one of the most scenic coastal drives in the world, hugging the coastline between Torquay and Warrnambool in Victoria. See natural wonders such as the 12 Apostles, The Bay of Islands, Bells Beach, and historical offerings such as the Cape Otway Light station. Life Saving Victoria clubs are delivering the Accessible Beaches Initiative at four main beach locations along the Great Ocean Road. Special matting is placed along the sand allowing wheelchairs, seniors or pram users access to the water. A portable hoist and floating beach wheelchair is also available for free hire at Lorne Life Saving Beach.
The famous UNESCO listed Great Barrier Reef is fully accessible with cruise operator QuickSilver, who have a platform with a lift to access snorkelling. Tropical North Queensland has recently launched an online hub for planning accessible travel to the tropical destination.
Image credit: Quicksilver Group
Uluru, one of the greatest natural wonders of the world, also a UNESCO World Heritage site has two accessible walks and an Aboriginal cultural centre with all access facilities including toilets, picnic areas and retail outlets. Outback Tour Services offers accessible camping safaris with their purpose-built vehicle and an off-road wheelchair, allowing participants to enjoy the riverbeds and rough terrain as well as swim in one of the outback waterholes.
Image Credit: Outback Tour Services
The Gold Coast is Australia’s home to the major theme parks of Movie World, Sea World, Wet’n’Wild and Dreamworld. The theme parks are all accessible with various features in place to assist those with a disability. Each park offers complimentary entry to companions and carers are entitled to discounted admission. One great initiative the parks offer is Queue Assistance providing parents and carers to receive priority entry to attractions. For more information see the full safety and accessible guides below:
LIFESTYLE IN AUSTRALIA
Whether it’s a weekend, holiday or spare time, there’s always something to see and do in Australia and some great initiatives exist to make it possible for everyone to enjoy the experience.
In Sydney, Gig Buddies, is an app created to help people with learning disabilities enjoy the city’s entertainment and nightlife, pairing up people with and without disabilities to see bands, go clubbing or see a football game.
The New South Wales National Parks & Wildlife Service lists facilities like accessible forest boardwalks, accommodation and the wheelchair-friendly kayak launcher at the Murray Valley Regional Park with an access deck made out of locally recycled plastic.
In South Australia, people can find, rate and review inclusive locations with Pavely, an app created by the State Government that allows users to share their personal experience with a venue or place with the community.
Parks Victoria is a world leader in creating opportunities to access nature for those with limitations. For example, it has developed social script resources for children on the autism spectrum in landmark parks like Wilsons Promontory, and offers free TrailRider experiences supported by volunteer sherpas at many parks, like the Grampians National Park Mountains in Victoria. TrailRiders are single-wheeled chairs that can handle most types of terrain. Global Ballooning has a hot air balloon basket designed for people with physical ability impairments.
Lonely Planet has created a free Accessibility Guide for accessible parks, experiences, places to eat and drink, sports and accommodation in Melbourne. Visit Victoria has a dedicated webpage that outlines many more experiences.
National organisation, Auslan Stage Left, enables the deaf community to access theatre and the arts through theatre-trained interpreters. Shows where interpretation has been provided include Mary Poppins the Musical, Moulin Rouge the Musical and Frozen the Musical.
Arinex is highly experienced in creating accessible events. Contact us for assistance.