Itinerary and walking maps for visitors with disabilities
- Maps of Bruges
- Visit Flanders
- Country of Implementation
- Western Europe
- Start Year
- First published
“I have a dream, I dream that every town and city with all its buildings and places of interest will be fully accessible to people with disabilities.” Geert Dumoulin, a wheelchair user
Visit Flanders is the official tourism administration in Flanders, the northern region of Belgium. In 2015, Visit Flanders worked together with all relevant national, regional, provincial and local authorities and the accessibility agency Inter to make the historic town of Bruges more accessible for people with disabilities. The result is a dedicated walking map and itinerary targeted at people with various disabilities and impairments, and at visitors with mobility problems such as parents with strollers. More than 1,100 maps have been distributed to date, and more than 2,000 digital copies were downloaded from the website.
Bruges is a historic city with cobblestoned streets and squares, narrow passages, heritage buildings, and many canals. The city attracts national and international tourists; but for elderly people, wheelchair users, and the visually impaired, Bruges presents many obstacles.
Solution, Innovation and Impact
Bruges wants to be an attractive city for every visitor, and to that end an accessible tourism plan was created and implemented. A wide scope of informants with specific needs has been involved: the blind and visually impaired, wheelchair users, and persons with walking difficulties. Infrastructure was adapted with respect to the historic authenticity of the city; tour guides and museum and reception staff were trained; and practical information about the accessibility of the whole service chain was collected. The resulting brochure contains a walking map with ten different routes through the historic city centre, connecting the touristic highlights while avoiding the worst obstacles. The brochure also describes the accessible facilities along the way (accommodation, attractions, restaurants, cafés, public toilets, transport and parking facilities, care and mobility aids, etc.). The wide scope and geographical size of the project are very ambitious since the information offered is not limited to a specific type of facility, but includes the whole tourism value chain, thereby providing information about an entire holiday destination.
Funding, Outlook and Transferability
The brochure information will be updated every two years, at which time new initiatives will be screened and added. Visit Flanders believes that the project can be easily replicated by other historical cities throughout the world. The personnel of the city of Bruges as well as the municipal council have become deeply involved with the theme of accessibility; and the project analysis has pointed out some bottle necks that have immediately been (or planned to be) tackled by the city. Due to this gathered knowledge, the city now pays much closer attention to a “design for all” when considering new projects. Moreover, following the Bruges example other city boards now feel the urge to invest in the realization of an accessible tourism chain in their own town. The Bruges example has inspired a similar walking map in Ghent (2017, not in cooperation with Visit Flanders), and upcoming initiatives include Mechelen and Leuven. Thus far, Visit Flanders has invested approximately €150,000 in the project.