Irish standard, I.S. 373 ‘Universal Design for customer engagement in tourism services’, the first of its kind in the world, is named most innovative policy at Zero Project Awards ceremony in Vienna, Austria.

  • The standard helps tourism providers ensure their products and services are more accessible to a wider variety of visitors 

  • Ireland is a world leader in the development of standards for universal design

  • Tourism providers in other countries are now looking to adopt this Irish standard

NSAI has received a top international award for developing 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. That is one million more tourists, compared to 2014. 

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

“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,” said Mr. Hubbard. 

“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,” he added. 

From Left to Right: Martin Essl, Essl Foundation; Gerald Craddock, Chief Officer, Centre for Excellence in Universal Design, National Disability Authority; Elizabeth O’Ferrall, Standards Officer NSAI; James Hubbard, Senior Design Advisor, Centre for Excellence in Universal Design, National Disability Authority; Jakob von Uexkull, World Future Council

Zero Project Award

This Irish standard was named Most Innovative Policy by the Zero Project, at an awards ceremony at the United Nations Building in Vienna, Austria last night (February 10th).  Accepting the award, NSAI Project Manager Elizabeth O’Ferrall said this standard demonstrates 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,” said Ms O’Ferrall. 

Fáilte Ireland's Head of Hospitality and Standards, John Mulcahy 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," said Mr. Mulcahy.

Among the tourism providers who 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,” said Ms. Ruddy. 

Dinner and Show Venue, The Purty Kitchen used the web communication toolkit to improve the online customer experience of its website. 

  • “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, said Ashley Sheridan, Owner, The Purty Kitchen.  “By making these small changes, we increased our online revenue by 100% as all our customers now find it easier to book online,” he added. 


This universal design standard and toolkit are proven to work for all types of tourism businesses. 


About I.S. 373:2013

I.S. 373:2013 ‘Universal Design for customer engagement in tourism services’
This voluntary, Irish standard and practical toolkit was launched in May 2013. It is beneficial for all tourism professionals who are responsible for customer engagement, including key decision makers from:
•    Hotels and accommodation providers
•    Tourism attractions and destinations
•    Transport and travel providers to the tourism sector
•    Meetings, conference and event organisers
•    Policy makers, tourism promotion and Governmental bodies
Universal Design is the design of environments and services so that they used and enjoyed to the fullest extent possible by all people.

About Zero Project

The Zero Project, an initiative of the Essl Foundation, focuses on the rights of persons with disabilities globally. The international disability rights organisation aims to assist in creating a world without barriers. NSAI beat off stiff competition from 333 groups worldwide, to achieve this accolade. For more information, please visit www.zeroproject.org 

Universal Design Casestudy Videos

from the Centre for Excellence in Universal Design