Scandic's accessibility training has won first prize for best interactive training at the Swedish Learning Awards 2014 and also took home silver in the British E-learning Awards

Scandic is a leading hotel operator in the Nordic countries today. Just over 10 years ago Scandic started its journey towards making its hotels more accessible for people with disabilities. On top of this a wide-ranging interactive training programme has been developed for all the hotel chain's employees with the aim of fostering an understanding of different types of accessibility challenges and the importance of treating all guests properly. This approach has seen Scandic giving itself a unique position unmatched in Sweden or abroad.

In late 2013 Scandic took the next step in making its interactive training on its own website openly available, helping to improve awareness among the general public.

"Every day we see people from outside Scandic completing our training on the website. Receiving an award for this is the icing on the cake and something that makes us particularly proud. It shows that the issue of accessibility is an important one," says Scandic's Director of Accessibility Magnus Berglund.

In the Swedish E-learning awards Scandic won in the category "Best e-learning profit-making business" in Sweden. The jury said:

"An easy-to-use interface with inspiring shifts in perspective that enable a wide target group to realise and understand that when staying at a hotel not everyone enjoys the same experience on the same terms."

Scandic also won silver for the best e-learning product in the British E-learning Awards, amid the tough competition of 250 international entries.

Want to find out more about the training course? Follow the link here, or read more about Scandic's important work on accessibility here.


The first World Summit Destinations for All took place at the Palais des Congrès in Montreal from October 19-22, 2014. More than 350 delegates from around the globe came together with one goal: to further develop and implement international standards to build an accessible world for everyone. 

To view all of the Summit's photos, click on the following link: http://bit.ly/1vSCBlX

These photos are royalty-free and can be shared.

AN OVERVIEW OF THE SUMMIT

  • 366 participants from 31 countries;
  • 148 sessions and 6 panels underlying 3 main themes: tourism, culture and transportation for all;
  • The Declaration "One World for Everyone" was adopted at the end of the Summit, in the presence of representatives from the United Nations (UN), the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the European Network for Accessible Tourism (ENAT), and the International Social Tourism Organisation (ISTO);
  • A growing worldwide network.
SUMMIT IN THE SPOTLIGHT

The three main themes from the Summit, whether it was tourism, culture or transportation, led participants to discuss concrete ways to put good practices in place for accessibility for the present and future. 


The Summitt featured speakers such as Ann Frye, Jitu Thaker from the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), and Pierre Jeanniot, a leading Canadian authority. They presented concrete solutions to improve the challenging issues involved in the transport industry, particularly air transport. 

Countries and regions like Belgium, England, Spain and the United States shared with us many different solutions available in their cities that make for a positive traveller's experience. The issue on culture was not ignored, with testimonials coming from France and Croatia for example. 

Accessibility and its effect on the economy were also touched upon, with the message loud and clear that marketing to the disabled population is indeed profitable. "We simply have just customers", said Magnus Berglund, Accessibility Director of Scandic Hotels. This philosophy among hotel chains makes it an integrative model and success in the lucrative market. 

rganizations like the ENAT, the UNWTO and the UN. participated in fruitful conversations that took place during the 3 day conference, and brought their credibility and support to the discussions.

The Summit aimed to share good practices from cities, regions and accessible destinations, and establish a plan for the global development of inclusive tourism.

WHAT ARE THE NEXT STEPS? 
ESTABLISHING A WORLD FOR EVERYONE

The event declaration, "One World for Everyone", was signed by the Summit's two co-chairs, Mr. Ivor Ambrose (ENAT) and André Vallerand (World Centre of Excellence for Destinations). Mr. Carlos Vogeler, Director-Executive Secretary for Members Relations at the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) served as co-signing witness.

ENAT's president Anna Grazia Laura accepted, on behalf of her association, the responsibility to coordinate the creation of a World Network for Accessible Tourism.

Daniela Bas, director of UNDESA's Division for Social Policy and Development at the UN, states, "I return to the UN with great news. The goal now is to raise awareness of the feasibility for a world for everyone to the UN members from 193 countries."

André Leclerc, the visionary behind the Summit, was very clear about the future: "With this declaration, we intend to go even further. We must continue to work together to organize in achieving our goals, and to enforce the message of accessibility, a world for everyone! "

Our International Common Strategy

The declaration "One World for Everyone" that was adopted at the end of the Summit is the foundation for our international common strategy and action plan.

The declaration is now available in EnglishFrench, Catalan, and Arabic on the Destinations for All website.
We invite all of our partners to sign the declaration, either personally, or in the name of your organization that you represent. 
The online process to sign is now available: http://www.destinationsforall2014.com/en/declaration

We are also encouraging our partners to provide us with the translated versions of the declaration in their national languages. 

MARK YOUR CALENDAR!

We kindly remind speakers to please send us your texts for distribution in the Summit Proceedings.
The deadline to submit your full paper based on your presentation at the Summit in Montreal is November 14, 2014. Please refer to the guidelines on our website here.

US Veterans with Disabilities Toolkit



WASHINGTON, D.C., November 11, 2014--Today the Equal Rights Center (ERC)--a national non-profit civil rights organization--released a new toolkit to help veterans with disabilities advocate for accessible housing.

 

"Every year, hundreds of thousands of veterans return home to new challenges and barriers due to physical and mental disabilities resulting from their service to and for our country," said Melvina Ford, executive director of the ERC. "Under the federal Fair Housing Act, these veterans are entitled to accessible housing and beyond that our gratitude and respect."




 

According to government sources, 45 percent of the 1.6 million veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are now seeking compensation for service-related disabilities, more than double the estimate of 21 percent who filed such claims after the Gulf War.

 

The lack of available accessible housing for these veterans with disabilities contributes to higher rates of unemployment and homelessness. Approximately 12 percent of the homeless population is made up of veterans, which in real numbers amounts to almost 50,000 homeless veterans on our streets.

 

"Our veterans--particularly those who return home with service-related disabilities--deserve equal treatment and opportunity in all aspects of their new lives," said James Schenck, president and CEO of Pentagon Federal Credit Union (PenFed). "It is imperative that we ensure that veterans with disabilities have the resources and education to be effective advocates for themselves and their families."

 

The Veterans with Disabilities Toolkit highlights the rights to accessible housing afforded to veterans with disabilities under Title XIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, known as the Fair Housing Act (FHA). This toolkit provides: an overview of the rights provided by the federal FHA, information on accessible design requirements of multifamily development, how to request a reasonable modification or accommodation from property owners or managers and answers to frequently asked questions.

ThisAbility for Peace

ThisAbility for Peace.jpg


Philosophy behind "THISability for Peace"

It's been a long time that I've been fostering the idea of launching an international group on Facebook to promote global peace through disability concept. However, I had my own reasons to procrastinate it, mostly because I am pretty busy with my Iranian group of Disability Rights Advocates, as well as my personal and academic activities. While I avoided getting involved in a new time-consuming project, I was finally overcome by my constant temptation. Therefore, after I finished making the logo for THISability for Peace, I did not hesitate to upload my new project on Facebook.

I'm not sure if I'm the first person to make such a language-game with the word "disability" to emphasize on "This ability", yet I am sure that the idea sparkled in my mind in a cold day of the past winter when my husband and I were sitting in our insurance agent's office and I felt bored of their business talking. Doodling aimlessly on a piece of paper, the idea of "This-ability" instead of "disability" sparked my mind, and I knew that I was going to do something different.

I have no idea where my new project will take me; I can only say that I have a very good feeling about it. To knowing that my posts on Iranian successful individuals with disability have been visited hundreds of times by our unseen followers from different countries gives me such a sheer joy which I consider as my ultimate reward in this non-profitable activity. Iran, a developing country in the Middle East, has mostly been absent in the global literature of disability. To fill this gap a bit, is my other goal in setting up the new page.

Nowadays that the politics as well as the individual's and group's beliefs have proved to have mostly belligerent applications, I believe, concentrating on our common features is vital for preserving and/or retrieving the global peace. In my opinion, only our commonalities are able to shorten our distances, eliminate our misunderstandings, bring our hearts closer, and finally dismantle our feuds and wars. I think that every single human-being on our planet has a responsibility towards the global peace. One might ask pessimistically: So what? What would you be able to do in this vast world full of rages and resentments? Then, I would say: no matter if I could change anything or not, I do whatever I can do.

I see life as a bicycle which I have to get on and move. I have to paddle regardless of how many times I would fall off, how many wounds I would get, or even if I can make it to destination. I do not care about the ends. The roads are more important than destinations, I do believe. "THISability to Peace" is a long road to me in which I have to keep on pedaling consistently and relentlessly.

Join us and support THISability for Peace! https://www.facebook.com/thisabilityforpeace


Negin Hosseini-Goodrich

Journalist, Writer, Disability Activist

PhD student, Purdue University

On 14-15 October, the UN Inter-Agency Support Group (IASG) for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities met via video-conference. Over 15 agencies and others participated in the meeting and open sessions, including representatives of the International Disability Alliance (IDA) and the International Disability and Development Consortium (IDDC). At the meeting, the IASG decided to further strengthen its collaboration in the promotion of a disability-inclusive post-2015 agenda and in relation to inclusive emergency and humanitarian responses and disaster risk reduction for persons with disabilities. A thematic working group on disasters and conflict will be established to review current activities of the IASG and to develop a workplan for strengthening the UN's inclusion of disability in disaster risk reduction, emergencies and humanitarian crises. Further discussion also included forthcoming international conferences, collaboration for the International Day of Persons with Disabilities and inter-agency initiatives, including the UN Partnership to promote the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNPRPD) and the UN Inter-Departmental Task Force on Accessibility (IDTFA). A report of the meeting will be made available on the Enable website, shortly. (www.un.org/disabilities)

Off-roading in the jungle by wheelchair

Lynn Atkinson Boutette indulges her love of the wild in the Galapagos and Peru's Amazon in the specially designed TrailRider

With my wheelchair perched on the deck of a boat taking us to Santa Cruz, I watch a giant marine turtle swimming in the crystal water just below my feet. Pelicans wheel overhead and sea lions lounge on buoys. But these are not the lush tropical isles I've been expecting. Though the Galapagos Islands are near the equator, 23 C in late October, prickly pear cacti on a volcanic landscape give the place a desert-like feel.

Tiny geckos scurry away from my wheels as I roll to a waiting minivan, where I am pushed up portable ramps — only to crunch my head on the ceiling. Thankfully our guide, Pepe Lopez, is used to solving the problems faced by travelling "wheelies," and he quickly pops the tires off my Quickie wheelchair so I can get in the van. I soon forget about any bruises as we stop to marvel at a 400-pound tortoise crossing the road. I have arrived at one of Earth's last unique ecosystems: more than 13 islands, 1,000 kilometres from the coast of Ecuador.

    

At lunch, we meet the people who will push and pull me for the next six days in the Trail-Rider — essentially a two-wheeled off-road wheelchair — we brought from Ontario. Developed by the British Columbia Mobility Opportunities Society, founded by former Vancouver mayor Sam Sullivan to allow people with disabilities to gain access to the outdoors, it proves invaluable on the rough terrain of Santa Cruz and Isabela islands.

Because I cannot walk, we have decided to do a land-based tour rather than the usual boat cruise — which would necessitate climbing in and out of boats. Thanks to the TrailRider, I see flamingos, albatross, penguins, prehistoric marine iguanas, funny-looking sea lions galumphing across the sand, reef sharks and more tortoises than I've seen in a lifetime.

Arriving in Puerta Ayora, we are booked into a hotel that suits my purpose once the bathroom door is removed. For dinner, wahoo fish is cooked at our table on hot lava rocks. As we eat, we plan a kayak trip. I'm leery of the waves, but the next day, in the hands of a skilled kayaker, I glory in my new-found freedom. I am continually amazed at the brazenness of birds and animals. Tiny finches, whose different beaks on each island helped Darwin develop his theory of evolution, light on trees within inches of our heads.

Later, back in Lima, we prepare for one of the flights we will take to Puerto Maldonado in southeastern Peru. From there we take a three-hour boat ride up Rio Tambopata to stay at Refugio Amazonas Lodge in the Amazon rain forest. Guides carry my wheelchair up the slippery clay bank, onto a two-wheeled cart and then on to a supply cart, which is winched up the hill. After a meal of dorado in an open-air dining room, it's lights out at 9 p.m. Our bedroom is also open to the jungle, and under mosquito netting I listen as each new voice adds to the chorus of insect, bird and animal sounds.

The next morning, a 4:30 a.m. wake-up call by kerosene lamp (no electricity here) sets the pace for the next three days. I'm out in the TrailRider for hours at a time while my husband tries to keep up with the young men who push and pull me over the roots and deadfall on the forest floor. Although I am prevented from climbing a 35-metre canopy tower above the treetops, we spot wild capybaras, macaws and howler monkeys, and one night we see a sloth in the trees only 15 metres away.

I feel fortunate to have seen all this before a highway between Brazil and Peru is built through Puerto Maldonado, destroying more of the local rain forest. This is already happening near the next lodge we fly to, three hours upriver from Iquitos in northern Peru. Development has made it more accessible for me and my wheelchair, for which I am grateful, but the perennial dilemma — the wilds versus civilization — is not lost on me. As a quadriplegic, I need civilization, but it's the wilds that I really desire.

In the 30 years since Sinchicuy Lodge was built, co-owner Danilo Pena admits, increased prosperity has led to a clash of expectations for tourists who don't anticipate finding two all-night discos in a village of 750 people. However, I find that after Refugio Amazonas, Sinchicuy is remote enough for me. There's no electricity, but with temperatures approaching 35 C, I welcome cool showers. We even have a room with a wheel-in shower!

And Pena and his staff have done everything possible to make my stay accessible with "todos los rampas." The Trail-Rider stays in its bag and I use my comfortable manual wheelchair. I can't believe my good fortune when I am wheeled through the jungle on government-built concrete sidewalks, which allow natives to transport produce to the river.

Our guide takes us piranha fishing and to a village shaman, and then on the last night, while sitting in a flat-bottom boat in my wheelchair feeling like the Amazon Queen, magic happens: Suddenly I am face to face with a pink dolphin — encantado, the enchanted one — which in native myth nudges dugout canoes with his long pink snout and abducts women he falls in love with. My Peruvian adventure has entered the supernatural.

GETTING THERE

Air Canada flies from major Canadian airports to Quito via Bogota. Aerolineas Galapagos (www.aerogal.com.ec) connects from Quito to the Galapagos.

WHERE TO STAY

  • Refugio Amazonas Rainforest Expeditions
    www.perunature.com/pages/home_refugio.htm. From $295 for three days.

  • Sinchicuy Lodge www.paseosamazonicos.com/contact_us.htm; e-mail Danilo Pena, gerencia@paseosamazonicos.com.

WHAT TO DO

Peru Apumayo Expediciones S.A.C. (www.apumayo.com) specializes in taking "wheelies" up Machu Picchu.

Ecuador Ecuador for All (www.ecuadorforall.com) offers accessible tourism.

MORE INFORMATION

To find out about the TrailRider wheelchair, visit www.bcmos.org. For locations of TrailRider trails in Canada and the U.S.: bcmos@disabilityfoundation.org.



Lynn Atkinson-Boutette: England 2013

Disability Dreaming - Travels by wheelchair


    


After bouncing and bumping over cobblestones from London to St. Ives and then Canterbury in my power wheelchair this spring, it was a pleasant surprise to reach Bath and discover that the spa was completely accessible. Thermal pools, including a rooftop pool with stunning views of Bath Abbey, all had lifts into the water. My sore muscles were treated to a two-hour soak, and aromatherapy massage. I felt like the pampered Roman goddess Sulis Minerva for whom the original baths were named.


In many ways Bath typifies how far England has come in making its 1000+-year-old country accessible. Since my last trip to England 23 years ago when I rode in the baggage car on the train, services and facilities have improved significantly. Many of the old Roman/Georgian buildings have ramps and lifts or both, and sightseeing and city buses plus many taxis are accessible. Now through the newly instituted National Accessible Scheme NAS, visitors can find accessibility to suit their needs. According to VisitEnglandorg, the national tourist board of England, people with disabilities and health conditions or impairments spend over £2 billion a year in England (Source: UKTS 2009 and IPS 2010). In 2009 almost half a million people from abroad visited England with their companions. (Source: International Passenger Survey 2010).


I had decided to take my electric wheelchair because I didn't want my husband pushing me everywhere for two weeks although I was anxious about how I would fare. I didn't regret my decision. It gave me the freedom I wanted despite the cobblestones. Happily I found services and attitudes for the most part had improved, since I rode in the baggage train car back in 1990. (Improved that is, discounting the 'black cab' taxi driver and the bus driver who refused to take my chair. The taxi, because he said it would break his ramp although the weight limit clearly printed on the ramp was 300 kg - me in my chair weigh about 180 kg. And the bus driver who refused to let me board because a woman with a baby stroller was in the space - a policy that was recently challenged by a wheelchair user who took First Bus Group in Yorkshire to court and won an unlawful discrimination suit.)


We traveled by train which was expensive and complicated to figure out but once we got the hang of it, we were all right. Travelers who need ramps or assistance boarding the train should call 24 hours in advance of travel. If you are not sure on which railway you are traveling check online. Rail cards are only available to UK residents with disabilities but, tourists with disabilities are eligible for 1/3 off "anytime" day tickets as is the travel companion, although sometimes it may be cheaper to buy an undiscounted Off-Peak or Advance ticket. Whatever you decide, remember it pays to check and double check.


We stayed at the inexpensive London School of Economics (LSE) Grosvenor student residence. Although basic, the room was large with roll-in shower and cooking facilities. Right next to Covent Garden and the theater district, it proved ideal.


Getting around London is relatively easy as most streets have curb cuts plus we took public buses everywhere. Most museums and galleries are accessible, sometimes through a side entrance. Wheelchair users are admitted for free with companions paying half price. For an overview of the city we took a 'hop-on-hop-off' bus that accommodates wheelchairs. An excellent way to see the sights, we found it best to buy a two or three day pass so that we could stop and explore the attraction we wanted to see without feeling rushed.


Four days later, we walked/rolled to Paddington station where we boarded the First Great Western, the Cornish Riviera express, for the five-hour trip to Cornwall. Speeding across the low-lying Somerset Hills was a relaxing way to see the countryside. As we came in sight of the sea, London seemed far away.


Although I was warned that "St. Ives is NOT accessible," this picture-perfect English Riviera town has a paved walkway by the sea and the cobblestones and steep hills were no problem for my electric chair. While few of the shops were accessible we found that some restaurants, the Tate art gallery and the Barbara Hepworth sculpture garden all had ramps. Our day trip was sunny with bathers (even a beach wheelchair), and surfers.  The St. Ives September Festival bagpipes serenaded us through the cobbled lanes and at a local pub one evening, Capt. Roy entertained us with stories of his 90 foot fishing boat that had served at Dunkirk and even helped to sink a U-boat during the war.


When it came time to leave, unfortunately we learned too late that accessible taxis are difficult to find away from the major centers. (We stayed in a B&B in the countryside. Wheelchair users considering staying in Cornwall would be well advised to stay in a larger place such as Penzance and taking a day trip into St. Ives.) "Welcome to the world of disability," I said to B&B host Sally Jones after she volunteered a frustrating hour trying to help us. Eventually a lift-equipped Penzance taxi came through which was a boon, as most black cabs we had taken thus far had had very steep short ramps better suited to manual wheelchairs. Lack of lowered floors or raised roofs in black cabs also made for less visibility, plus the space behind the driver's seat and the fixed rear passenger seat is quite small making it difficult for a power wheelchair to maneuver.


Kent on the east coast, was a step back in time. We took a tour of Leeds and Dover castles with Jane Martin of Tours of the Realm. She had never taken a person in a wheelchair before, but found an accessible taxi to drive us around for the day. It was expensive but well worth it. Jane had arranged everything including lunch at a restaurant overlooking the white cliffs of Dover.


Canterbury was the culmination of a kind of pilgrimage for me; it seemed fitting that I should celebrate my years of overcoming obstacles in the place I had begun my travels nearly 25 years ago. I'll never forget lying in bed looking out of the hotel bay window at the soaring towers where Archbishop Thomas Beckett had been murdered in 1170 A.D. My wheelchair travels had come of age.





Accessible info.


www.visitengland.com/en/Practical-Information/Accessible-England/National-Accessible-Scheme


Accommodation with roll in showers


London - http://www.lsevacations.co.uk/Accommodation/Grosvenor-House/Grosvenor-House.aspx#sthash.NivpcdCk.dpbs

Cornwall - www.rowanbarn.co.uk/ Note: Rowan Barn is soon to become self-catering although the wheelchair suite will remain a B&B

Bath - http://www3.hilton.com/en/hotels/united-kingdom/hilton-bath-city-hotel-BATHNHN/index.html

Canterbury - www.CanterburyCathedrallodge.org


Transportation


Rail - http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/stations_destinations/disabled_passengers.aspx


Accessible Taxis

Bath - http://www.bathnes.gov.uk/services/business/taxis/taxis-disabled-access

Cornwall - www.anytime-taxis.com, www.StIvestaxi.co.uk
Canterbury http://www.andycabs.co.uk/


Accessible Sightseeing etc.


English countryside - www.accessiblecountryside.org.uk and  www.walkswithwheelchairs.com/UK/stop

London - www.theoriginaltour.com/

Bath -www.thermaebathspa.com/

www.visitbath.co.uk/things-to-do/tours-and-sightseeing/mayor-of-bath-honorary-guides-p43001

- www.bathbuscompany.com/tours/bath-tours

Kent/Canterbury - www.toursoftherealm.com/

- www.canterburyguidedtours.com/

- Cotswolds taxi tour  You Go First!" katehunnisett@btinternet.com

Cornwall - http://www.visitcornwall.com/maps/accessibility


by Lynn Atkinson-Boutette



"Hector will push you around for $15 day", said our B&B hostess Maricela. "He doesn't speak English, but if he manages to keep you on the narrow sidewalk and cobblestone streets and you learn Spanish for 'watch the ka ka', I'm sure you'll do fine." And our vacation was just that -- in fact more than fine.  


Our two weeks at the beginning of April were memorable.  Far from the troubled drug wars of northern Mexico, this Spanish colonial town is a mountain oasis inhabited by artists and a large ex-pat community. San Miguel, 4½ hours from Mexico City or 1½ hours from Leon on the east coast, is very affordable, and clean and with a wheelchair pusher it's definitely doable. Best of all, unlike other Mexican towns, the food and water is safe which is very important for me and my compromised constitution. I have multiple sclerosis.


Although I was wary of eating salads, fruits or iced drinks, our friend convinced us that while eating from street vendors may not be safe for western stomachs, restaurants in San Miguel are noted for their cleanliness.  Within a few days I was eating everything with no problems.  At El Pegaso, just off the main square, I was introduced to Chiles en Nogado plus excellent casual fare -- soups salads etc.  Restaurant walls, filled with folk art box niches, are by turns both poignant and hilarious. At Casa Maricela B&B we were also introduced to many Mexican dishes including enchiladas served with Mole, from the Aztec word molli, a rich sauce served with chicken or turkey, containing over 25 different ingredients the most famous of which are chocolate and chiles.  Chocolate contributes to the richness of the sauce without adding sweetness.  Sometimes  grated avocado seed is used to add a balancing bitterness.


San Miguel is a garden surrounded by walls, not unlike a European hill town, remarkable primarily for what's inside.  Behind the wooden doors lining the streets, are lush gardens, and fountains. The purple and blue jacaranda trees and vibrant pink bougainvillea were a balm to my soul as were the colorful handicrafts in the shops. My husband and Hector, at the mercy of my winter blahs, stopped at every shop filled with handicrafts, ceramica made in the nearby town of Dolores Hildalgo, silver jewelry, tapestries, woven baskets and Mexican clothes. Although locals complain Americans are driving up housing prices, this colonial town, declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 2008, still retains its 16th century flavor.


We arrived in the middle of Semana Santa or holy week, celebrated throughout Mexico but particularly in San Miguel.  After unexpectedly bumping into an artist friend from Toronto, we attended the Good Friday procession where hundreds and hundreds of silent mourners dressed in black march to the sound of hollow drum beats. The next day I was shocked to see children playing with what I thought were real body parts -- an arm, a leg -- but were in fact were pieces of larger- than-life papier-mâché figures blown up during the firing of the Judases, a tradition with Biblical roots, but now a popular way of 'crucifying' politicians and other unpopular figures.


The highlight of my time in San Miguel where the unexpected moments such as coming upon a wedding party exiting the Parrochia church off the Jardin (pronounced Hardeen). The wedding procession made its way across the square to the tunes of mariachi bands dressed in white or black uniforms studded with gold buttons, followed by giant papier-mâché replicas of the bride and groom.  Another evening, a ballet folklorico flashed its color to odd Mexican rhythms.  And another, a large band outside of our restaurant passed around the wine of Sangre de Cristo to the largely Mexican crowd.  As it turned out April was the best time to go as by the end of March most gringos have ended their winter sojourns and left San Miguel.  




Things to do in San Miguel


--Buy Atencion, the English newspaper for events and happenings including music

-- Sit in beautiful Parque Juarez and read On Mexican Time by Tony Cohan, the quintessential book on San Miguel. Slow down and enjoy the perfect blue skies, friendly people, and the colors of the brilliant purple and blue jacaranda trees (full bloom in April)

-- Visit the orphanage Hogar de St. Julia (our friend was painting a mural on the building walls there.)

-- Sit in the Jardin and watch the 16th century Parroquia church change from pink, ocher, to red in the sunset.  Watch families and listen to mariachi bands, one each corner of the square !

-- Spend all day at the totally wheelchair accessible Fabrico la Aurora, a former turn-of-the-century textile mill converted to one of Mexico's finest art centers housing a myriad of artisan shops

-- Check out the San Miguel Bibliotecha for information on Spanish lessons, although with so many foreigners and shop staff speaking English you could be forgiven for thinking you can get by without learning Spanish.  

-- Take a taxi ride to the raucous Tuesday market where raw chickens and produce sit next to baby clothes, electronics and anything you care to think of.

-- Hike the El Charo del Ingenio Botanical Gardens, a bit dicey for a wheelchair but doable if you have a strong pusher

-- Have lunch or early dinner at Casa de Diezmo The sound of church bells (every 15 minutes it seems), and firecrackers (Mexicans are fond of loud noises) blend with a guitarist serenading diners in the garden

-- Taxi to Atotonilco, 10 minutes away from San Miguel, a religious world heritage site, and if you're lucky talk to the old woman in the square who will point out the six families in town, not including hers because she lives near the river.

-- Drink margaritas at one of the classic watering holes, La Frugas, Harry's or Ten-Ten Pie

-- Take a walking tour of historic Centro Mon-Wed-Fri 10 a.m. leaving from the Jardin in front of the Parroquia

-- Have coffee in the little café at Bellas Artes and enjoy the serenity of the quiet courtyard

-- Hike around town (remember there are lots of hills and cobblestones but with a young Mexican pushing the wheelchair it's doable)


B&Bs close to the main square including breakfast and lunch, the main meal of the day)


Casa Maricela (not accessible but you can stay next-door at her sister's and eat meals at Maricela's). Www.casa-maricela.com


Posada Corazon (more or less accessible) approx. $176  www.posadacorezon.com.mx


Casa Carmen (your best bet - wheelchair accessible and close to the center) $126 a night double occupancy www.casacarmenhotel.com


Driver

Francisco Marin will pick you up at either Mexico City or Leon for very reasonable rate franciscomexicoxxi@yahoo.com.mx cell 415-113-4796



IUCN World Parks Congress

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The upcoming World Parks Congress is a once in 10 year event with over 3000 delegates from around the world. On Monday the 17th of November there are two sessions on park accessibility and inclusion.

Diverse parks, diverse communities - parks and protected areas for everyone. 1:30 to 3:00pm in Hall 3B1

Learn about some fascinating and innovative programs that are being run in parks and protected areas to improve the health and well-being of diverse community groups. The variety of programs featured include social inclusion programs for people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds; engaging and empowering communities through place-based education and activation; universal design of park facilities and how providing specialised equipment and detailed accessibility information can encourage people with a disability to visit parks and protected areas.

Key Speakers: David Stratton - TrailRider Advocate, Sam Cuff - Tasmanian Parks & Wildlife Service Australia, Aimee Freimanis - Parramatta City Council, Mr. Yoon, Sang-heon - Korea National Park Service, John Kenwright - Parks Victoria, Bill Forrester - Travability.

Creating and promoting accessible protected area experiences for visitors with disabilities. 

5:30 to 7:00pm Hall 3B1

This workshop will explore and discuss the common barriers to gaining protected area access information as experienced by visitors with disabilities. Workshop participants will gain an understanding of the: • Growing international need for accessible protected area infrastructure and protected area experiences. • Type and range of protected area experiences and activities that visitors of all abilities are seeking. • Importance of compiling protected area accessibility information guides in a practical format for visitors. Participants will be encouraged to share their lessons learnt on protected area accessibility and give ideas for application in other protected area settings including both urban and wilderness parks. This workshop will also provide a toolkit for participants to learn how to evaluate the accessibility of their own parks and protected areas using a protected area evaluation manual developed by Parks Victoria and Travability. This workshop is led by Parks Victoria in conjunction with Travability.

For more:

http://worldparkscongress.org/programme/programme.html

A Look at Europe in 2012

Tear Down Those Walls!

The text of the Destinations pour tous summit on Inclusive Tourism in anticipation of several multi-year United Nations projects promoting Inclusive Tourism as a development strategy.



  #D4All2014

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