Northern Ireland’s burgeoning tourist industry was given a boost today with the launch of an upgraded website giving information on disability access to some of our most popular venues.
The online guide ACCESS400 created by the charity ADAPT NI for local disabled people also performs a vital service for tourists to enable them to visit hundreds of arts, cultural and heritage venues across Northern Ireland.
After months of consultation with disabled individuals and groups, ACCESS400 has introduced a new online service that will allow users to give feedback to each of the 400 listed venues. Other improvements include new accessibility features and faster search engines.
ADAPT NI Development Manager Caroline Shiels said that tens of thousands of visitors to Northern Ireland will have specific accessibility requirements and this guide was essential if Northern Ireland was to be recognised as a world class tourist destination.
Ms Shiels added: “We have a thriving cultural, arts and tourist industry with a lot on offer for visiting audiences and participants. This website provides visitors and local people with practical information on whether venues are accessible and therefore helps people plan their itinerary more effectively.
“Our improved website means that users can rate and add comments on any of the venues featured, which will mean greater interaction between the customer and the venue. This is a positive step as it means that some of our most iconic buildings are getting first hand feedback from individuals.”
Supporting the initiative is Culture Minister Carál Ní Chuílin, who stressed the importance of arts and cultural venues being as accessible as possible to people of all ages, backgrounds and physical abilities.
The Minister added: “People may be reluctant to visit a venue because they are unsure what facilities are available. They will have questions and, understandably, don’t want to simply turn up somewhere that may not be suitable for their needs.
“This is where the Access 400 Database plays an important role. It gives practical information on parking, access, seating, lighting and a range of other facilities. These are key considerations for people with disabilities when it comes to visiting an arts venue.”
Access400 service users and representatives from the venues, local councils, statutory and voluntary organisations met at the Manor House in Cultra today to view the new database and celebrate the relaunch of this valuable resource which attracts up to 100,000 hits each year.
ADAPT Chairman Ken Ewart said: “In recent years, local people and tourists have benefited from practical information on public venues that they are not familiar with. Typical information outlined in the database includes: whether a community centre has wheelchair access, if a visitor to a leading museum can expect hearing support systems such as induction loops, or if a top theatre offers audio-described performances – and much more.”
ADAPT are also enthusiastic about the re-launch of their Incentive grant scheme which has helped numerous organisations across N.Ireland to carry-out property adaptations and commit to Building Equality and Inclusion into all that they offer. Providing accessible services and facilities boosts business and reduces the impact of physical and attitudinal barriers that often restrict disabled people fulfilling a more active role in their community.
Former Grant recipient, Anne Collins Shopmobility commented: “The funding will enable us to take Belfast schemes further afield allowing our members more freedom to visit places throughout N Ireland”.
Non-profit making organisations seeking financial support to increase accessibility can find out about the assistance available at www.adaptni.org.
ADAPT NI are funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland