Management perceptions of disability are key to encouraging inclusive tourism. A study comparing national parks in two countries highlighted this and other factors that impact universal accessibility. A legal perspective and no penalties imposed for lack of accessibility means the status quo remains. Taking an economic perspective and an inclusive attitude is more helpful.
National parks within South Africa and Zimbabwe were the subject of a study comparing them for universal design and accessibility. The attitude and perceptions of national park management was found to be a contributing factor for accessibility.
In South Africa there was an understanding that people with disability wanted to experience nature as much as anyone else. There was also a recognition that there was a good economic argument for being inclusive. In Zimbabwe, management considered disability to be a legal issue and did not believe that tourists with disability wanted to visit national parks.
The study revealed that, generally, the management of parks in both countries appreciate the plight of people with disabilities who want to visit their parks. However, the managers from South Africa seemed more willing and prepared to make their parks universally accessible compared to their counterparts in Zimbabwe.
This study was the subject of a doctoral thesis which takes a holistic approach to the issues. The conclusions and recommendations beginning page 184 are relevant to all national parks. Staff training, an understanding of the economic benefits and community consultation are just three of the recommendations. It’s an easy read and the conclusions and recommendations easy to follow.
The doctoral thesis is titled, The development of a universal accessibility framework for National Parks in South Africa and Zimbabwe.
The findings are also published in a journal article which requires institutional access for a free read. The title is, Universal Accessibility of National Parks in South Africa and Zimbabwe: Park Management Perceptions.