The 9453 Friendly Traveller and OurCityLove Social Enterprise
“Everyone has the right to access leisure and tourism services on an equal basis,” said former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his message on World Tourism Day 2016. The global tourism market is expanding and a significant number of elderly, mobility impaired, families with young children and persons with disabilities (PWDs) are looking to travel.
However, they are often met with difficulty in finding suitable and accessible services. Finding information on accessible services, checking in luggage, and booking an accessible room often prove to be difficult, costly and time-consuming. Elderly and disabled people have access issues that able-bodied individuals do not think about. OurCityLove Social Enterprise actively collaborates with various parties to improve accessible tourism. To learn more about the issue, we conducted a market research on accessible tourism with more than 1,500 respondents in mid-2017, in cooperation with the most authoritative research institute in Taiwan, the Academia Sinica.
The results reveal the following facts:
- The elderly, the disabled as well as their caregivers desire short travels at least four times a year;
- Travelling is the most desirable activity for the mobility-challenged elderly, disabled and their families for relaxation and rebuilding their relationship, love and trust;
- Lack of information on accessible travel makes them feel anxious and nervous as it is a major concern for family travel;
- Uncertainties with accessible transportation, accommodation and support services are the key challenges while organising travel.
In response to such issues, OurCityLove and Taiwan’s leading car manufacturer, Yulon Group, co-started the project “9453 Friendly Traveller” to encourage the elderly, the disabled and their caregivers and families to travel more with less anxiety. This is a unique cooperation between a big company and a small social enterprise to promote social innovation and to implement real accessible tourism services. Initiatives under this cooperation include the design of the “Luxgen V7 Eco-Hyper”, the “9453 Friendly Traveller” info-platform and 9453 Accessible Transportation Service Network and Charity Travels.
Joint Effort to Design Luxgen V7 Eco-Hyper
To create a more human-centred, comfortable and affordable accessible vehicle for senior citizens and PWDs in Taiwan, Yulon and OurCityLove worked with disabled citizens and universal design experts from 2012 to 2016 for the “Luxgen V7 Eco-Hyper”. Designed with the input from representatives from OurCityLove and social welfare institutes, the “Luxgen V7 Eco-Hyper” successfully meets the different needs of travelling families with PWDs.
The increase in the capacity of accessible transportation was welcomed by its target community since its market launch in December 2016.
9453 Friendly Traveller
Working with OurCityLove, Yulon trained and provided incentives to PWDs to contribute accessibility information of restaurants, hotels, and tourist attractions based on their own experience. To share the information, the online web portal “9453 Friendly Traveller”, Taiwan’s first accessible tourism info-platform, was set up in December 2017. Currently, it has accessibility information of 10 cities in Taiwan. A printed version is also available.
The Luxgen V7-Eco-Hyper, the first locally designed and manufactured accessible vehicle in Taiwan.
9453 Accessible Transportation Service Network and Charity Travels
To increase the social impact of “9453 Friendly Traveller” and to implement its market services, Yulon and OurCityLove organised car rental (CARPLUS 格上租車) and 168 taxi drivers with accessible vehicles in different cities, offering family travel services everywhere. It is important that we bring more customers to accessible restaurants, hotels and tourist attractions to encourage other business owners to make their facilities accessible as well.
Furthermore, Yulon and OurCityLove managed to convince private companies to sponsor social welfare associations that organise charity travels for families with PWDs.
My Friendly Country Road
The efforts of “9453 Friendly Traveller” in compiling and sharing accessibility information had encouraged other individuals and organisations to contribute to accessible tourism as well. For example, 63-year-old Mr Hsu Chi-Feng and 38-year-old Ms Huang Shin-Yi, who both suffered spinal cord injury, decided to go a step further by helping facilities become more accessible. They joined a project called “My Friendly Country Road”, an initiative set up jointly by Yulon Group, OurCityLove and the Soil and Water Conservation Bureau, with the objective of becoming more productive members of society. Together with 35 other PWDs, they worked with architects and accessibility experts to reconstruct facilities and introduce assistive services in 53 rural communities. They also shared their success stories to inspire other communities to follow suit. By sharing product design and accessibility knowledge this way, “9453 Friendly Traveller” created a collaborative model of public-private partnership(PPP) for cross-sectoral collaborations to grow its impact.
Mr Hsu shared his sense of accomplishment in connecting stakeholders and achieving tangible outcomes. “I can do something good for society with my disability, no, with my different ability!” says Mr Hsu.
An Accessible World of All, by All and for All
The 11th Sustainable Development Goal of the UN targets to “make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.” In relation to tourism and recreation, this goal calls for the provisions of universal design for accessible and sustainable transport systems, inclusive urbanisation, and access to green and public spaces. It is an endeavour that can only be accomplished through collaboration among government, the private sector, civil society, the elderly and PWDs to provide holistic and effective solutions.
We hope that “9453 Friendly Traveller” could become a good example of cross-sectoral cooperation for promoting accessible tourism. From manufacturing Taiwan’s first accessible vehicle to sharing accessibility information, the success of “9453 Friendly Traveller” stems from seeing beyond “disabled” but seeing “differently abled.”
Providing accessible infrastructure is not just about anti-discrimination and regulation compliance. It is also important to ensure there is a sustainable business model for the elderly and PWDs to participate in an inclusive economy.
As ageing population becomes a challenge to more societies, getting the elderly involved in helping the elderly will create positive economic and social impact. Those who participate in enabling accessible tourismcould derive additional income from a viable social enterprise, like OurCityLove. This will ultimately make them more financially independent, and enjoy a better quality of life.
Mr and Mrs Hsu working with rural community partners in Hualien, Taiwan.
PROF DR LIN
Prof Dr Lin is the Vice President of Wenzao Ursuline University of Languages, and the
founder of OurCityLove Social Enterprise Taiwan. Under his curation, OurCityLove
developed a series of smartphone/web applications and cloud services for accessibility information of various cities. For more information about OurCityLove’s work, visit the following websites:
• 9453 Friendly Traveller Web Portal in Chinese http://www.9453.ourcitylove.com/
• 9453 My Friendly Country Road in English http://ruralcurator.swcb.gov.tw/FriendlyEn/Home/Travel