Sunshine Coast to bolster accessible tourism via new program

(L-R) Visit Sunshine Coast CEO Matt Stockel, Fin Coll, Cerge co-founder Victoria Kerrisk, Spinal LIfe Australia Senior Advisor – Access & Advocacy, Cerge co-founder Chris Kerrisk, Spinal Life Business Diversity and Inclusion Officer Brendan Somerville, Sunshine Coast Council Tourism Lead Amanda Fernandes and Sunshine Coast Council Community Development Officer Jane Goodwin.

Spinal Life Australia and Cérge are set to launch their ground-breaking Access Accelerator program on the Sunshine Coast with the goal of making tourism more accessible, inclusive, and welcoming to travellers with diverse accessibility needs.

Spinal Life Australia and Cérge successfully applied for a Queensland Government Accessible Tourism Enablers Grant as part of the Year of Accessible Tourism in Queensland.

The program aims to empower businesses and equip them with the knowledge, tools and confidence to create accessible tourism destinations through immersive disability awareness training, adoption of appropriate technology, guided access and sharing of real-life stories of inclusion experienced by customers.

The Access Accelerator program followed research which revealed that up to 1.3 million Australians are represented in the accessible tourism sector but service and hospitality staff did not always understand the requirements of people travelling with a disability. The Access Accelerator program aims to remove the barrier to inclusion in the tourism industry.

Beach accessible matting at Mooloolaba Beach. (Supplied)

Spinal Life Australia and Cérge’s new program combines immersive disability awareness training and technology to promote an inclusive and accessible experience to all visitors.

“As a destination we know it’s important to be more inclusive and this is a step in the right direction,’ CEO, Visit Sunshine Coast, Matt Stoeckel, said. 

“The Access Accelerator program will give tourism operators on the Sunshine Coast the tools to better cater to the accessible tourism market. 

“The program will enable the participating tourism operators to better understand the accessible tourism market and improve the experience for those travelling with a disability.

“We are eager to work closely with Spinal Life Australia and Cérge to ensure our local tourism operators embrace accessibility and create memorable experiences for every visitor.”

Chris Kerrisk, co-founder of Cérge, also put forward his support for partnering with Spinal Life in the successful delivery of this program.

“We are proud to be partnering with Spinal Life Australia to deliver this transformative program,” Kerrisk, said.

“Through the Access Accelerator, businesses will not only enhance their services for customers with disability but also gain a competitive edge in the growing accessible tourism market.”

The Access Accelerator program is slated to kick off in October 2023, with a series of industry-leading workshops and training sessions for participating tourism organisations to gain first-hand insight into what it may be like to have a disability. These workshops will be spread across multiple delivery dates to accommodate business operations and staff turnover, ensuring maximum participation and impact.

Dane Cross, Senior Advisor – Access & Advocacy of Spinal Life Australia, is thrilled to be part of this next step in championing accessibility within tourism.

“We are delighted to receive the Accessible Tourism Enablers Grant, as it reaffirms our commitment to making Queensland a leader in accessible tourism,” Cross, said.

“This funding will enable us to roll out the Access Accelerator program to a diverse group of 50 tourism operators, including those on the Sunshine Coast.

Our aim is to create inclusive destinations that set a benchmark for accessibility in Australia.”

Spinal Life Australia and Cérge extend their gratitude to the Queensland Government for recognising the importance of accessible tourism and supporting this scalable and transformative initiative.

The funding success underscores the collective commitment to building a more inclusive and accessible Queensland.


Featured Image: (L-R) Visit Sunshine Coast CEO Matt Stockel, Fin Coll, Cerge co-founder Victoria Kerrisk, Spinal LIfe Australia Senior Advisor – Access & Advocacy, Cerge co-founder Chris Kerrisk, Spinal Life Business Diversity and Inclusion Officer Brendan Somerville, Sunshine Coast Council Tourism Lead Amanda Fernandes and Sunshine Coast Council Community Development Officer Jane Goodwin. (Supplied)

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