Accessible tourism for all and us

In it´s deeper nature, accessible tourism means taking into consideration everyones needs that come along with travelling. Foremost it means simple, independent and without further help access to buildings, outdoor areas, tourism attractions and other tourism products. Main focus in tourism for all is on assurance of physical accessibility, but equally important is the availability of information and service.

In Estonia the development of accessibility in public space is guided by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications Building Act regulation „Requirements for people with mobility, vision and hearing impairment to ensure the mobility in public buildings“ (unfortunately it is only in Estonian). This regulation establishes requirements to ensure the mobility of the disabled people in public buildings, in order to guarantee them barrierfree movement in public buildings and places (§ 1).

For travelers visiting Estonia, the public buildings are:

1) buildings, where there are communication, traffic or parking services for the public; art or other cultural or sports services; hobby, leisure or shopping or bank services; accommodation or catering services;

2) hospitals, health care or similar facilities;

3) the public facilities, which make public buildings accessible;

4) streets, squares, green spaces and playgrounds (§ 2, paragraph 1, point 1-6).

Rooms inside public buildings must be accessible via adapted pathway. If public rooms in a building are located on different floors or levels, it is required that there must be a wheelchair lift or a ramp that is accessible for people with reduced mobility (§ 13 section 1). Generally doors must be without threshold. However, if certain structural requirements require a threshold, its height must not exceed 20 mm (§ 14 section 2). It is also intended that in public buildings there must be at least one bathroom, which is easily accessible (§ 10).

Summarizing the preceding, it is obliged by the law for all public service providers in Estonia like museums and other tourist attractions, accommodation facilities such as hotels, bus and train stations, shopping centers, restaurants etc. to ensure accessibility. However, we wish to highlight that not all obligated by law is applied in real life, and therefore sometimes the information offered on accessibility may be incomplete. In order not to remain on the sidelines and be sure that you can fully enjoy your holiday, we recommend to previously contact museums, restaurants etc. you are interested in to find out their true capability. While travelling it is good to participate your friends and family, or ask help from passer-by and service staff. Also, always feel free to contact us and together we will help you put together a wonderful and memorable trip.

As disabled and chronically ill, elderly, pregnant or families with small children are target groups whose needs should especially be taken into consideration, then in the heart of the development of inclusive tourism are people with special needs.

Starting point of calling into existence products of Accessible Tourism, there are five key aspects:

  • destination infrastructure and facilities are free of obstacles
  • destination is accessible by means of transport, which are suitable for all users
  • to provide quality services, which are carried out by trained staff
  • everyone can take part in all activities, all exhibits and attractions are accessible
  • provided information of reservation systems, marketing, websites and other services is available to everyone.

In selection of destinations we prefer general conditions which are also presented to the EDEN (The European Destinations of Excellence) destinations, which are:

  • so-called non-traditional attraction, where rather few visitors goes (compared to the national average)
  • tourism services are provided in a manner that ensures social, cultural and environmental sustainability
  • destinations are managed, in cooperation with the parties involved, by all the regional government bureaus or tourism establishments
  • for the destination, there exists (or is under construction) marketing management structure and strategy for sustainable tourism development.

What is EDEN and how is it related to accessibility and Estonia as a tourist destination?

EDEN helps to discover Europe’s hidden treasures.

The European Destinations of ExcelleNce (EDEN) seeks to promote sustainable tourism development models across Europe. The initiative, which was launched in 2006, is based on national competitions that take place every year and result in the selection of a tourist ‘destination of excellence’ for each participating country. Through the award, EDEN draws attention to the values, diversity and common features of these European tourist destinations. It enhances the visibility of these emerging locations, creates a platform for sharing good practices across Europe and promotes networking between awarded regions. This European quest for excellence in tourism is developed around an annual theme, chosen by the European Commission together with the relevant national tourism authorities. The themes so far include: rural tourism in 2007, intangible heritage in 2008, protected areas in 2009, aquatic tourism in 2010, regeneration of physical sites in 2011, and accessible tourism in 2013.

One of Estonia’s undiscovered treasure´s is town Haapsalu, which was recognized by the European Commission in its 2006th year launched the tourism development project EDEN. In 2013 the competition´s main subject was accessibility, and the nominated project from Estonia was based on Haapsalu´s accessibility investigation and acknowledging the possibilities of both the project’s direct target group of people with special needs as elderly, families with small children and people with temporary moving impairment. Competition organizers said the Haapsalu town´s project is not 100% accessible, but there are all prerequisites for the development of the field, and to contribute to the development of tourism for all in Estonia.

More information about EDEN´s Haapsalu project, see video here.