Accessible tourism: the call of the wild

Wide open vistas, mountain wilderness and crystal clear lakes attract visitors from near and afar. But the very nature of these landscapes means they aren’t easily accessible to everyone. Similarly to beach locations, this is a situation where assistive technology meets universal design. However, providing a specialised track wheelchair or beach wheelchair, for example, cannot do the job alone. It still needs an accessible travel chain.

A man in his wheelchair with the Freedom Trax attached. He is on a walking trail.

Tourist destinations in the natural environment can be inclusive if there is joined up thinking. That is, joining up service delivery and staff training with the physical environment and, at times, the addition of some assistive technologies.

Having an all-terrain wheelchair device is only one part of the tourism experience. A paper reporting on a case study of specialised mobility devices shows the importance of user testing. Getting in and out of the device, operating it, and being part of a group, all need testing for convenience and useability before they become part of the service. The authors used the principles of universal design in their study and sum up with the following:

  • The entire customer journey must be inclusive: toilets, parking, cafes, cable car, etc.
  • Transfers must be supervised by trained staff
  • Trails must be tested, marked and secured
  • Emergency procedures set up in case of an accident
  • Training courses for tourism service staff in the use of assistive technology
  • The devices are expensive and hiring might be a better option

The title of the article is, Improving the Accessibility of Touristic Destinations with an Assistive Technology For Hiking – Applying Universal Design Principles Through Service Design. The article mentions the Freedom Trax device and the video below shows the device in action. Courtesy their Facebook page. Freedom Trax is just one of similar products available.

From the abstract

Accessible Tourism focuses on the logistical attributes being accessible to all and on the process to develop accessible products and services with stakeholders. Assistive technologies have the potential to improve the accessibility destinations such as those designed for hiking.

However, their integration on the customer journey has to be designed as a service. To this end, universal design principles and guidelines should be used in the design process.

The potential and the conceptualization of applying universal design principles for tourism has been widely discussed. However, little has been done to operationalize this idea.

In this article, we demonstrate how to co-create with users an accessible tourism service using assistive technology who enables hiking for people using wheelchairs. Our main findings illustrate the pros and the cons of using and assistive technologies and the importance of considering the whole customer journey to improve the accessibility of touristic destinations.

See a related post, Taming the wilderness with inclusive design.

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