Having fun in the sand and surf is the iconic Australian pastime. But not everyone gets an opportunity to join in the fun. The Association of Consultants in Access, Australia newsletter features articles and case studies on beach access, sailing, a resort for people with spinal cord injury, and provisions for people with autism. Plus the general news of the association. The articles mainly feature specialist activities and designs, such as the resort. But that is all part of creating an inclusive society.
Listed as one of the world’s most liveable cities, Melbourne is now aiming to be the most visitable. Visit Victoria and Destination Melbourne have produced resources for both business and visitors. For businesses yet to get on board with being visitable, the individual visitor pages serve as examples of what to look for and what actions to take. Accessible Tourism – it’s your business resource kit has six short chapters with case studies:
Discover what you are missing Explore your local area Make low cost changes Assess your building a facilities Describe your business Promote your business Develop a business plan
The PDF version of the kit with graphics has not thought about accessibility of the document in terms of font contrast. However, the Word version addresses this and also reminds us that not all people can access a PDF document.
The Word version cuts out all the graphics and is not only more accessible for screen readers, it is also a better version for printing pages for checklists.
It’s a simple thing and doesn’t always take much to achieve. The British Beer & Pub Association has a straightforward booklet of advice and good case studies for accessibility. It dispels a lot of myths, and many of the adaptations are simple, such as easy to read menus. It covers physical, sensory and cognitive issues that potential customers might have. So joke-type symbols for toilets are not a good idea, as well as understanding that not all disabilities are visible. Excellent resource for any food and beverage venue. As is often the case, it is not rocket science or costly, just thoughtful.
Promoting the business benefits of inclusive tourism doesn’t always hit the mark. Making places inclusive and accessible seems too daunting a task for many operators. So where do people with disability like to go and what do they want to do? A photo galleryin video form from Travability gives a really good idea. While this professional photo gallery has wheelchair users in every picture, it should be remembered that wheelchair users are a small proportion of the number of people needing more inclusive experiences. However, the pictures are excellent and provide a breadth of experiences.
Note that all people pictured are real wheelchair users in their own wheelchairs. They are not models posed in a stock wheelchair. Operators and travellers can find much more on the Travability website. See the section on this website devoted to travel and tourism.
The tourism sector continues to follow the medical model of disability where it’s the fault of the individual’s body rather than the design of the world around them. This approach affects the language used in promotional material. It also reinforces the mistaken idea that accessible “products” need to be special and separate. Stefania Gandin’s article looks at the language used in the tourism sector and the way tourism and travel is promoted. Understanding the social model of disability could help operators understand it is more than just catering to a particular physical condition. It is a matter of thinking of disability as a human characteristic and not being afraid to talk about it in promotional material and websites. Or, of developing only specialised disability-specific products as being “accessible tourism”. The underpinning principle of inclusive tourism is being able to independently enjoy holiday or leisure time without any barriers or problems. The move from the terminology of “accessible” tourism to “inclusive” tourism could also help.
There will always be a need for specialist tourism products, particularly for people with physical disabilities who want adventure activities. But this does not take account of everyone, including people with health conditions who want to travel in groups. After all, many disabilities are invisible.
Abstract: This study illustrates the preliminary results of a corpus-based analysis aimed at discovering the main linguistic features characterising the promotion of tourism for special-needs travellers. Even if accessible tourism represents an important sector in the market, not only for its social and moral importance but also for its strong economic potential, detailed research on the linguistic properties of tourism for disabled people is still rather limited and mainly tends to focus on the problems of physical access rather than considering the ways to improve its promotional strategies. Through a comparative corpus-based analysis, this paper will investigate the relevant linguistic features of a corpus of promotional materials advertising holidays and tourist services for the disabled, and relate them to the communicative strategies of two other corpora dedicated to the standard and translational language of tourism. The aim of this research is to show how mainstream tourism discourse still considers disability as a taboo topic, mostly ignoring or vaguely mentioning it in the general promotion of tourist destinations. The study will also attempt to suggest new linguistic and social attitudes aimed at stylistically improving and further including the accessible tourism sector within the overall tourism promotion.
Tourism Australia has a web page titled Accessible Tourism. It is not a “how to” page. It gives a brief description of what accessible tourism is and Australian policies and legislation. Then it refers readers to a list of other organisations or guides listed below. This is not an exhaustive list, but it is a good start for tourism businesses, planners and local government.
Tourism Research Australia, in partnership with Tourism, Events and Visitor Economy branch of the Victorian Government, and Tourism and Events Queensland, commissioned a study into accessible tourism in Victoria, Queensland and Australia. The research was conducted between April and August 2017.
PhotoAbility– Stock image library featuring individuals with disabilities in travel, leisure and lifestyle settings.
Push Adventures – Push Adventures is a South Australian business, founded in 2014, that offers advice to make tourism businesses inclusive and accessible by a whole range of guests.
Sydney for All– A visitors’ guide to Sydney using universal icons to help users decide which attractions provide the appropriate level of access.
Accessible Victoria – The official tourist site for Melbourne and Victoria including information on accessible accommodation, activities and attractions and the best ways to get around in Melbourne and Victoria.
Queensland Inclusive Tourism Guide – The Queensland Government has developed a guide for making businesses more accessible and inclusive to assist tourism operators understand their legal obligations in relation to accessibility, increase their knowledge about the market for inclusive tourism, and develop strategies to improve the accessibility of their business to appeal to a wider range of visitors of all abilities and ages.
TravAbility– TravAbility is dedicated to Inclusive Tourism through education, advocacy, and by providing accessibility information for the world’s best travel destinations.
Cangoeverywhere.com.au – A website created to help seniors, baby boomers, people with disabilities and anyone with special requirements, find accessible accommodation, restaurants, activities and more around Australia.
Travellers Aid Australia – An organisation that provides simple, practical travel-related support and aid to help visitors of all backgrounds travel independently and confidently.
Vision Australia – Vision Australia (an organisation which assists those with vision impairment) has a large range of fact sheets on issues relating to people who are blind and vision impaired. The fact sheets range from accessible design for homes to customer service tips.
Inclusive Tourism: Economic Opportunities – This report is part of a project that aims to enable regional tourism businesses and local governments to improve information about and the marketing of inclusive services and products. This project is led by Local Government NSW with the University of Technology Sydney, Institute for Public Policy and Governance providing research support.
The Good Scout An Australian accessible travel platform with the mission to ensure that travellers with access needs get the holiday they want.
Including people with disability also includes people with young children in prams, older people, and people with temporary disabilities. Accessible, or inclusive tourism is about ensuring tourist destinations, products and services are accessible to everyone, regardless of their physical limitations, disabilities or age. There are more guides in a previous post.
When the user of a place or thing is most likely to be a person with disability, it is often labelled “disabled”. But what about places being disabled? “Disabled” in it’s original meaning is something that doesn’t work. So, if the chain of accessibility for everyone is missing, the place is indeed disabled. This was pointed out in an article in The Guardian: “People aren’t disabled, their city is“.
The story is about the Dutch medieval city of Breda – now one of the most accessible in Europe. This is because there is “joined up” access throughout – not a bit here and a bit there. They have pulled up cobblestones and re-laid them upside down to create a flatter surface. Hotels are on board too. The key point is that the local authorities have a commitment to inclusion and accessibility and that’s what makes the difference. The next major step will be improving digital communication. See the article for more information.
How will we know when we have achieved inclusion? It will be the day when separate labelling for places and things is no longer required.
“The basic task of accessible tourism is to stop focusing on the features of disability and to concentrate on various social needs and adjusting the conditions of geographical (social and physical) space to them”. This quote from a new research papersums up the situation well. The paper focuses on the information aspects of inclusive tourism, particularly online information. It reports on a case study and lists several “rules” for accessible tourist information. The author, Anna Kolodziejczak, laments the lack of consistency of language and description across the inclusive tourism platform. The conclusion sums up the issues well:
Visibility, reliability and up-to-date facts are the basic features of tourist information. An increasing number of publications and internet websites are created for tourists with disabilities. However, due to the principles of both universal design and costs of publication it is advisable to include information on the accessibility of facilities and services in all publications intended for tourists. It ought to be emphasised that tourists, as main subjects of all activities aimed at enabling them to relax in the way they dream, need information at all stages of their journey. To this end, they use various databases of tourist information which, despite having many recipients, have also many creators. Only consistent and systematic cooperation of all information providers and the ability to react quickly to the needs of tourists can make the system work efficiently and the desired results will be achieved.”
International travel is a great experience for everyone especially when operators get on board with inclusive thinking. In his latest article, Martin Henggoes beyond the rights arguments to explain the economics of inclusive travel. With a growing market of older travellers tourism and travel businesses need to step up to take advantage. Heng also picks up the issue of terminology: “accessible” makes people think of compliance for wheelchair users. But he rightly points out that wheelchair users are a small proportion of the population that has some kind of disability or chronic health condition. That’s why we should be calling it “inclusive travel”.
Heng goes on to list the easy, cost effective things that businesses can do. And not just thinking about the building. Easy to read fonts on menus and other information materials, TVs with captioning options, and websites that provide relevant visitor information about rooms, attractions and services. The article has several pictures showing Martin in various overseas locations. The title is What is accessible travel, and why should we be talking about it? Martin Heng works for Lonely Planet as their Accessible Travel Manager.
Scandic has embraced the principles of universal design throughout its hotel chain for more than ten years. This makes for an interesting case study in inclusive tourism because it goes deep into hotel operations. So it is not all about wheelchair accessible rooms – it is much more. And as always with customer service, it is the little things, such as being able to reach the coffee cups at the breakfast bar. The article on the Norwegian Inclusive Design website, is short and to the point and shows how all hotels can benefit from small but effective changes to practices. The video below shows how they took a universal design approach. The architect said it was more about use of materials than wheelchair circulation space.
“The best evidence on that we are doing something right came from a guest. She told me that when she is staying at Scandic she is treated like a regular guest, not a disabled one”. Magnus Berglund, Scandic.