NEW INITIATIVE HELPS SAILING HOLIDAY OPERATORS REACH OUT TO DISABLED CUSTOMERS
Seafarer’s Nikiana Beach Club have become the first beach and flotilla sailing venue to receive Geoff Holt Accreditation.
Geoff Holt Accreditation is a new and unique concept aimed directly at the beach and flotilla sailing sector. Venues and their facilities are assessed on their physical accessibility against a range of disability scenarios and key staff receive bespoke awareness training within a maritime context. Once accredited, venues work proactively to promote their services to the disability sector with the endorsement of the Geoff Holt Accredited scheme.
Seafarer’s Nikiana Beach Club is one of several Beach Club and flotilla holiday destinations promoted by One Stop Sailing. Alasdair Boden is the Chief Executive of One Stop Sailing and wants to tap into what he sees as an opportunity to make sailing operators and disabled people aware of the opportunities available;
“We wanted to work with Geoff as he is one of the worlds most recognisable and inspirational disabled sailors. By assessing the operators we work with, understanding what disabilities they can cater for, and which disabilities may not be so easily catered for, we can then plug these businesses into Geoff’s network of disabled communities around the world. Seafarer are our first group to be assessed, now we need to focus our efforts on promoting their Accreditation to the disability community and we will be creating a Geoff Holt Accredited area on our website so disabled people will really have a One Stop opportunity to identify accessible sailing holiday options”.
Geoff Holt is keen to explain that this is not just about wheelchairs;
“The first thing we explain to clients is that an estimated 15% of the UK’s population has some form of disability, that figure equates to nearly 9,000,000 people. Only a fraction of that number, less than 500,000, actually use a wheelchair in the UK. So whilst I would love to see a world that was accessible to everyone, including sailing holidays and boats, I am a realist; that is not going to happen anytime soon. So what about the other 8.5 million people who might be blind, deaf, have a learning disability or physical disability but can still walk? Why are they excluded and why would any business not want a piece of that lucrative Blue Pound? The answer is simple; Fear! Fear on the part of the service providers not knowing what to expect and fear on the part of the disabled people not knowing if their experience will be a positive one. Time and time again, research shows that fear of the unknown is the greatest barrier to participation.
“We believe we have the solution. By working with sailing holiday operators, we are able to identify what disabilities they can cater for with their physical assets; accommodation, boats etc. then we can deliver the exact training they need which will teach frontline staff how to best cater for those disabilities. We do this by engaging trainees in a range of scenarios actually on-site and using a range of bespoke techniques. Once accredited, it is our job to promote these centres to the disability sector and we are well placed to do that”.
ACCREDITATION: THE KEY TO INCLUSIVITY
Andy Fell, founder and CEO of disability practitioners Renard Associates, attended the Seafarer Beach Club in Nikiana as part of the Geoff Holt Accredited team to carry out bespoke disability awareness training and an access assessment of the site, their equipment and their information materials.
Bespoke disability awareness training was carried out for all five members of staff and for a further five training instructors who were studying at the Academy during the time of assessment. Handouts and attendance certificates were issued to all. The members of staff had some background knowledge of disabilities but had never received any formal training.
As Andy explains;
“Nikiana beach club is a small, quiet, family run taverna-style beach club with 25 bedrooms. The club has a freshwater swimming pool and is situated in a traditional village. It was recognised and acknowledged from the outset that this building and its surrounding facilities were not accessible for people with major physical disabilities or wheelchair users. The access assessment was carried out with this in mind and these sections excluded from the normal assessment. However, trip and other hazards were identified and highlighted. All areas were discussed with the club manager during our tour of the site.
“The Seafarer staff were a great group to work with, all had some basic understanding of working with disabled people which had been gained through day to day working rather than any formal training. They were all very keen to learn, take on board and action the information they gained. During the week, one of the paying guest explained that he was hearing impaired, the instructor involved sought advice in adapting his instruction technique for the client. This change in technique and awareness culminated in the guest achieving his level one dinghy certificate”.
Recognising that the venue was not suitable for some disabilities, Nikiana received its accreditation on the basis it would most suit blind, deaf and ambulant disabled guests and the staff were given specific training for these needs.
Chris Lorenzo, managing director of London based Seafarer Cruising & Sailing Holidays commented;
‘We are delighted to be working with the Geoff Holt accreditation scheme and One Stop Sailing in raising awareness of the opportunities for participating in sailing activities and holidays abroad for the disability sector. As a company, we are committed to promoting the benefits of sailing to people of all ages and abilities. We will continue with the training programme for our beach club and flotilla staff across our programmes in Greece, Turkey and Croatia’.
Geoff Holt concludes; “It’s all about someone with a disability having a safe, fun, and worry free experience and making those people aware of the many sailing holiday options available to them. Those of us who sail know the enjoyment we get from it, so it makes sense to ensure that sailing holiday facilities, wherever they may be located around the world, are properly assessed. Our Geoff Holt Accredited programme gives that reassurance to potential customers and the peace of mind knowing that we have taken the worry out of booking their sailing holiday. And don’t forget that 15% figure is only the start; it excludes families and friends who they holiday with. It makes not only common sense, but economic sense too”.
Businesses offering beach club or flotilla holidays who would like to learn more about the Geoff Holt Accredited programme can contact directly through the website;
For more details about Seafarer sailing at Nikiana and future Geoff Holt Accredited destinations, visit;
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