THE idea of an out-of-hours facility for visitors, like the one located at the Quay in Westport, is a fantastic one which ensures that the town does not miss out on potential tourism and makes staying in Westport easier than ever.
However, there is an even greater potential for towns like Westport in the possibility of attracting an untargeted 10 per cent of the population who have a disability. By making Westport a disability-friendly tourism town there is a great potential for increased tourism even in this recession.
But first we need to work on making access to the town a priority and importantly we need to make the Tourist Information Kiosk at Westport Quay more accessible.
Unfortunately there is no ramp adjacent to the Kiosk making it inaccessible for those of us in wheelchairs and those with mobility problems such as some senior citizens. It is over 100 metres to the nearest ramp and this cannot be called accessible.
Also the Kiosk needs some internal adjustments as the phone cannot be comfortably used from a wheelchair, and there is no provision of a flip down seat for others. There is also a lack of tactile paving and it is not colour-coded to make it easier for the visually impaired. To benefit visually impaired people, a telephone should be selected which have well lit keyboards, large embossed or raised numerals that contrast in colour and luminance.
A tactile telephone symbol should be placed outside an accessible telephone kiosk. Instructions for using telephone should be clear and displayed in a large easy to read typeface. Induction couples should be fitted to enable people with hearing aids to use them.
The telephone should be identified by the appropriate symbol adjacent to the telephone or outside the kiosk. Preferably, telephones for use by disabled people should be located to enable wheelchair users to approach and use the phone from the front and the side. If it it raining it is impossible to use the phone at the front or side as there is no protection from the rain unlike the location of the able-bodied phone and a knee hole is needed at least 500mm deep to enter from the front.
A fold down seat 450mm-50mm high or a perch seat 650mm-800mm high should be provided for the convenience of ambulant people. Politicians and communities who strive to make environment accessible to all are demonstrating their desire to offer the population a good quality of life and provide people their opportunities to develop, both social and personally. It should also be remembered that it is the politicians who are responsible for public spending. In this respect, making environment accessible has a direct effect on public spending. But it is a great start and with a bit of work it could be the first step in a Westport which welcomes tourists from all over the world to a disability-friendly Westport.
Finally, proper accessibility makes towns more attractive for the people who live in them and for potential visitors (tourism) I have followed the discussions about accessibility since the late eighties, many enthusiastic and passionate things have been said and written. The fact remains that we still cannot claim that the town of Westport is accessible for all. Representatives of those in our community with issues such as mobility and access are only too delighted to work with councils and organisations in making our community accessible for all. We are entitled to be consulted and our motto is ‘Nothing about us, without us!’.
Tom Chambers is a Disability Campaigner from Knocknageeha near Newport.