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Barrier-free travel from A to Z

8th Barrier-free Tourism Day at the ITB,
8 March 2019 in the CityCube Berlin

The 8th Barrier-free Tourism Day took place from 10.30am to 3pm on Friday, 8 March 2019 at the ITB travel fair in Berlin. Key theme of this year was the “development of target group specific accessible tourism products”.

How can touristic offers respond to the needs of holidaymakers with disabilities? Which attractive possibilities do already exist for the different target groups of barrier-free tourism? And what are the chances and challenges for tourism service providers and DMOs related to this topic?

The programme included presentations and a panel discussion, at which experts looked closely at these issues in practical terms and from a range of perspectives.

The German National Tourist Board (GNTB) and its strategic partner, the National Coordination Board Tourism for All (NatKo), welcomed again around 200 visitors at the “8. Barrier-free Tourism Day”, including representatives from politics, the international travel industry, destination marketing organisations, associations, universities and the media.

The event is being funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. It was organised with the support of the Tourism for All working group of the German federal states, the working group “Accessible Travel – Barrier-free Destinations in Germany“ and the Messe Berlin exhibition centre.

Schedule for the Barrier-free Tourism Day at the ITB on 08 March 2019 in the CityCube Berlin, level 1, hall A7


Andreas Stopp, Deutschlandfunk, Science and Education, deputy head of department


Olaf Schlieper, German National Tourist Board, Innovations Manager


Alexander Stedtfeld, German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, Government director, Department VIIA4, Tourism Policy


Jürgen Dusel, Federal Government Commissioner for Matters relating to Persons with Disabilities


Victor Calise, Commissioner Office for People with Disabilities New York, USA

11:10 - 12:10am
Panel discussion


Carola Heimann, "Network Hearing" Saarland ("Netzwerk Hören“ Saarland), Project Leader

Dr. Heidrun Mollenkopf, BAGSO e.V., Board member

Axel Biermann, Römer-Lippe-Route, Chief Executive Officer of Ruhr Tourismus GmbH

Stephan de Haar, Autostadt Wolfsburg, Director of Visitor Services

Victor Calise, Commissioner Office for People with Disabilities New York, USA

Damiano La Rocca, Seable Ltd., Founder & Chief Executive Officer

Hanna Ursin, BSK-Reisen GmbH, Chief Executive Officer

12:10 - 12:45am
BREAK with networking

Opportunity to talk to the experts

12:45am - 1pm

Free space for all: barrier-free health care services for guests and citizens

Thomas Görtz, Freizeitzentrum Xanten, Mayor of the city Xanten and Chief Executive Officer of Freizeitzentrum Xanten GmbH

1 - 1:15pm

Park der Gärten: The Gardening Show in Bad Zwischenahn - A destination for all presents itself

Christian Wandscher, Park der Gärten Ostfriesland, Chief Executive Officer

1:15 - 1:30pm

Hambacher Castle - Democratic history and culture for all

Ulrike Dittrich, Hambacher Castle, Castle Manager

1:30 – 1:45pm

The possibilities and benefits of the new “Tourism for All-database” for guests and suppliers

Rolf Schrader, German Seminar for Tourism (DSFT), Managing Director

1:45 - 2pm
Closing remarks

Andreas Kammerbauer, Representative of German association for the hearing impaired and National Coordination Board Tourism for All (NatKo)


Opportunity to talk to the experts

2:30 - 3pm
Award Ceremony

Awarding of the Columbus-Ehrenpreis 2019, of the association of German travel editors (Vereinigung Deutscher Reisejournalisten (VDRJ)) to Karl Bock, Chief Executive Officer of Runa Reisen

Speakers at the “Barrier-free Tourism Day” 2019

The event offered top-class speakers in fields of politics, tourism, associations and specialist organisations. In presentations and panel discussions, they provided valuable impetus on barrier-free tourism. During the breaks and after the event, participants had the opportunity to engage in networking and to directly exchange views with the experts.

Overview of the Speakers

German National Tourist Board, Innovation Manager

Olaf Schlieper, an economic geographer and advertising consultant, joined the GNTB in 1999. His first task was to develop online communication in the GNTB’s domestic marketing department. Olaf Schlieper was later appointed Head of Media Management, a role which encompassed responsibility for print communication, online marketing, video communication, and the creation of innovative marketing solutions.

Since 2013, he has been the GNTB’s Innovation Manager, focusing on the issues of sustainable tourism, accessible travel, and innovation. He is also responsible for the communication strategy aimed at making sustainability an integral part of the brand essence of Germany as a tourist destination, supporting product development in cooperation with partners in German tourism, and an internal sustainability initiative within the GNTB.

Olaf Schlieper helps to showcase Germany as a tourist destination at national and international events, and is also a member of the judging panel for the “Deutscher Tourismuspreis” (German Tourism Award), and for other regional and national competitions.

Parliamentary Secretary of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, Federal Government Commissioner for Tourism

Thomas Bareiß (CDU) has been a directly elected member of the Bundestag for the Zollernalb-Sigmaringen constituency since 2005. Thomas Bareiß has been the Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy since 14 March 2018, and has been the Federal Government Commissioner for Tourism since 11 April 2018. From 2010 to 2013, Thomas Bareiß was the Coordinator for Energy Policy and then from 2014 to 2018 the Energy Representative of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group. Bareiß is also the Deputy Chair of the Baden-Württemberg CDU regional group. Thomas Bareiß is a graduate in business administration and worked in a medium-sized textile company until his election to the German Bundestag.

Federal Government Commissioner for Matters relating to Persons with Disabilities

Born on 14/02/1965 in Würzburg, married, with two grown-up children

Severely disabled with a Degree of Disability (GdB) of 100 (severely visually impaired from birth)

Education and professional career

1985 Abitur school-leaving exam

1992 First state examination in law at the University of Heidelberg

1995 Second state examination in law at Stuttgart Higher Regional Court

1996 Lawyer in the main welfare office of the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania

1998 Head of Department for Home/Regional Supervisory Authority at the State Office for Social Affairs and Welfare in the State of Brandenburg (LASV)

2002 Head of the Integration Office at the State Office for Social Affairs and Welfare in the State of Brandenburg

2007 Deputy Head of Department 3 (Supervision, Social and Forensic Psychiatry, Integration Office) in the State Office for Social Affairs and Welfare in the State of Brandenburg, also Head of the Integration Office in the State of Brandenburg

2009 Head of the Department of Supervision and Housing as defined in the Brandenburg Mentally Ill Persons Act (BbgPsychKG)

2010 Commissioner for the state government for the interests of disabled people in Brandenburg

2015 Renewed appointment as commissioner of the Brandenburg state government for the concerns of disabled people

Since May 2018: Federal Government Commissioner for the concerns of disabled people

Commissioner Office for People with Disabilities New York, USA

As Commissioner of the New York City Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, Victor Calise tirelessly advocates for the disability community in all City decision-making.

Commissioner Calise chairs the Accessibility Committee of the City Building Code and leads efforts to integrate people with disabilities into the workforce through the NYC: ATWORK employment initiative. He also ensures that disability is at the forefront of technological developments including smart cities, autonomous vehicles, and digital accessibility.

Recognized as an expert on disability, the Commissioner frequently participates in national and international conferences. A dedicated public servant, Calise previously led efforts within the Department of Parks and Recreation to make the city’s park system—one of the most complex in the world—universally accessible.

Calise—an avid athlete—competed in the 1998 Paralympic Games as a member of the U.S. national sled hockey team. A native New Yorker, he is married with two daughters

"network hearing" Saarland („Netzwerk Hören“ Saarland), Project Manager

Carola Heimann started her career in German tourism some 20 years ago as a tourism geographer. Having been involved in public relations work on the Moselle, hiking tourism in the Saarland, and after working as an office manager for the Lahn-Dill-Bergland Nature Park, she returned to the Saarland Tourism Board in 2015 to set up the "Netzwerk Hören" (Hearing Network) project.

"Netzwerk Hören" was set up by the Ministry of Economy, Labour, Energy and Transport to connect the tourism and healthcare industries.

Carola Heimann works closely with network partners who are involved in medicine and hearing aid acoustics. In 2016, she arranged a practical seminar entitled "Hören mit Herz" (Listening with the Heart) in order to raise awareness and inform tourism service providers about the needs and requirements of people with hearing loss.

She has developed the "Hören mit Herz" quality seal in order to ensure quality in the development of services and to provide guidance for both tourist operators and the target group. After three years of development work, "Netzwerk Hören" has become established in the Saarland and is well known throughout Germany. A range of tourism services help people with hearing loss to really discover the Saarland.

In October 2018, Carola Heimann took over the management of accessible tourism in the Saarland in addition to "Netzwerk Hören".

BAGSO e.V., Board Member

Dr Heidrun Mollenkopf worked as a sociologist and gerontologist at the German Centre of Gerontology (DZA) at the University of Heidelberg until December 2004. Her research focused on the interplay between personal, societal and technical parameters and other environmental factors and the extent to which they contribute to the preservation of independence and social integration in old age – and thus to the quality of life of older people. As part of her work, she conducted a series of national and international comparative research projects at the University of Mannheim, the Berlin Social Science Center (WZB), the Free University of Berlin and finally at the DZFA, particularly in relation to mobility in old age, age and technology, and age-appropriate living environments.

In addition to her research work, Heidrun Mollenkopf worked in an advisory capacity for "Demenz Support Stuttgart", a dementia support group, and for numerous European Commission committees. She was also joint head of the working group on user acceptance and innovation transfer of the BMBF/VDE Innovation Partnership AAL. From 2007 to 2014 she was a member of the expert panel of BAGSO e.V. (German National Association of Senior Citizens' Organisations). From 2011 to 2013, she represented BAGSO on the expert committee for "Mobility, building, housing, social participation, information and communication" of the advisory committee on inclusion of the Federal Government Commissioner for disabled persons, and in the working group on "Requirements for AAL services" on the DIN Services Standards Committee. From 2007 to 2014, Heidrun Mollenkopf was also the spokesperson for the "Universal Accessibility and Independent Living" expert group of AGE, the European Platform for Older People. In 2011, she was awarded the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany for her voluntary work. Since 2014, she has been a member of the extended board of BAGSO, which she represents as Vice President of the AGE Executive Committee and Council.

Römer-Lippe-Route, Chief Executive Officer of Ruhr Tourismus GmbH

After completing his studies, geography graduate Axel Biermann worked as the Managing Director of the Verkehrsverein Saarburger Land e.V. tourist office, then spent over ten years as Managing Director of Tourismus & Marketing Oberhausen GmbH. Since 2008, he has been the full-time Managing Director of Ruhr Tourismus GmbH. Born in Stuttgart, he is married and lives in Oberhausen with his wife and son.


Member of the Board of Management of TV NRW

Advisory Council of Sparkassen Tourismusbarometer Westfalen-Lippe

Autostadt Wolfsburg, Director of Visitor Services

Stephan de Haar is head of the World of Experiences at the Autostadt in Wolfsburg, the Volkswagen Group's communication platform which attracts over 2 million visitors per year. Mr de Haar's responsibilities include running attractions such as driver training and other bookable services. The department is also developing new services designed to make mobility and society sustainable for the future.

An economics graduate, he has been working for the Autostadt since 2005. His role focuses on customer management, in particular feedback and contact centre management, retail, and visitor management in the leisure park. It also includes the further development of service organisations and the design of relationship management/CRM, which combines the opportunities of digitalisation with excellent service and innovative attractions for visitors.

He previously worked in retail and digital communications agencies.

Seable Ltd., Founder & CEO

DOB: 17/08/1986

My life is currently embodied around my work as director of Seable Holidays, a tour operator and consulting agency that organises holidays for visually impaired and wheelchair users.

Opened since 2012, giving the chance to improve well-being while on vacation with active and accessible tailored holiday offers.

I have graduated at the London Metropolitan University in International Tourism Management.

Seable Holidays was born at the university’s business incubator, “the Accelerator”, following an in-depth research presented during my dissertation on: Accessible tourism, a sustainable tool to improve a country’s economy.

Seable has received various awards since it’s inception, including: Unltd social enterprise awards in 2013, 2014 and 2015 for the great social impact demonstrated.

This work has been also awarded by the “Rotary International” for the commitment to creating opportunities into the life of disabled people and by the “Design for all Foundation awards” in 2016.

In the past few years, the focus of my work has shifted entirely to creating offers, best practices, training and partnerships to lay a solid tourism product that can be accessible for the Blind and Partially Sighted community.

I’m currently working with various Tourism government bodies and local agencies to prepare destinations for the new market segment of blind and partially sighted travellers.

The destinations that have shown interest and are currently working with us are: Thailand, Cyprus, Italy, Netherlands and Slovenia.

From November 2018 I have become a fellow at the School for Social Entrepreneurs with their Lloyds awards programme.

You can find Seable online at:


BSK-Reisen GmbH, Chief Executive Officer

Hanna Ursin, born in Helsinki/ Finland, studied Tourism Management at the Heilbronn University of Applied Sciences with focus on tourism and marketing. She did her internship semester at the Baths and Kur Administration Baden-Baden and the flight fair and arrangement GmbH (Flugbörse-Flugvermittlungs GmbH) in Heilbronn. After completing her university studies she started working at the BSK-Service GmbH as travel service head of department. In this surrounding, between the Krautheimer workshop for people with disabilities and the Eduard-Knoll centre of living, she learned in a pratical way which requirements and conditions people with physical disabilities have for enjoying their holidays.

After her first parental leave she worked for one year at AtourO group and special tours in Untergruppenach in the field of operation. Afterwards she returned to BSK in Krautheim. Shortly after she took over the management of BSK-Reisen GmbH (from that BSK-Service GmbH). For performing her extended duties better she studied additionally „Management of Health and Social facilities“ at the University of Kaiserslautern. Progressively she extended with her colleagues the offer of BSK-Reisen; from assisted group tours, diverse individual destinations up to training and knowledge transfer of travel assistance for people with disabilities. As part of her work she is member of the tourism expert team of BSK and repeatedly a sought-after expert in the field of travel for people with disabilities.

For about two years she works voluntarily for the National Coordination Board Tourism for All (NatKo), for a bit more than a year as vice chairman.

Moreover, Frau Ursin works as part-time honorary force at the music school Bad Mergentheim in the state promotion programme „sing-move-speak“ and leads the church choir in Neunkirchen as well as a singing group in the Eduard-Knoll centre of living.

Freizeitzentrum Xanten, Mayor of the city Xanten and Chief Executive Officer of Freizeitzentrum Xanten GmbH

Presentation title:
Free space for all: barrier-free health care services for guests and citizens

The 48-year-old university graduate in public administration has been the full-time mayor of the Roman town of Xanten on the scenic Lower Rhine since June 2014.

Prior to that, he was Xanten's first alderman and town treasurer.

In addition to his role as Head of Administration, he has also been the Managing Director of Touristinformation Xanten GmbH (TIX) and Freizeitzentrum Xanten GmbH (FZX) since 2014.

Görtz has decades of professional experience both on a municipal level in various local governments and also from his many years as a team leader at the municipal testing and research institute for NRW. In this role, he performed reviews and advised municipalities using key indicators and benchmarking throughout NRW on the issues of economic efficiency and organisational management.

Over the past 30 years, Thomas Görtz has gained extensive political experience at all levels from municipal to state and federal politics. He has also built up a broad network in state and federal politics. Through his membership of the steering committee and the main committee of the city and municipality association of NRW, and on the European committee and finance committee of the German city and municipality association, he represents the concerns and interests of the municipal family in different committees at national and federal level.

Park der Gärten Ostfriesland, Chief Executive Officer

Presentation title:
Park der Gärten: The Gardening Show in Bad Zwischenahn - A destination for all presents itself

In 2001, the administrative assistant became Managing Director of the first Lower Saxony State Garden Show that was to be held in Bad Zwischenahn in 2002, with particular responsibility for planning, organisation and public relations. After the LGS was particularly successful, he was given the chance to permanently manage and develop the temporary LGS into PARK GARDENS. Park Gardens is now a unique and unequalled permanent garden show and has garnered a reputation as a showcase for horticulture in Lower Saxony. The park now enjoys a nationwide reputation as a multi-generation park and a place of information and inspiration.

In 2013, Mr Wandscher was appointed plant ambassador of the German Horticultural Society (DGG).

Hambacher Castle, Castle manager

Presentation title:
Democratic history and culture for all

Building on an historical site and accessible services provided by the museum's education department

Since 2009, Ulrike Dittrich has been Castle Manager of the Hambach Castle Foundation in Neustadt an der Weinstrasse in Rhineland-Palatinate.

The trained ceramist and graduate engineer in the process engineering of non-metallic, inorganic materials – and who initially developed technical ceramics – has been involved in the culture and tourism sector since 1998. Since 2000, she has worked for the Villa Musica State Foundation in Engers Castle, including being involved in museum operation, event management for trade fairs and markets, and cultural and weekend events. The organisation of baroque festivals and historical balls attracted national attention with regard to 18th century reenactments.

At Hambach Castle, the issue of accessibility has been one of her priorities from the very beginning. Hambach Castle, which reopened in 2008, and the permanent exhibition “Hinauf, hinauf zum Schloss!” (Up, up and away to the castle!) have became a showcase for accessibility in Rhineland-Palatinate.

It received the "Accessibility Level 1" quality seal in 2013, followed one year later by an accessibility certificate from "Reisen für Alle". This process involved developing accessible guided tours on "Understanding history" for people with visual impairments and the blind, and "Hambach Castle put simply" for people with cognitive impairments.

Ulrike Dittrich has been supervising the ongoing construction work on Hambach Castle since 2009. The new 1832 restaurant, the visitor centre and the revamped castle park have all been designed so that they are accessible for everyone, particularly for people with reduced mobility. All completed and ongoing infrastructure measures have been planned and implemented in close cooperation with Matthias Rösch, the Rhineland-Palatinate State Commissioner for disabled people. Construction work on Hambach Castle will be completed in 2020 when an accessible bus stop and a pedestrian walkway are due for completion.

Managing Director at “Deutsches Seminar für Tourismus (DSFT) Berlin e.V.” (German Seminar for Tourism)

Presentation title:
The possibilities and benefits of the new “Tourism for All-database” for guests and suppliers

After studying in Freiburg, Rolf Schrader worked for the present-day Tourismus-Marketing GmbH Baden-Württemberg (TMBW) from 1993 until 2003, most recently in the role of Marketing Manager and Deputy Managing Director with general power of representation.

Since April 2004, Mr Schrader has been a Director and Managing Director of the “Deutsches Seminar für Tourismus (DSFT) Berlin e.V.”, the central training facility for the German tourism industry. In addition to his work with the DSFT, since July 2010, Rolf Schrader has also been Managing Director of the “Forschungsgemeinschaft Urlaub und Reisen (FUR) e.V.” (holiday and travel study group) which publishes annual travel analyses.

Together with “NatKo” (the German Coordination Agency for “Tourism for All”), the DSFT and Rolf Schrader have developed a new national standard labelling system as part of a project funded by the Federal Ministry of Economics, including training, quality standards and concepts for accessible tourism. The system is now being finalised and implemented under the current “Travel for All” follow-up project.

Representative of German association for the hearing impaired and National Coordination Board Tourism for All (NatKo)

Born: 12/09/1961 in Hochheim; married, 2 children (aged 23 and 21)

Education details

1972-1978: "Freiherr – von – Schütz – Schule" – School for the hearing impaired in Bad Camberg

1978-1982: State School for the Deaf and Hearing Impaired in Stegen / Freiburg

Allgemeine Hochschulreife (German university entrance qualification)

1982-1992: Degree in Political Science, History and Public Law at Goethe University Frankfurt

Professional work

October 1989-October 1997: Managing Director of the District Council Parliamentary Group

Bündnis 90 / Die Grünen in the Main-Taunus district

10 October 1997 to 7 April 1999: Member of Parliament for the State of Hesse

1 July 1999 to 31 March 2016: Managing Director of the District Council Parliamentary Group

Bündnis 90 / Die Grünen in the Main/Taunus district

Since 1 April 2016: social and health policy spokesman for the DSB

Voluntary work

1979-1982: Student Spokesman for the State School for the Deaf and Hearing Impaired in Stegen

1987-2011 and from 2017: Managing board member of the Federal Association for Hearing-Impaired Students and Graduates, the Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft Hörbehinderter Studenten und Absolventen e.V. (BHSA)

Since November 1992: Deputy Chairman of the German Association of the Hearing Impaired – self-help and professional associations, the Deutsche Gesellschaft der Hörgeschädigten – Selbsthilfe und Fachverbände e.V. (DG)

1996-2003 and 2007-2016: Board member of the Hesse Society for the Advancement of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, the Hessische Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Gehörlosen und Schwerhörigen e.V.

3 October 1997 to 2016: Member of the State Disability Council of Hesse, including holding the role of Chair

2006 to 2016: Patient representative on the state committee for doctors and health insurance companies in Hesse

2010 to 2015: Vice-President of the German Association for the Hearing Impaired, the Deutscher Schwerhörigenbund e.V.

Access & Service

Access to the venue

The 8th Barrier-free Tourism Day takes place in the CityCube Berlin in hall A7. The CityCube Berlin was inaugurated in May 2014. Being a multifunctional venue for trade fairs, conferences and events, it is one of Berlin’s new figureheads.

The venue of the barrier-free tourism day is accessible (partly via elevators) via the “Messedamm” and “Jafféstrasse”, the premises of the fair and from a passageway to hall 7. The venue “hall A7” is located close to the Jafféstrasse entrance.

20 disabled car parking spaces are availabe on the car parking space „Messedamm“ in front of the CityCube Berlin. Moreover, the trainstation “Messe-Süd” is located in close proximity to the CityCube Berlin.

Admission to the CityCube Berlin to the barrier-free tourism day is free of charge. In case you additionally wish to visit the ITB Berlin fair, you’ll need to purchase a Trade Visitor Ticket.

Handicapped persons have to purchase a ticket as well if they want to visit the ITB Berlin fair.

Admission for accompanying persons is free.

Barrier-free event

As the event is barrier-free in all terms, we provide consecutive, simultaneous and written interpreting services using qualified professionals. The event will be held in English and German (simultaneous interpreting provided). The simultaneous interpreting can be listened to with headphones, which will be provided at the entrance free of charge.

The venue will provide sufficient space for wheelchair users. Handicapped lavatories are located in close proximity to the hall A7.

Assistance dogs are allowed on the premises. Please note that the dog owner has to carry a certification.


In the foyer close to the entrance “Messedamm”, you’ll find a snack bar with savory snacks, pastry and drinks. This area can be reached in a few minutes time and is accessible via elevators and escalators (see orientation map).


All presentations of the event can be downloaded here as PDF or audio file (MP3).

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