New business champions to support rights of disabled consumers

The Minister for Disabled People, Work and Health has announced 11 new disability sector champions.

London 21st February, 2017

Eleven new sector champions, who will help to tackle the issues disabled people face as consumers, have been announced by England's Minister for Disabled People, Work and Health today.

The champions, who represent a range of different sectors and businesses, from gaming to retail, will use their influential status as leaders in their industries to promote the benefits of being inclusive to disabled people.

Accessible Tourism features strongly with the appointment of Chris Veitch, a well respected world authority on Accessible Tourism.

There are currently more than 11 million disabled people in the UK and the spending power of their households - ‘the purple pound’ - is almost £250 billion. But many businesses are missing out on this potential customer base by having everyday products and services which aren’t available to disabled people – who, as a result, are regularly excluded from experiences and opportunities that many others take for granted.

The sector champions will amplify the voices of disabled customers and employees within their own industries, increasing accountability and challenging inequality. They will also be able to highlight specific changes and improvements that will make a difference to the millions of people who often miss out.

The Minister for Disabled People, Work and Health, Penny Mordaunt, said:

As a public advocate for accessibility, these champions will help businesses realise the value of disabled consumers and the importance of catering to every customer’s needs.

These industries must become fully inclusive. Not being able to access the high street, products and services, transport or simply to access a loo jars with our national values: it must change.

The new sector champions will drive improvements to the accessibility and quality of services and facilities in their sector, helping to showcase best practice and show other businesses the merit of making disabled customers a priority.


  • Helen Drury, Corporate Responsibility Manager at Intu (retail)
  • Suzanne Bull MBE, CEO of Attitude is Everything (music)
  • Huw Edwards, Public Affairs Director at UKActive (leisure)
  • Chris Veitch, Co-founder of Access New Business (tourism)
  • Robin Sheppard, Chairman of Bespoke Hotels (hotels)
  • Dan Brooke, Chief Marketing & Communications Officer at Channel 4 (media)
  • Sam Phillips, CMO at Omnicom Media Group (advertising)
  • Michael Connolly, Regional Training and Standards Manager at OCS ltd (transport - airports)
  • Jane Cole, Managing Director at Blackpool Transport Services (transport - buses)
  • Trudie Hills, Disability Manager, Lloyds Bank (banking)
  • Dr Jo Twist OBE, CEO of UKIE (gaming)

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Visitors with a disability should not be seen as “risk management” but as valued customers,

Image: Edinburgh International Conference Centre

Disabled visitors to Scotland should not be seen as “risk management” but as valued customers, according to the national tourism organisation.

Chris McCoy, Equality and Diversity Manager at VisitScotland, addressed delegates at the Rehabilitation International (RI) World Congress in Edinburgh on October 27, to highlight the importance of Scotland’s £1.3 billion accessible tourism market.

VisitScotland’s Accessible Tourism Programme aims to harness the growing, high-value accessible tourism market, and for Scotland to become internationally recognised as a leading destination for people with access needs.

Chris McCoy said: 

“Legislation in the UK has empowered disabled people, making it illegal for service providers to discriminate on the grounds of disability, but it has not enabled them. VisitScotland believes access is enshrined only as a compliance issue, not a market issue. Disabled people still have difficulty finding businesses to cater for their access requirements, and provide adequate information to help make informed choices.

“Disabled people are seen as “risk management”, requiring expensive adjustments, but not as valued customers, requiring new and innovative customer service.” 

Chris says that disabled people still have difficulty finding tourism businesses to cater for their access requirements, and to provide adequate information to help them to make informed choices.

She added: 

“Disabled people don’t want special products, they want to be part of the mainstream. They are seen by some as ‘risk management’, requiring expensive adjustments, but not as valued customers, requiring new and innovative customer service. 

“Changes have to be transformational and our aim is to move the mindset of the industry and the driver for accessible tourism from compliance into the competitive marketplace.”

Hosted by disability employment charity Shaw Trust Scotland, the RI Congress at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre is seeking to influence disability and inclusion policy at a global level and is being attended by more 1,000 people from over 60 countries.

For more information about VisitScotland’s Accessible Tourism Programme, go to


About TravAbility

TravAbility was founded in 2007 by Bill Forrester.

Our mission is to be agents of change; to inspire people who have never traveled before to do so, and to inspire others to do more. To encourage all cultures of the world to see disability as an integral part of life, and to provide the motivation and tools to the tourism industry to allow them to create accessible environments that enable inclusion in an economically sustainable way.

We offer a range of services to tourism operators and Destination Marketing Boards to enable them to take advantage of the growing Accessible Tourism market. Our core approach is program oriented focusing on the product and service needs of people with a disability an developing a culture of innovation to attract this highly profitable and rapidly growing market:

  • Development of Access Statements
  • Product, service and program development
  • Development of 'Soft Infrastructure' policies and procedures
  • Staff and Management Training
  • Marketing Services and Toolkits
  • Access information kits
  • Industry Presentations and Conference Keynotes and Capacity Building Workshops
  • Property Audits and Universal Design planning
  • Self Audit Tools
  • National/State/Regional Park Guides and Trail Maps
  • Diversity and Inclusion Strategy development
  • Disability Action Plans
  • New Project planning and Development
  • Stock Imagery through PhotoAbility
  • Accommodation listings through TravAbility Properties

For more information on how you can make your business more attractive to the traveler with a disability contact Bill.


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Network Rail launches Spaces and Places for Everyone Inclusion Strategy

Comedian Francesca Martinez challenges rail industry’s disability bolt-on’ culture


Renowned disabled comic, Francesca Martinez, has teamed up with Network Rail to launch a new campaign to improve disabled passengers’ experiences of travelling by rail after challenging its historic ‘bolt-on’ culture. With the number of railway passengers exceeding 1.6bn a year and two-thirds (67%) of disabled people saying they use the railway, Network Rail is launching its campaign, Spaces and Places for Everyone, to set out how it will make the railway more inclusive for every passenger.

Francesca, who has cerebral palsy but prefers to describe herself as “a bit wobbly”, often uses the train to travel around the country for her work as a stand-up comic. While she admits that she has seen a number of accessibility improvements to the railway in recent years, she says that at times she feels as though her needs are “invisible to the rest of society” and that accessibility has historically been a “bolt-on”.

According to research carried out by Populus and commissioned by Network Rail, it would seem that Francesca is not alone. Out of the two-thirds of disabled people who travel by train (67%), a quarter do not feel that their journey will be an easy one (24%), while a third (33%) said they would use the train more if it were more accessible to them.

Encouragingly though, two-thirds of people with a disability (63%) would feel confident using the rail network independently versus 79% of non-disabled people, while more than half of disabled people (58%) believe that accessibility across the rail network is improving despite there being more to do.

Commenting, Francesca Martinez said:

“As a disabled passenger, I often feel as though my needs are invisible to the rest of society and that sometimes people like me are seen as a burden rather than as valued passengers. Most people consider taking the train just a part of everyday life, but there are millions of people like me who need to carefully plan their journeys so they can get around without difficulty.

“This is why I am supporting Network Rail in its campaign to make the railway more suitable for the modern world and accommodating of every single passenger, regardless of their needs. It’s really reassuring that the millions of disabled people in Britain are being considered right from the very start before rail projects leave the drawing board rather than being bolted on as they have been in the past, which will make a huge difference to their rail experiences in the future.”

Mark Carne, chief executive at Network Rail said:

“Most of today’s railway was designed during the Victorian era when attitudes towards disability were very different. Since then, access for disabled people has been tagged on at a later stage, rather than being a part of the initial design strategy for our railway. We know it hasn’t been good enough in the past, and we need to make it easier for disabled people to plan journeys and travel by rail.

“We are committed to changing this, and doing what is necessary to make sure that inclusivity is deeply embedded in our culture. Only then will our railway be a place where everyone can travel equally, confidently and independently.”  

Network Rail, which is responsible for managing 20,000 miles of railway and some of Britain’s biggest and busiest stations, is committed to ‘inclusive design’ – which means putting all passengers at the heart of the design process rather than adding on provisions at a later stage . Inclusive design is already being delivered across its stations, including:

  • A dog ‘spending area’ at the recently rebuilt Birmingham New Street where guide dogs can ‘spend a penny’.
  • At Reading station, visually impaired people have the option of a special audio guide to help them navigate through the station and the town, thanks to a partnership with Microsoft.
  • Lifts and escalators to all platforms at the redeveloped London Bridge, the first half of which opens to passengers this summer.
  • Network Rail has set up the Built Environment Accessibility Panel which consists of disabled passengers who are also experts in inclusive design. The panel provides expert technical and strategic advice to our projects teams.

As part of the campaign, Network Rail invited Francesca to interview Mark Carne so she could find out first-hand what the company is doing to change the way it caters for disabled people.


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Virgin Trains unveils tactile station maps for visually impaired travellers

Blind and partially sighted train travellers can now navigate their way around ten railway stations across England thanks to the arrival of new tactile maps which can be read by touch or sight.

The RNIB Maps for All will be installed at eleven stations across the east coat route. Ten stations already have them on-site: Berwick, Peterborough, Retford, Newark Northgate, Grantham, Darlington, Wakefield Westgate, Doncaster and Durham. Newcastle will follow shortly.

Virgin Trains has worked closely with leading sight loss charity RNIB (Royal National Institute of Blind People) to create RNIB Maps for all eleven stations that it manages on the east coast route – spanning Berwick to Peterborough.*

The maps provide key information such as the location of platforms, toilets, shops and cafes by using a mix of raised large print, Braille and tactile symbols. They are located close to the station entrances to help travellers with sight loss prepare for their journey more easily.

Almost two million people in the UK are living with sight loss and it is predicted that this number will nearly double by 2050. According to RNIB’s recent My Voice research, one quarter of blind and partially sighted people said they were not able to travel by train as much as they would like. Tactile maps are a way of addressing this issue sensitively and practically.

Kawal Gucukoglu, RNIB Transcription Executive, is registered blind herself and was on hand this week to test out the Peterborough map. She said:

“I like the fact it’s a map for everyone – there’s not a separate one for people with and without sight loss. It’s very clear to use with good Braille and print lettering.  Tactile maps are a great idea and will come in useful for loads of travellers.“

Neil Heslop, Managing Director, RNIB Solutions, added:

“We’re pleased to have worked with Virgin Trains in finding an effective solution to make the stations they manage more accessible for people living with sight loss. We will continue to work with industry to look at other ways in which people living with sight loss can travel with greater confidence and independence.”

Debbie Ambler, Virgin Trains Programme Delivery Manager, said: 

“We are committed to working with partners like RNIB to find new ways to make journeys more accessible and enjoyable for all our customers. The tactile maps at stations across our network allow blind and partially sighted customers freedom and independence when travelling. Both at stations and on board our trains, we encourage our people to go the extra mile to offer brilliant service to all our customers. We also have a dedicated team that disabled customers and their friends and family can contact in advance to plan for their journey.”

Customers with disabilities are also encouraged to contact the Virgin Trains Assisted Travel team. They can help with planning journeys, buying tickets, reserving seats and wheelchair space, help at stations, changing trains and on reaching destinations. 

Customers with a disability that makes travelling by train difficult may qualify for discounted travel – ask the Virgin Trains Assisted Travel Team for details.


Telephone: 03457 225 225 (select option 3 then option 4)

Text Relay: 18001 03457 225 225


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VisitEngland launches Access for All campaign

VisitEngland, the national tourist board, is today launching a new Access for All campaign, aimed to raise awareness of accessible destinations and businesses in England, informing disabled people of accommodation and visitor attractions when planning a day trip or holiday.

Following a successful pilot project in 2013/14 with four destinations; VisitEngland accessed funding from the European Commission to expand the Access for All initiative, with a grant of €125,000. For the past year VisitEngland has been working with seven local destination partners across the country to create a series of access guides covering coastal, countryside and city destinations. These are:

  • Visit Kent
  • Marketing Birmingham
  • Visit Lincoln
  • Northumberland Tourism
  • Visit Peak District and Derbyshire
  • Experience Nottinghamshire
  • Visit Brighton

56 businesses are involved in the project including a mix of accommodation and attractions such as Lincoln Cathedral, Brighton & Hove Buses, Chatsworth House, Turner Contemporary, Hotel La Tour, Vindolanda Roman Fort and Nottingham Belfry amongst many others. The businesses involved have worked hard to make changes – focusing on positive action – to improve perceptions of Accessible England.

VisitEngland research highlights that the overnight accessible tourism market is now worth £3billion to the English economy, with day visits bringing the figure up to £12.1 billion. Over the past few years overnight trips by disabled travellers and their companions have increased by 19 per cent with spend up by 33 per cent. 

The Purple Pound presents tourism businesses and destinations with a huge opportunity for economic growth. New figures from VisitEngland confirm an approximate value of overnight accessible tourism to the destinations involved:

  • Kent: £60m
  • Birmingham: £50m
  • Lincoln: £9m
  • Northumberland: £65m
  • Derbyshire: £45m
  • Nottinghamshire: £30m
  • Brighton and Hove: £14m

Some of the great initiatives include those introduced by Brighton & Hove Buses (part of the Go-Ahead group) which provides wheelchair access to 100 per cent of their fleet. They are trialling the use of hearing loop systems on a bus; have a Helping Hand yellow card scheme; offer a wheelchair taxi guarantee if someone cannot get onto the bus and have many innovations to help disabled visitors use their buses.

VisitEngland Chief Executive, James Berresford, said: 

"The accessible tourism market is worth a sizable £12.1 billion to the English economy and many tourism businesses are realising that catering for disabled customers is not only a necessity but a wise investment that brings a host of business benefits. Many of the changes businesses make may be small, but combined contribute significantly to the visitor experience." 


The Access for All project has consisted of two phases: product development, where businesses receive direct support to improve their accessibility with the help of access advisors, and a national consumer marketing campaign launching today. The tourism businesses are being directly supported as part of the project to improve their accessibility. Accommodation and attractions have been audited by a professional access advisor and many have received a mystery visit from guests with accessibility requirements. A training course was held in each destination for accessibility champions and customer-facing staff have completed online disability awareness training. Businesses also received personal feedback on their Access Statement, improving information detailing their accessibility.

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VisitEngland Announces New Marketing Campaign to Develop and Promote Accessible Tourism

Todays announcement from VisitEngland is a significant milestone in recognising the economic and social significance of Inclusive Tourism. England like the rest of the western world, has an ageing demographic that is already impacting the demand for accessible holiday experiences. Worldwide now there are over 1 billion people with some form of disability and with friends and family there are over 4 billion or almost a third of world's population directly affected by disability. The tourism industry has been slow to react to the changing demographic and re-examine its product and service offerings despite repeated projections of the market share of inclusive tourism reaching 25% of the total tourism spend by 2020.

Many people often mistake Inclusive Tourism for access, and believe building ramps and "accessible" bathrooms in compliance with legislation is the end of the matter. Travelers with a disability are the same as any other traveller and they travel to see and experience the world. (see Deborah's great personal article) Why the tourism industry believes any traveller would be content to sit in their "accessible" room for their holiday defies the service culture of the industry and shows the the disabled traveler is not seen as a customer. It is not about building infrastructure, but building experiences and product and that has to start with a destination not a ramp. VisitEngland, with today's announcement have taken a significant step to leverage the cultural awareness created by the London paralympic games and in so doing create for the British tourism industry a signifcant competitve advantage. Other countries need to take a good look at the underlying reasons and the economic significance of Inclusive Tourism or they run the risk of being left out of the fastest growing market in tourism.

VisitEngland's Announcement

VisitEngland today unveiled plans for a national marketing campaign to promote accessible tourism in England next year. The national tourist board will work with five destinations to develop exciting itineraries with top class accommodation and attractions that provide a warm welcome for all visitors including those with access needs. The campaign, a first of its kind, will be promoted through marketing activity starting in late Summer 2013, and is designed to highlight the fantastic tourism experiences on offer to all across the country. 

VisitEngland will work with Leicester Shire Promotions, Visit Brighton, NewcastleGateshead Initiative, Bath Tourism Plus and Chester & Cheshire to identify tourism businesses in their area that provide particularly excellent levels of service to visitors with access needs – such as those with hearing and visual impairments, wheelchair users, older and less mobile people and people with pushchairs.

The national tourist board will then work with the destinations and businesses to ensure that they all meet the same high standard of accessibility, focussing on key issues such as customer service and visitor information. This will incorporate a number of VisitEngland’s tools and resources, such as Access Statements and online disability awareness training. 

The campaign is funded by £100,000 from the Government’s Regional Growth Fund (RGF) plus contributions from partners. It will provide a cost-effective opportunity for English destinations to showcase their accessible tourism businesses and attract more visits from disabled travellers and their companions; a sector worth almost £2billion a year to the domestic tourism industry*.

Paralympic Medallist and TV Presenter, Ade Adepitan, commented: 

“VisitEngland’s accessible tourism campaign is a fantastic example of Paralympic legacy. Promoting destinations in England which are easily accessible and cater to the needs of disabled visitors should inspire all of us to take a break here at home, with the peace of mind that our specific needs will be met so that we can enjoy our holidays to the full.”

James Berresford, VisitEngland’s Chief Executive, commented: 

“The RGF money is a huge boost for accessible tourism in England; these new itineraries will showcase the best this country has to offer to all visitors, regardless of disability. We know that accessible tourism in England is worth almost £2billion, and we want to harness this growing, high-value market to become internationally recognised as a leading destination for people with access needs.”

This marketing activity is phase two of a three-year investment project called ‘Growing Tourism Locally’. Funded by £19.8million from the RGF, the project aims to generate £365million in additional tourism spend over the three year period and inspire more Britons to take more holidays at home. The project should help to stimulate employment to grow jobs in the tourism sector by 9,100 over the three years.

The total investment of the three-year campaign will be approximately £41m including £19.8m from the Regional Growth Fund, £9m from VisitEngland, £12m leveraged from the national and local tourism sector.

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