Providing access for all

Accessibilty Guides. A national scheme. Dedicated courses. We've pulled together a host of tips and advice to help you cater for visitors with accessibility requirements, a market worth £12 billion.

More than one in six people in England and Wales have an ‘activity limiting’ health problem or disability. British and international visitors from this market segment currently spend over £3 billion on overnight tourism trips in England each year. In short, improving your accessibility could improve your business.

There are three aspects all businesses need to address to provide access for all:

  • Customer service and training – being disability aware with the right attitude and confidence to serve all customers
  • Information and marketing – providing detailed information on the accessibility of your facilities and services and making this information easy to find
  • Physical facilities – making reasonable adjustments to buildings and facilities so they are easy for everyone to enter and move around

We provide a range of guidance, tools and resources to help you provide access for all. Make some quick and low-cost improvements using Easy does it' (PDF, 5MB); write an Accessibility Guide and promote your accessibility using ‘Speak up!' (PDF, 2MB!), our annual Inclusive Tourism award and the National Accessible Scheme.


Understanding the accessible tourism market

Good accessibility benefits all visitors. Disabled people have the greatest need for accessible facilities and services but only around 8% use a wheelchair, with many more having other mobility, hearing or visual impairments. People with health conditions and impairments – and their travelling companions – spend £12 billion a year on tourism in England.

VisitEngland's Purple Pound Infographic

  • In 2015, nearly one in five tourism day trips in England were taken by people with an impairment and their travelling companions, spending £8.5 billion.
  • In 2015, 18% of all overnight trips by British residents in England were taken by those with an impairment and their travelling companions, worth £3.2 billion.
  • Over half a million people with a health condition or impairment visit England from abroad each year, spending around £3 million.

In addition to this, our research reveals that visitors who make up the accessible tourism market are:

  • More likely to take longer trips
  • Find seaside destinations particularly appealing
  • Anecdotally very loyal

Find out more about the value of the Purple Pound market in our full infographic (PDF, 2MB).

You can also read our 'At Your Service' guide (PDF, 2MB) to learn more about the accessible tourism market. 


a museum employee spending time with a disabled child (c) VisitEngland/VisitBritain/PawelLiberaBecoming disability aware

Disability awareness training programmes

To be able to confidently serve disabled customers you and your staff need to become disability aware. This means developing an understanding of specific visible and hidden disabilities, appropriate language to use and practical advice on providing an accessible service.

There are a number of courses specifically for those working in the tourism industry, including:  

In 2015 a series of engaging classroom disability awareness training sessions were run by Visits Unlimited, Access for All UK and Access Solutions as part of our Access for All Project.

Training slides

To ensure all guests receive a high level of customer service, it's vital all staff receive at least a basic level of inclusive tourism training. Try including these inclusive tourism training slides (PPT, 3KB) into staff induction and refresher training. The slides cover an introduction to disability and providing access for all; they also include two activities and detailed supporting notes for the trainer. 

Who is your Accessibility Champion?

In order for your business or destination to become truly inclusive, you need an Accessibility Champion driving access for all. Find out more in the Accessibility Champion brief (PDF, 75KB), developed by England’s Inclusive Tourism Action Group.


a tour at the Houses of Parliament, including a visitor with a wheelchair (c)VisitEngland/LukeRogersMaking your facilities accessible

Accessibility is about making things easier and comfortable for your customers. Our ‘Easy does it’ guide (PDF, 5MB) lists many simple and low-cost improvements you can make from providing seating for those who can’t stand for long periods, to using coloured towels in a white bathroom to provide visual contrast.

For accommodation businesses, the National Accessible Scheme (NAS) booklet is your complete guide to improving accessibility, including a set of mobility, hearing and visual standards for you to work through, as well as diagrams, supplier contacts and more. 

For some disabled people a hoist is required when staying away overnight. For information on providing a hoist - a powered device used to lift and move or transfer a person from one position to another - read The Use of Hoists in Guest Accommodation, published by the Inclusive Hotels Network.


A woman with a hearing aid (c)VisitEngland/VisitBritain/PawelLiberaWelcoming customers with hearing loss

Hearing loss affects more than 10 million people in the UK. And it's growing – by 2031 a massive 14.5 million people in the UK will have hearing loss.

Watch our case study videos to discover some of the real barriers customers with hearing loss face when staying in visitor accommodation and pick up tips and advice from our Listen Up! guide (PDF, 8MB).

Further guidance is available in Access to Hotels for People with Hearing Loss, published by the Inclusive Hotels Network.



A family including a child with autismWelcoming autistic customers

Autism is much more common than most people think. There are around 700,000 people in the UK on the autism spectrum – that’s more than 1 in 100. Together with their families, this means autism is a part of daily life for 2.8 million people.

Our Welcoming autistic people guide (PDF, 597KB), produced in partnership with The National Autistic Society and England’s Inclusive Tourism Action Group, shares top tips on improving customer service for autistic customers. Examples include what kind of information to give in advance, offering quieter routes through your venue and providing a chill out space.


an elderly couple checking in at a hotel (c)VisitEngland/VisitBritain/PawelLiberaPromoting your accessibility

People with accessibility requirements are constantly searching for places to stay and visit that'll meet their individual needs. Tourism operators can produce and publish an Accessibility Guide, previously known as an Access Statement, to provide potential visitors with important accessibility information about different venues. 

Our Speak Up! guide (PDF, 6MB) looks at how prospective customers access information, what communication channels they value and what prompts them to book. It'll help you to demystify the process of reaching out to disabled people and turns your business into one that talks confidently to this market. The guide contains tips on providing a website that's accessible to all, providing information in alternative formats and appropriate language to use in your marketing.

Also check out the dos and don'ts of accessible communications by downloading the Business Disability Forum's infographic (PDF, 1MB).


Access for All project 2014-2016

Following a successful pilot project in 2013/14, VisitEngland accessed a grant of up to €125,000 from the European Commission to expand our Access for All initiative. We partnered with seven destinations to develop and promote accessible countryside, coastal and city itineraries.

The project consisted of two phases: product development, where 56 businesses were supported in improving their accessibility, and a national consumer marketing campaign in partnership with the Express newspaper. The campaign comprised of supplements, online and print adverts, competitions and more, and surpassed its target of generating £12m by delivering £32m in incremental spend.

Find more in the Access for All Project Roundup (PDF, 3.4MB), including the project overview video on our YouTube channel.


England’s Inclusive Tourism Action Group (EITAG)

This group was set up following the Unlocking the Purple Pound conference and Think Tank event in 2015. It comprises a range of leading accessible tourism stakeholders who share the vision for England to provide a wide range of world-class accessible tourism experiences that every person with accessibility requirements can enjoy. The group undertakes a range of activities to: increase engagement of tourism destinations and businesses in the provision of access for all; raise awareness of accessible tourism experiences amongst disabled people. The current Chair is Arnold Fewell, Managing Director AVF Marketing Ltd and AccessChamp. Find more information on EITAG (PDF, 401KB).

The group's work has included the production of the Top 10 tips on inclusive tourism (PDF, 153KB) and Accessibility Champion brief (PDF, 75KB). EITAG also partnered with VisitEngland and the National Autistic Society to produce a Welcoming autistic people guide (PDF, 597KB).