NSAI Awarded for World First Tourism Accessibility Standard

NSAI Awarded for World First Tourism Accessibility Standard

The National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) has received a top international award for a new innovative standard for the tourism sector.

I.S. 373:2013 ‘Universal Design for customer engagement in tourism services’ helps tourism providers to make their products or services more accessible, by improving various types of communication, such as written, verbal and electronic. This Irish standard and free toolkit, the first of its kind in the world, enables tourism providers to communicate more effectively with a wider range of tourists, helping to improve customer services and increase revenue.

Published by NSAI in 2013, this standard was a collaborative project between the National Disability Authority, the Equality Authority and Fáilte Ireland. 2015 was a record year for tourism in Ireland, with 8.6 million overseas visitors – one million more tourists in Ireland compared to 2014.

James Hubbard, Senior Design Advisor at the National Disability Authority and Chairperson of the NSAI Technical Committee, who developed the standard, said as visitor numbers increase, now more than ever, it is vital that Irish tourism providers ensure their products and services are more accessible.

“Universal Design for customer engagement extends beyond a focus on disability and special needs to include all people, regardless of their age, size, ability or disability. We developed this standard because we wanted to make tourism more equal and accessible for all visitors who come to Ireland.

“When implemented, this standard benefits everyone: from the mum with a buggy, to an elderly person hard of hearing, and to those with severe disabilities. Research carried out on businesses that use the standard demonstrates that it does improve customer communications and increase sales.”

The Irish standard was named Most Innovative Policy by the Zero Project, at an awards ceremony at the United Nations Building in Vienna, Austria. At the awards ceremony (above) were Martin Essl, Essl Foundation; Gerald Craddock, National Disability Authority; Elizabeth O’Ferrall, NSAI; James Hubbard, National Disability Authority; and Jakob von Uexkull, World Future Council.

Accepting the award, Elizabeth O’Ferrall, NSAI Project Manager, said the standard demonstrates that Ireland is a world leader in the development of standards for universal design.

“This standard is a world first and has proven to be so effective that tourism providers overseas have now begun enquiring about how it can be used to improve tourism services and products in their countries.”

John Mulcahy, Fáilte Ireland’s Head of Hospitality and Standards, said businesses within the tourism sector are already starting to see the benefits of using this standard. “We were very happy to work with NSAI to develop this standard for customer service in the hospitality sector. We believe that this new standard can guarantee a first-class service for all and would encourage its use throughout the industry.”

Among the tourism providers who have already implemented this standard is Clewbay Hotel in Co Mayo. Co-owner Maria Ruddy said her team followed the checklist for written communication, in order to make their menus easier to read and understand. “By using this standard and making small changes, our staff were able to focus more on selling rather than answering queries. This resulted in an increase in food sales per server.”

Dinner and show venue The Purty Kitchen in Dun Laoghaire used the web communication toolkit to improve the online customer experience of its website. Owner Ashley Sheridan said: “By listening to our diverse range of customers, and following the step-by-step guidance in the toolkit, we made it easier for our customers to find out about up-coming events and to buy tickets online. By making these small changes, we increased our online revenue by 100% as all our customers now find it easier to book online.”

This universal design standard and toolkit are proven to work for all types of tourism businesses. The standard is available on the website or click here: The toolkit can also be downloaded for free at

There is also a soundcloud link of James Hubbard speaking about the standard:

A video with Purty Kitchen, Jury’s Inn, Clewbay Hotel, and Viking Splash explaining how their businesses have benefitted from using the standard is at:

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NEIL STEEDMAN has been a trade journalist, editor and proofreader for 53 years, and ITTN's News & Features Editor for 43 years. His travel blog is at

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