Making your tourist destination accessible with technology

Michael Hayes

Every tourism business would like to offer their products and services to as many people as possible. It makes sense, the more people able to use your product or service the more customers you can have. However to engage as many customers as possible tourism businesses really need to look at providing additional support and cater their products and services to those with accessibility requirements. Doing this right takes time and there's no silver bullet that will help all scenarios but what role can technology play in this, and specifically our smartphones?

Wayfinding and discovery

Using mapping to improve navigation is hugely useful to everyone but especially so for many with accessibility requirements. Why is it so useful? Well with mapping we can easily highlight amenities. For example highlighting the locations of disabled toilets, or highlighting ramps and lifts for easier access. This is all possible with with maps and by using the power of smart phones we can make these apps clear, easy to pan/zoom/swipe across and able to display current location easily.

But there's more our smartphones could be doing for us. A technology called beacons allows apps (such as those on Pocket Leap) to locate users even indoors. GPS requires line of sight to satellites and doesn't work in built up areas or indoors but with beacons we can locate users in a space even if its indoors. That means we can give useful and insightful messages and prompts to users as they approach relevant amenities.

Delivering useful media

Great content is more than just written content. With smartphones we can deliver video and audio content to customers to enrich their experience. This is a benefit for everyone but particularly for accessibility.

Audio described videos are are a massive benefit for those that are dyslexic, have poor eyesight or are blind. With around one person in 30 being considered partially sighted in the UK it's a huge market that tourism businesses should cater for.

Video and audio content is hugely important for catering to customers that are partially sighted as we can provide audio descriptions and the creation of this content is becoming easier and easier however more has to be done to distribute the content effectively.

There's also the ability to distribute signed video content for deaf customers. With a native mobile app this media can be taken offline and visitors/customers can take that content with them as they explore your attraction or local area.

Smartphone accessibility features

The first iPhone was launched in 2007. Before then most phones had either a numbered keypad or a qwerty keyboard. They were tactile and useable through touch and feel by those with poor sight whereas the iPhone was a slab of glass, there was no way to easily navigate the software buttons. Things have came on a long was since then and modern smartphones have features such as VoiceOver which is showcased in the below advertisement from Apple.

Another great feature of modern smartphones is scaleable text. The user can decide themselves a default font size and weight for all their apps. This makes text across their phone legible and easy for them to read.

Distribute early and make it easy to find

For people with accessibility requirements planning is key. Knowing ahed of time what to expect at a destination is hugely important so as a tourism business you shouldn't wait until someone comes to your business for them to find out useful information. That stands if you're a hotel, attraction, destination or infrastructure; giving early, useful information means people can digest ahead of time and make plans.

Making your business more accessible is not a one time thing. You business is likely to change season to season, month to month and therefore the experience for all customers (including those with accessibility requirements) changes. You need to make sure the content you distribute to them is correct.

If a toilet is broken it should be clear to all customers ahead of time. If a ramp is out of use because of ice or a lift broken then don't direct people towards it. It's massively important that the information is correct for that time of use.

Traditionally this is hard to do. Customers find out about problems like those noted when they get there. With an app on Pocket Leap the accessibility information for your business can be easily updated from the app admin area and ensures customers have the right information when they need it, not when its too late.

Get feedback, always be learning and adapting

Accessibility isn't a one time thing. You need to work on it. Therefore it's essential to capture and learn from feedback and customer behaviour. It's never been easier for all businesses to obtain and analyse data, data is coming from so many sources (a Pocket Leap mobile app is only one such source) and its important to then use data and analytics to make informed business choices that genuinely improve the experience for everyone.

If you’d like to learn more about Pocket Leap drop me an email at [email protected]