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Label offers quality holidays for the disabled

Disabled people face many access questions when they go on holiday Mobility International Switzerland

Disabled people face many questions before they book a holiday – does the hotel have adapted rooms? Does the mountain top have wheelchair access?

This content was published on August 27, 2009 - 13:33

A new quality label for holidays for disabled people - Holidays for All - should help to address these issues by not only looking at accessibility and security of holiday providers, but also at the quality of services for the disabled.

The label, the first of its kind in Switzerland, was launched on Wednesday and is the brainchild of Mobility International Switzerland (MIS), an organization that gives holiday information to the disabled.

"We have a few holiday providers who were not so serious about their products for disabled people, so we created this label to give disabled people some security," MIS director Marcus Rocca told swissinfo.ch.

The unveiling event was on a tram that roamed around Zurich's centre. This served to highlight some of the problems facing disabled holidaymakers.

"The accessibility of the buildings is very important, but also the services," Rocca explained. "Is there someone at reception who knows if the Säntis mountain railway is accessible for wheelchair users or if the swimming pool nearby is accessible?"

Awareness of problems

Rocca added that often people were afraid of dealing with disabled holidaymakers. "It is important too that employees are aware of these problems and what disabled people need," Rocca said.

Security is paramount. Wheelchair users won't be able to use the lift in the event of fire, and people with hearing difficulties might not be aware of the alarm, warned Rocca.

The Holidays for All label is therefore only awarded to holiday providers, such as hotels, that have a proven track record in all these areas. They are first inspected and then assessed by a committee.

If an establishment is successful it is awarded the label for three years, when it will have to undergo another assessment. The process costs up to around SFr1,600 ($1,499).

The label, the fruit of two and a half years' work, was awarded to five institutions at the launch. Rocca is hoping that another 30 will join the scheme per year.

A little happiness

Among those who received the label was the Herberge zum kleinen Glück (the little happiness hostel).

This 300-year-old converted farmhouse in Trogen, in the northeastern canton of Appenzell Outer Rhodes, is a holiday home for people with both physical and mental disabilities and has around 1,000 guests a year.

"During the past couple of years we have invested a lot not only in making it comfortable for our guests but also in the human side," said Beatrice Tschanz, who is on the board of the hostel.

"We offer a lot of programmes and excursions and if it's raining, what sometimes happens in Switzerland, we make sure they have some creative input."

The idea is to offer a warm environment. Guests often return, which Tschanz says is a big compliment.

Quality for all

"The quality label is especially important for disabled people. We also like to know whether we are going to a quality establishment, and disabled people also need to know whether there is the right infrastructure, whether they will get support, help and warmth, and whether there will there be other people there," Tschanz told swissinfo.ch.

For the hostel, which relies almost entirely on donations, the label will also be helpful in raising its profile, added Tschanz, former spokeswoman for the now-defunct Swissair airline.

Overall Rocca does not believe that Switzerland is behind other countries when it comes to holiday infrastructure for its around one million disabled people.

"The awareness is perhaps not so big, but I think we now have this law and we have to give people a little bit of time to increase their awareness," the MIS director said, referring to the law for the disabled that came into force on January 1, 2004. This guarantees improved access to public buildings and transport.

"This quality label is also a first step towards giving people the opportunity to create special packages and offers for disabled people."

Isobel Leybold-Johnson in Zurich, swissinfo.ch

Holidays for All

The label has several categories:

A: Information offices, tourism offices, B: Holiday homes with care, B+: Holiday homes with care and medical assistance, C: Catering outlets, D: Holiday and travel bureaus, H: Classic accommodation such as hotels, guesthouses.

The 5 current label holders are: Toggenburg Tourism (A), Herberge zum kleinem Glück in Trogen (B), the Zentrum Elisabeth in Walchwil (B+), Hotel Restaurant Hirschen in Wildhaus (C/H), and the Cerebral Association in Solothurn (D).

The development of the label was supported by the Cerebral Association, the "Denk an Mich" foundation and the Federal Bureau for Equality of People with Disabilities.

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