In March 2023 we launched the European project CE-Spaces4All or “Accessible Spaces for All” as a lead partner of the project. The three-year project, worth EUR 2.65 million, is co-financed under the Interreg Central Europe programme (more at https://www.interreg-central.eu/projects/ce-spaces4all/).
The project aims to stimulate the development of accessible tourism in Central Europe in 7 European countries by enhancing spatial management and involving decision-makers at the municipal and regional levels, the tourism sector, disability organizations, and person with disabilities. Accessible tourism is an industry with significant growth potential, considering that there are approximately 87 million people with disabilities in the EU alone (according to UNWTO). By improving accessibility, the project aims to positively impact the quality of life for disabled individuals, enhancing their mobility, employment opportunities and social inclusion.
The project’s focus is on addressing the needs of persons with disabilities and creating conditions for their independent and safe travel in three cross-border pilot areas: Slovenia-Croatia-Hungary, Austria-Czech Republic, and Poland. These regions are selected to actively involve people with various disabilities, such as mobility impairments, visual impairments, and hearing impairments. Additionally, the project prioritizes tourist areas outside urban centers, as they often present more challenges in terms of accessibility and mobility for the target group.
Picture 1: Accessibility of the train station
The creation of an online accessibility viewer will be an essential tool for providing valuable information about the accessibility. This viewer will display accessible routes, identify obstacles along the way, and showcase accessible or potentially accessible facilities in carefully selected tourist areas. Furthermore, a more detailed catalogues of obstacles will be developed which can help decision-makers implement targeted improvements and increase overall accessibility. New tourism services and products for persons with disabilities will be developed with the involvement of local tourism providers, such as the development of organised tourism programmes for persons with disabilities or self-guided tours tailored to their needs.
The project’s recommendations to decision-makers based on the data collected and the needs of persons with disabilities will play a crucial role in driving policy changes and strategic improvements, such as local action plans or the preparation of a joint territorial planning strategy for accessible tourism, which will promote coordination and cooperation among different regions and have a lasting impact on promoting accessibility throughout Central Europe.
Finally, the key activity is raising awareness about the opportunities of accessible tourism and encouraging private and public investment in improving accessibility, creating a more inclusive and welcoming tourism landscape for everyone.
Picture 2: Demonstration of the wheelchair barrier
During the first months of the project, the 12 project partners have become well acquainted with the topic of accessibility and disability, along with European legislation in this field, the production of accessible digital materials, the organisation of accessible events and the needs of persons with disabilities in relation to accessible tourism.
Two project meetings were held in Ljubljana and Vienna, where participants learned about good and bad practices in the field of accessibility, provide valuable insights and a platform for knowledge exchange among partners.
Picture 3: Kick- off meeting in Ljubljana, 13. 4. 2023
Project partners are currently holding meetings with local stakeholders in their pilot areas to ascertain their interests and possibilities for cooperation, which is a key step for the successful development of the project and the preparation of joint accessible tourism products and services.
Picture 4: Poster CE-Spaces4All