News from Northwest ADA Center – Idaho
How Chester Became the Most Accessible City in Europe
For disabled people, the difference between being able to visit a place or not often comes down to small details. A step up to a restaurant and no ramp in sight. A pub with the function room upstairs, make attending a birthday party impossible. A curb that hasn’t been flattened, essentially imprisoning you in the road. Some cities can feel like no-go areas.
It’s the same the world over. Disabled tourists must often pay more for accommodation because they need large, accessible rooms. Paris’s enormous curbs are a menace. Eight out of 10 disabled people say they struggle when holidaying in the UK, with access to hotel rooms, bars, restaurants and sightseeing spots topping the list.
So when Chester was crowned the most accessible city in Europe it came as something of a shock. This is an ancient city, famed for its Roman walls and Tudor half-timber shopping quarters.
But becoming accessible was a commitment they made over many years. It’s this long term approach that caught the eyes of the judges rather than new big developments. And it’s clear accessibility is a prudent investment as disabled tourism nets 3 billion a year.
There are tour guides, city centre access guides, signs and online help with navigating the city. There are two-tier shopping areas from the 13th century that are 100% suitable for wheelchairs. And street level entrances from 100 years ago have had ramps added. Elevators have been added to department stores. Hotels have rooms with ceiling track hoists – a first! Even the theater has access backstage for disabled performers.
But transportation and toilets give Chester the edge over other cities. All of the public buses are fully accessible. Licensed taxies have to be as well and include color contrasted grab bars. There are seven restrooms that include hoists and changing benches for people who can’t use standard accessible toilets. Other cities are taking note and visiting to see what they can do in their communities.
Dana Gover, MPA, and ACTCP Certification, ADA Training and Technical Assistance Coordinator
For more information about ADA Technical Assistance visit the NW ADA Center Idaho website: nwadacenter.org/idaho
Phone: Voice and Text 208-841-9422
Idaho Relay Service: 7