Accessible Tourism by Ablebook

On October 25, 2023, the event organized by Ablebook took place at Radisson Blu Larnaka, highlighting the importance of Accessible Tourism in Cyprus and especially the necessity of accessibility for the disabled in the hotel units of Cyprus.

Important topics were presented during the conference, including: Analysis of the challenges facing the hotel sector in terms of accessibility and needs of PWDs and “How Ablebook app contributes to PWD Tourism” by Ablebook CBO Symeon Stylianou.

Presentation of specialized equipment by Mr. Marco Ragno, Export Manager of Ponte Giulio. Presentation of practical experience as a tourist with a disability by Rafaela Miltiadou, Marketing Manager of Altamira Real Estate. The CEO and founder of Ablebook, Andreas Vassiliou, the Deputy Minister of Tourism, Mr. Kostas Koumis, the Mayor of Larnaca, Mr. Andreas Vyras, and the President of PASYXE Larnaca, Mr. Marios Polyviou, delivered greetings at the conference.

The event would not be possible without the generous support of its sponsors, including major sponsor doValue Cyprus, Radisson Blu Hotel, as well as sponsors Ygia Polyclinic Private Hospital, Chooseyourcyprus, BauTech Systems, as well as Reisswolf supporters, Harris Kyriakides Law Firm and Shikkis Bros Ltd.

Event for Accessible Tourism in Cyprus

Ablebook announces the organization of an important conference on the accessibility of PWDs (Persons with Disabilities) in tourism services, especially in the hotel units of Cyprus. The conference will take place on October 25, 2023, at the Radisson Blu Larnaka, with a rich program that will present practical solutions, products and mechanisms aimed at improving the accessibility of hotel services for the disabled. You are also under the auspices of PASYXE.

The aim of this conference is to promote tourism for People with Disabilities and to improve accessibility in general in the field of tourism and culture. Cyprus already offers significant advantages, such as short distances, good climate and safe beaches, making this country ideal for such initiatives.

In the framework of this conference, will be presented:

  1. Ablebook App Special Partnerships and Benefits: Introducing the Ablebook app and the products it offers to improve accessibility.
  2. Challenges of the Hotel Sector and Needs of the Disabled: Analysis of the challenges facing the hotel sector in terms of accessibility and the needs of the disabled.
  3. New Trends in Products for the Disabled in the Sanitary Ware Sector: Presentation of specialized equipment for people with disabilities in the sanitary ware sector by Mr. Marco Ragno Export Manager of Ponte Gulio, exclusive agent Studio Bagno.
  4. Experiential Experiences: Presentation of experiential experience as a disabled tourist by Rafaela Miltiadou, Marketing Manager of Altamira Real Estate.

Ablebook Ltd is one of the innovative companies in Cyprus active in the field of accessibility and social awareness. Through the Ablebook app, it aims to improve the quality of life of People with Disabilities and other vulnerable groups, enabling them to fully participate in society and access social goods.

If you are interested in participating in the event, please fill out the registration form below at Microsoft Forms.

We invite you to participate in our day and contribute to the promotion of accessibility and integration of the disabled in the tourism sector in Cyprus. Together we can create a more open and friendly society for everyone.

We would like to thank our sponsors for their support to make this event happen, our Major sponsor doValue Cyprus, the Radisson Blu Hotel where the event will take place, and the sponsors Polyclinic Health, Choose Your Cyprus and Bautech Systems.

The important work being carried out in supported living accommodations in Cyprus.

Every individual, without exception, has the right to life. This should be considered a given. In recent years, significant steps have been taken regarding people with disabilities, as society tends to become more informed about these issues, developing greater sensitivity and understanding.

What many may not know is that in Cyprus, there are supported living residences for individuals with intellectual disabilities and autism. To shed light on this significant work of social integration taking place in these residences, Litsa Charalambous spoke to CITY. We met her at a residence for individuals with autism located in Limassol. Ms. Charalambous studied occupational therapy, pursued a postgraduate degree in equality and education issues, and later completed her doctoral thesis, which focused on the assessment and training of individuals with disabilities for their inclusion in the labor market. Subsequently, she attended numerous European conferences abroad but felt that the knowledge she gained couldn’t be effectively utilized in Cyprus.

Every individual, without exception, has the right to life. This should be considered a given. In recent years, significant steps have been taken regarding people with disabilities, as society tends to become more informed about these issues, developing greater sensitivity and understanding.

What many may not know is that in Cyprus, there are supported living residences for individuals with intellectual disabilities and autism. To shed light on this significant work of social integration taking place in these residences, Litsa Charalambous spoke to CITY. We met her at a residence for individuals with autism located in Limassol. Ms. Charalambous studied occupational therapy, pursued a postgraduate degree in equality and education issues, and later completed her doctoral thesis, which focused on the assessment and training of individuals with disabilities for their inclusion in the labor market. Subsequently, she attended numerous European conferences abroad but felt that the knowledge she gained couldn’t be effectively utilized in Cyprus.

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities represents a milestone in global history. It clarifies how all the rights and freedoms apply to these individuals with the aim of ensuring the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights. It also outlines the obligations of United Nations member states and suggests measures to satisfy the rights of persons with disabilities. Following an evaluation of Cyprus on how well it complies with this convention, approximately 70 negative points were identified, leading the Cypriot government to essentially establish supported living accommodations. From 2014 to 2020, eleven new supported living accommodations were established in all the provinces of Cyprus. After a new announcement, another seven accommodations were put into operation in March 2020. Then, in September 2021, four more homes were opened, two for individuals with autism in Limassol and one home for five individuals with intellectual disabilities in the Larnaca province. “We bear full responsibility from the beginning to set up these homes, but the state covers the financial support through European funds. The organization is closely monitored and supervised. Every month, we provide a report on each individual, their visits, when they leave the house, and the therapies they receive. The social inclusion department of the Ministry of Labor also visits the homes twice a week to ensure the proper functioning of the residence.”

Difficult cases

These homes were called upon to manage the most difficult cases. Authorities had in mind three specific individuals who were very challenging to handle; they were moved from place to place, and no solution could be found. “We are proud that these individuals came to us, and despite there being no way to manage them, we succeeded. These are individuals who have not learned to have functional relationships. Families reach a dead end, and with our supervision, they consider it a miracle because they now see a different person. The change in their behavior is staggering. It is a great joy for us, albeit with a lot of effort, to help individuals with autism,” emphasized Ms. Charalambous. The approach they use in these homes is called ‘positive behavior support.’ In other words, there is no punishment; you set aside the negatives, ignore them, and focus only on small, positive behaviors to reinforce. With this model, you highlight positive communication methods, which, as it seems, works in such cases.

Their daily life

People with autism living in these homes follow a routine, which is very important for them: for example, they wake up in the morning, take a shower, and brush their teeth. Furthermore, there are person-centered programs. Sessions with psychologists or visits from someone involved in the arts, for instance, are conducted to work with each individual separately. Activities are provided by specialists as well as by the staff as part of socialization. In some cases, staff members accompany individuals outside the home to eat at a place they like. “We want to make their lives as normal as possible. Of course, this changes depending on each person’s psychological state. When someone doesn’t feel so good psychologically, the decision is made to go outside for a walk. We look at each individual separately, their mood, and their desires,” noted Ms. Charalambous. As Ms. Charalambous mentioned, the many organized activities resemble an institution, something they want to avoid. In general, the goal of these homes is to transition from Institutional Care to Care in the Community, which means deinstitutionalizing people with disabilities, many of whom lived in closed care units.

In the home where individuals with autism reside, 95% of the activities that take place are individual. However, sometimes they can all be together, always under the supervision of the staff, for example, in the living room of the house to play a group game.

“The fact that they are housemates does not mean they have to become friends. We certainly have the goodwill for them to have good relationships with each other. However, we will pursue a group activity only if they themselves desire it and if such a group activity brings them joy. If it causes them stress, why should they do it?” is what it states.

“The house is quite spacious, with several rooms, and each person has their own room. ‘Now, after years, they know each other, they know who their housemates are, but they don’t bother each other,'” is what it says.

On the contrary, the situation in the homes for people with intellectual disabilities in Larnaca is entirely different. There, they live like a family and all have their coffee together. However, as mentioned to us, this is not the primary goal. “‘The main concern is to have a good quality of life and to do things they themselves desire,'” emphasized.

The goals

Asked about the goals she has set, she mentioned that regarding the professional aspect, the goal is for this organization to grow, as there are thoughts to take on more homes. “I am someone who loves what I do very much, and I like to meet needs wherever they exist. I certainly study things thoroughly before taking any action so that when the time comes to implement them, I know I can accomplish them in the best possible way, as I committed from the beginning,” she said. Her desire is for the “transition” program to become a recognized educational college. “I don’t believe I will change the world. But we all have an obligation in our own field to do whatever we can to take a step to change our surroundings,” she emphasized.

Message for the future

Ms. Charalambous views positive developments regarding the rights of people with disabilities but expressed her dissatisfaction with the promotion of models for children with “special abilities,” which she considers discriminatory. “It’s not about special abilities. These are individuals like us who have some disability. This is how we should say things. It’s called a disability; they are not people with special needs. In conventions and records recognized worldwide, the terms used are these. We say intellectual disability or physical disability. And certainly, you don’t characterize people by their disability but by their personality,” she concluded.

Source: City.com.cy

KEBE YOUNG ENTERPRISING – Awarding of Andreas Vasileiou, CEO & Founder of Ablebook

With great joy and pride, we announce the awarding of Andreas Vasileiou, CEO & Founder of Ablebook, by KEBE (Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry) as part of the New Entrepreneurs Awards “YOUNG ENTERPRISING” in the category of “Social Contribution” for the year 2023

The New Entrepreneurs Awards are presented by KEBE in collaboration with the magazine “Thessaloniki Events,” with the aim of promoting and showcasing youth entrepreneurship and integrating young entrepreneurs into a global network, with a focus on merit-based evaluation.

The award ceremony took place under the auspices of the Presidency of Parliament, Mrs. Annita Demetriou, at the administration building of the Hellenic Bank, in the P. Paschalis Hall. This award recognizes the dedicated contribution of Ablebook to the field of social contribution and the creation of a more accessible and inclusive community.

Ablebook started with a vision, the vision of a community where everyone, regardless of difficulties and disabilities, can fully participate in life and enjoy its riches. Through our platform, we provide access to information and services that facilitate the daily lives of people with disabilities.

This award strengthens our determination to continue our work towards realizing our vision. We would like to express our gratitude to our team at Ablebook, our partners, all those who supported us on this journey, and the KEBE committee for selecting us for this award.

Our work continues, and this recognition gives us even more energy and commitment to move forward in the direction of realizing our vision. We sincerely thank you for this honor and look forward to continuing to work for a world that is accessible to all.

Strict Recommendations from the Directorate of Administration for Access of People with Disabilities to Clinics and Hospitals

The Ministry of Health should conduct regular and, in every case where a relevant complaint/report is submitted, on-site inspections,” emphasizes the Commissioner.

In recommendations addressed to the Ministry of Health and the EOPYY (National Organization for Healthcare Provision), the Commissioner for Administration and Human Rights Protection, Maria Stylianou-Lottides, addressed the accessibility of individuals with disabilities to healthcare services and providers offered through the General Health System (GESY).

Specifically, the Ministry is urged, until the preparation of the relevant Regulations, to prepare, in consultation and collaboration with representative organizations of persons with disabilities, a list of criteria/requirements and accessibility specifications that facilities/infrastructures and equipment of private hospitals should meet, no later than the end of September 2023, and to submit it to the EOPYY.

In an announcement from the Commissioner’s Office, the following points are also mentioned:

Corresponding amendments should be directed within the legal framework that governs other healthcare professional facilities or service providers who are contracted and/or will be contracted with EOPYY, so that their fulfillment of accessibility criteria/requirements and specifications becomes mandatory.

In cases where there is no existing legal framework (e.g. diagnostic centers, rehabilitation centers, palliative care health centers, etc.), the training should be promptly promoted based on the timetables set out in the Ministry’s contracts with private entities to whom it has already assigned the preparation of this legal framework. However, any extension beyond the already specified timetables should not be accepted by the Ministry, if deemed abusive.

It is understood that in every case, until the modification or preparation of the relevant legal framework, the facilities and equipment of healthcare professionals or service providers should meet the criteria/requirements and accessibility specifications that will be included in the aforementioned List to be prepared by the Ministry.”

The Ministry of Health must also proceed promptly and within a predetermined timetable to prepare Regulations where they do not exist, concerning the licensing of healthcare service providers, including private medical practices, so that criteria/requirements and accessibility specifications closely related to obtaining an operating license can be established.

Until the preparation of the legal framework governing the licensing of healthcare service providers, including private medical practices, the facilities/infrastructures and their equipment must meet the criteria/requirements and accessibility specifications that will be included in the above-mentioned List prepared by the Ministry.

To the Health Insurance Organization (EOPYY):

After receiving the aforementioned List from the Ministry of Health, EOPYY should inform all contracted healthcare service providers that within a short period, possibly two to three months, a transitional period of up to twelve (maximum) months will begin, during which they must take the necessary and appropriate actions to ensure that their facilities/infrastructures and equipment meet the criteria/requirements and accessibility specifications included in the Ministry’s List, in order for their contracts to be renewed.

It is understood that the aforementioned transitional period can be extended by up to six months when necessary adjustments with the criteria/requirements and accessibility specifications are already underway or planned. Based on the aforementioned information provided to healthcare service providers:

When entering into new contracts with healthcare service providers, as defined in the General Healthcare System Law, as well as with private or public hospitals, EOPYY should require as a prerequisite that their services are provided in fully accessible facilities for persons with disabilities and that they have the necessary equipment to make the provided services accessible, based on the criteria/requirements and specifications to be determined in the above-mentioned List.”

In the event that the relevant healthcare services are not accessible to persons with disabilities and the provider does not take the necessary actions within a specified deadline as indicated by EOPYY to meet the minimum criteria/requirements and accessibility specifications of the List, EOPYY should not proceed with the formation of a contract.

For existing contracts, EOPYY should timely inform, at least three months before the contract’s expiration (depending on the content and terms of the existing contract), the contracted providers that, for the purpose of contract renewal, they must comply with the criteria/requirements and accessibility specifications to be determined in the above-mentioned List, as a condition/precondition for contract renewal and remaining contracted with EOPYY.

In this direction, a term should be included in all contracts between EOPYY and the providers stating that within the specified period, they must meet the criteria/requirements and accessibility specifications that will be determined in the above-mentioned List. In case of non-compliance, the contract will be terminated and not renewed.

To the Ministry of Health & EOPYY:

The Ministry of Health should conduct regular on-site inspections and audits of the facilities/infrastructures of healthcare service providers, whenever a relevant complaint is submitted, to assess whether they are accessible and meet the minimum criteria/requirements and accessibility specifications of the List.

Furthermore, when it is determined that a facility/infrastructure and its existing equipment are not accessible to persons with disabilities, the Ministry should promptly notify EOPYY, which in turn should inform the provider of the discrimination against individuals with disabilities due to inadequate accessibility to its services. The provider should be urged to make the necessary changes/modifications to ensure accessibility of the provided services.

In the event that a specific provider fails to comply within a specified period with the minimum criteria/requirements and accessibility specifications, EOPYY should suspend and/or terminate the contract for healthcare services.

It is understood that for the implementation of the above, there must be full coordination and communication between the Ministry of Health and EOPYY with the representative organizations of persons with disabilities. This includes defining the necessary and appropriate criteria/requirements and accessibility specifications to be determined and included in the List, as well as determining the process for conducting on-site inspections and audits.

Source: Kathimerini

Artificial Intelligence and Accessibility: Building an Inclusive World

Artificial Intelligence and Accessibility: Building an Inclusive World

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has taken significant strides in recent years, with its applications extending across various sectors such as healthcare, economics, and education. One area where artificial intelligence has the potential to have a significant impact is accessibility, particularly for individuals with disabilities. By harnessing artificial intelligence technologies, we can build a world without barriers where everyone has equal access to information, services, and opportunities.

One of the most promising applications of artificial intelligence in accessibility lies in the realm of assistive technologies. These tools, designed to aid individuals with disabilities in performing tasks that might otherwise be difficult or impossible, have been in existence for decades. However, the advent of artificial intelligence has the potential to revolutionize these tools, making them more effective and efficient than ever before.

For example, speech recognition technology powered by artificial intelligence can be used to develop more accurate and responsive voice-controlled systems, enabling individuals with mobility issues to interact with computers and other devices more easily. Similarly, natural language processing based on artificial intelligence can be employed to create more advanced text-to-speech systems, which can be invaluable for individuals with visual impairments or dyslexia.

Beyond enhancing existing assistive technologies, artificial intelligence can also be harnessed to develop entirely new tools that can contribute to bridging the accessibility gap. One such example is the use of computer vision algorithms to create smart glasses capable of recognizing and describing objects, text, and even the emotions of people for individuals with visual impairments. This technology has the potential to offer a new level of independence and autonomy for those who rely on it.

Artificial intelligence can also be utilized to make the digital world more accessible to individuals with disabilities. For instance, image recognition technology based on AI can be used for automatic image captioning on websites, making them more accessible to individuals relying on screen readers. Similarly, artificial intelligence can be employed to develop more advanced captioning systems for video content, ensuring that individuals with hearing impairments can fully engage with multimedia content.

Another area where artificial intelligence can play a significant role in promoting accessibility is in the design and development of inclusive products and services. By incorporating AI-based accessibility features into the design process, companies can ensure that their products and services are accessible to a broader range of users. For example, artificial intelligence can be used to analyze user data and identify potential accessibility barriers, allowing designers to address these issues proactively.

Furthermore, artificial intelligence can be employed to create more personalized and adaptive user experiences, catering to the unique needs and preferences of individuals with disabilities. For instance, AI-driven algorithms can dynamically adjust the layout, font size, and color contrast of a website based on a user’s specific needs and preferences, ensuring that the content is accessible and easy to navigate for everyone.

While the potential benefits of artificial intelligence in accessibility are immense, it is important to recognize that AI is not a cure-all. There are still many challenges that need to be overcome, such as ensuring that AI-based technologies are developed ethically and responsibly, and that they do not inadvertently perpetuate existing biases and inequalities. Additionally, it is crucial to involve individuals with disabilities in the development and testing of accessibility solutions using AI, as their unique ideas and perspectives can help ensure that these technologies truly meet their needs.

In conclusion, artificial intelligence has the potential to revolutionize accessibility and create a world without barriers for individuals with disabilities. By harnessing the power of artificial intelligence, we can develop more effective and efficient supportive technologies, make the digital world more accessible, and promote the design of inclusive products and services. However, it is of utmost importance to approach the development and implementation of AI-based accessibility solutions with responsibility and ethics, and to involve individuals with disabilities in the process. In doing so, we can work towards building a world without exclusions, where everyone has equal access to information, services, and opportunities.

Source: Greek

Aradippou adopts our application

The Municipality of Aradippou chooses accessibility and free movement for everyone.

The Municipality of Aradippou is adopting another important tool to support People with Disabilities, as it will collaborate with the original platform “Ablebook” with the aim of creating an open, accessible, and safe city for everyone. Mayor of Aradippou, Evangelos Evangelidis, and municipal secretary Matthaios Alampritis met with the Director and Founder of “Ablebook,” Andreas Vasilios, who presented them with the idea and capabilities of the platform, as well as his vision for its development throughout Cyprus.

“Ablebook” is the first online platform for People with Disabilities in Cyprus, inspired by its founder’s personal experiences and challenges faced in his daily life as an individual with a congenital disability. It is an application that provides all relevant information and services regarding accessibility for people with disabilities within urban centers and communities in Cyprus.

Specifically, through the Ablebook app, users can view an interactive map that allows them to select the location they want to navigate to, choose categories of places and amenities they wish to be provided by those locations, and see the available accessibility features at each location through available photographic material. Additionally, users can report problems they encounter in a specific space, with direct communication with the platform’s management.

In the application, there are over 1000 locations and the facilities provided for people with disabilities, as well as all the public parking spaces for people with disabilities in Cyprus. The second feature of the application is the Ablecard, a membership card exclusively for individuals with disabilities, through which businesses within the application provide additional privileges such as discounts. The third feature is the “Kids” section, a unit that provides information on accessible spaces where children with disabilities can engage in sports, such as parks, gyms, sports teams/academies, nature trails, and more. The final feature of the application is the Ablebook Portal, through which businesses and municipal authorities have the ability to manage their locations in the application, change content, operating hours, photos, etc.

After the meeting, the Mayor of Aradippou expressed the municipality’s readiness to support the effort. “Every tool that gives us the ability to create better conditions in the daily lives of our fellow citizens facing difficulties is welcome in our municipality. The possibilities offered through this specific platform align with this direction, and we couldn’t stay away. The capabilities provided by technology can and should be utilized for equal access for everyone.”

Source: www.aftodioikisi.com.cy