Visit Flanders showcase accessibility across the region

case studies, 2016, DMOs, Belgium

Visit Flanders showcase accessibility across the region

Visit Flanders is the destination management organisation (DMO) for the North of Belgium. They have been working on raising awareness of the accessibility across the region for over fifteen years. Getting involved in Disabled Access Day seemed like a great way to raise the profile further and make more people, across the world, aware of the accessible attractions and holiday accommodation in the region.

We spoke to Pieter Ghijsels the Accessible Policy Tourism Advisor at Visit Flanders about their involvement. Pieter told us about what happened across the region and the different steps they’ve taken as a DMO to promote the accessible attractions located there.

Screenshot of the Visit Flanders Disabled Access Day website

Visit Flanders got involved in the day with the aim to inspire disabled people to visit Flanders and enjoy a day out or holiday in the region together with friends and family. In order to raise awareness of the day, they created a dedicated website (http://www.accessday.be/) that explained the aims of the day, including information about the venues taking part and their accessibility.

In addition to the website, Visit Flanders also promoted their new ‘plan your trip’ tool which is an interactive map of accessible tourist destinations, searchable by accommodation type, point of interest and activity. Not only available in Dutch, but in English too, making it easy for visitors from English speaking countries to find accessible locations in Flanders and plan their trip.

Showing how important partnership working is, Visit Flanders got together with On Wheels, a local disability organisation, and the national radio station, Radio 2, to raise awareness about the day and encourage people to get involved. Together they decided to create an ‘Accessibility Week’ from 7th – 12th March, which included two dedicated radio shows each day on accessibility!

Not only this, Visit Flanders also updated their tourism brochure on accessible day trips to Flanders and saw a huge increase in the number of downloads throughout Accessibility Week.

Visit Flanders got in touch with all of the venues they work with about the day and advised that they might have more disabled customers on 12th March, providing them with advice and tips. This encouraged a dozen or so visitor attractions and museums to put on specific events for the day, including free Flemish Sign Language (VGT) interpreted tours and the promotion of virtual tours of less accessible parts of venues.

For Visit Flanders, the day was not just about providing a great experience for disabled people but also making all activities inclusive for everyone and encouraging people to have a go at things they might not normally do, like a tactile city tour. The activities across the region piqued the interest of the national news organisation VRT news, who joined a group of blind and visually impaired people on an audio described tour, increasing awareness of accessibility even further.

Photograph of people taking part in a flashmob

To top off the range of activities going on, a flashmob was co-ordinated between the four main cities: Bruges, Antwerp, Ghent and Hasselt. Dancers came together to celebrate Access Day and in the style of it being an inclusive event, everyone was welcome. 

Visit Flanders have shown how a DMO can work with its partners, local charities and media outlets to put on a successful Disabled Access Day event (or week!). We hope that many more DMO’s across Europe and beyond will get involved in Disabled Access Day 2017 to highlight their accessibility and encourage people to visit their country, city or region. If you’re interested in getting involved, find out more information on our website or email takepart@disabledaccessday.com