Open Britain website launch in the House of Lords

Open Britain

A new information resource for disabled travellers and their carers was launched last week in the House of Lords.

The website aims to bring together a wealth of accessibility information for tourism businesses across Britain to help people with access needs plan their trips. Championed by the charity Tourism for All and its partners including VisitEngland, Open Britain will help business in England reach out to the lucrative accessible tourism market.

Guest speaker Paralympian Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, spoke of the challenges people with disabilities face when planning a trip and said

“I hope that every hotel, attraction and restaurant in Britain will take advantage of the chance to easily promote their facilities to disabled travellers.”

 Watch the video of Tanni Grey Thompson’s speech below:

Transcript of this video

Paralympian Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, speeking of the challenges people with disabilities face when planning a trip.

…didn't know I understood what that meant, but I was really lucky that my parents were hugely supportive and kind of very proactive in wanting me to have exactly the same access to whatever it is as anybody else.

And I'm sure every disabled person has horror stories of travelling. I think I can beat Sir William's story of the wheelchair: I lost a chair a few years ago. I had that wonderful phone call the next day saying, "We've got your missing items". I didn't think too much about the plural! They arrived on my doorstep the next day with two sleeping bags! We then had a very interesting discussion saying "No, I lost a wheelchair", them saying "Are you sure?", "Yep, pretty sure!", and them treating me like I was an idiot actually so, "Honestly, it was a wheelchair!". My chair did arrive back three months later; sawn in half! Literally, sawn right in half right down the middle, with the poor chap who had come back to deliver it saying "Can we just stick some duct tape on it?!", so unfortunately string didn't do it(!).

I've also had experiences, as I'm sure many people have, of disabled people trying to book a hotel room. Trying to book a double room as a disabled person is always interesting, because you get things like people saying, "Well, disabled people shouldn't have sex!". Really, do you say that to every other person who comes to book one of your rooms? So it's really interesting.

But there's been so many positive changes. But this is why I'm really excited about the website, is because it gives disabled people far more choice than they've ever had before. Because I remember those days of getting the AA book or the RAC book, before Internet, before Wi-Fi, and just trying to kind of find your way around and get stuff, that, you kind of had to make do. And actually, it's not right that disabled people have to make do. You know, they have money to spend, and they should be allowed to spend it, and any business that kind of wants the money should recognise that there's a really decent market out there and do as much as they can to make it easy.

And I think this is wonderful because it means that you actually have real choice about where you go and stay. You don't have to just make do. You can actually choose where you spend your money, and I think what we'll see over time is more and more businesses recognising that this is really positive.

Possibly the best piece of advice I ever had when I came to the House of Lords was if somebody's already spoken and said it, don't repeat it, so I won't repeat everything that Magnus said, but really, really important things about recognising the value of disabled people, and recognising the money they have to spend and what they want to do. And actually, it's about being, you know, an all-round balanced business, and what I just would love to do is just encourage any business who, you know, wants to carry on making money is join up and be part of this website because it's absolutely fantastic, and well done to Jennie and everybody else who has made it happen.

I know it hasn't been easy, there's been some ups and downs along the way, but, you know, it's a true testament to all the work of Tourism for All for making this happen, and this is a massively positive step in opening the lives of disabled people to live in something that's a truly inclusive society.

Thank you.

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