All abilities trek to the summit of Mount Kosciuszko - Australia's highest peak

All abilities trek to the summit of Mount Kosciuszko - Australia's highest peak
All abilities trek to the summit of Mount Kosciuszko - Australia's highest peak - © Jennifer Johnson 2008

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Leisure Constraints Theory & Disability Travel *

Constraints research is a distinct area of research within the field of leisure studies, which reflects the field’s traditional public sector, welfare orientation. This orientation means that ‘concern about barriers, non-participation in recreation activities and lack of leisure opportunities has always been an important progenitor of [public sector] park, recreation, and leisure’ (Goodale & Witt, 1989, p. 422). Much leisure research has therefore been as concerned with the non-participant and reasons for non-participation as with the participant and reasons for participation. The orientation of much research in the field of disability studies is similar. By contrast, most research within the field of tourism studies has traditionally been predicated on the idea of the tourist as consumer and factors that stimulate or facilitate demand. While economic constraints have been included in demand models, the focus has been on the tourist who arrives at the destination, not on the would-be tourist who is left behind. Recently this has begun to change. While tourism research has not become welfare-orientated, tourism researchers have nevertheless begun to recognise that a wider consideration of constraints may lead to a better understanding of tourist motivation, decision-making and destination image and destination choice models (Jenkins, 1999; Witt & Wright, 1992; Woodside & Lysonski, 1989).

Smith (1987) provided the first examination and categorisation of barriers to leisure-travel for people with disabilities. The barriers identified were similar to those identified by Kennedy et al. (1991) and were conceptualised as intrinsic, environmental and interactive barriers. Each of these groupings has sub-categories and is presented in Table 1.
Table 1: Leisure-travel barriers of disabled tourists
Intrinsic Barriers    
·                Lack of Knowledge
·                Health-related Problems
·                Social Ineffectiveness
·                Physical and Psychological Dependency
Environmental Barriers         
·                Attitudinal Barriers
·                Ecological
·                Architectural Barriers
·                Transportation Barriers – air travel*
·                Rules and Regulation Barriers – international air regulations*
Interactive Barriers               
·                Skill-Challenge Incongruities
·                Communication Barriers – language
Source: Smith 1987

Smith’s review involved no empirical work but drew together the considerable body of existing research on leisure barriers generally, people with disabilities specifically and the very limited literature on disability and tourism. Smith (1987:386-387) concluded by stating that people with disabilities have the same motivations to travel as the rest of the population but barriers form a ‘…network of interrelated forces that limit an individual’s opportunities to experience leisure’. Once constraints are identified the field then focuses on a relative hierarchy of the constraints and how constraints are negotiated for those that still want to participate (Jackson & Scott, 1999).

The empirical application of leisure constraints to tourism constraints began with Kerstetter & Holdnak (1990) whose research remained isolated. However, by the late 1990s, there was recognition that the constraints approach offers potential insights into tourism (Dellaert, Ettema, & Lindh, 1998; Hudson & Gilbert, 1999). Recently completed studies have begun to examine the constraints facing those undertaking particular leisure activities (Gilbert & Hudson, 2000; Williams & Fidgeon, 2000), seasonality (Hinch & Jackson, 2000), older tourists (Fleischer & Pizam, 2002) and those choosing particular environmental settings (Pennington-Gray & Gray, 2002). This includes people with disabilities where a series of studies began to examine the specific nature of tourism constraints (Darcy, 1998; Turco, Stumbo, & Garncarz, 1998). However, many other studies by their nature identify barriers or constraints to the tourism experiences of people with disabilities without applying a leisure constraints framework (e.g. Burnett & Bender-Baker, 2001; Darcy, 2002; Israeli, 2002; Ray & Ryder, 2003).

Yet, critiques of constraint models suggest that grounded analysis should be considered to examine emergent themes from people’s experiences rather than defined by the researcher (D. M. Samdahl & N. J. Jekubovich, 1997; D M. Samdahl & N J. Jekubovich, 1997). Similarly, leisure constraints research has been criticised for its reliance on quantitative, survey based methodologies that focus on social psychological paradigms. The results of leisure constraints research could be regarded as the product of a particular kind of social science rather than as objective social science research (Jackson & Scott, 1999). Taking this suggested direction Darcy’s (2004) thesis drew together leisure constraints and social model of disability approaches to present an examination of tourism constraint and negotiation by travelers with disabilities. Figure 1 presents a person enjoying an accessible destination experience where the research identified how difficult it was to find out about accessible things to do. The best interpretive study is Daniels, Drogin Rodgers, & Wiggins’ (2005) examination of a disability specific industry website where consumers posted their travel stories. They concluded an interactive rather than a hierarchical relationship between constraint categorizations.

Photo 1: Removing constraints through Auslan - Australian Sign Language - interpreted tour of the Art Gallery of NSW. The tours are available to Deaf and hearing impaired tourists to Sydney - see (Photo Courtesy of the Art Gallery of NSW).

The use of leisure constraints and negotiation theory offers researchers a way to better understand the complexities  facing people with disabilities when they travel. This is particularly so in countries where little research exists and provides a starting point to developing strategies to assist industry. This largely demand side approach to research provides insights into supply-side shortcomings.

Note: the above was based on a modification of Darcy (2004, pp. 77-84) 

Burnett, J. J., & Bender-Baker, H. (2001). Assessing the travel–related behaviors of the mobility–disabled consumer. Journal of Travel Research, 40(1), 4-11.
Daniels, M. J., Drogin Rodgers, E. B., & Wiggins, B. P. (2005). "Travel Tales": an interpretive analysis of constraints and negotiations to pleasure travel as experienced by persons with physical disabilities. Tourism Management, 26(6), 919-930.
Darcy, S. (1998). Anxiety to access: tourism patterns and experiences of New South Wales people with a physical disability. Sydney: Tourism New South Wales.
Darcy, S. (2002). Marginalised participation: Physical disability, high support needs and tourism. Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management, 9(1), 61-72.
Darcy, S. (2004). Disabling Journeys: the Social Relations of Tourism for People with Impairments in Australia - an analysis of government tourism authorities and accommodation sector practices and discourses, Faculty of Business Available from
Dellaert, B. G. C., Ettema, D. F., & Lindh, C. (1998). Multi-faceted tourist travel decisions: a constraint-based conceptual framework to describe tourists' sequential choices of travel components. Tourism Management, 19(4), 313-320.
Fleischer, A., & Pizam, A. (2002). Tourism constraints among Israeli seniors. Annals of Tourism Research, 29(1), 106-123.
Gilbert, D., & Hudson, S. (2000). Tourism demand constraints: A skiing participation. Annals of Tourism Research, 27(4), 906-925.
Goodale, T. L., & Witt, P. A. (1989). Recreation Non-Participation and Barriers to Leisure. In E. L. Jackson & T. L. Burton (Eds.), Understanding Leisure and Recreation: Mapping the Past, Charting the Future. State College, PA: Venture Publishing.
Hinch, T. D., & Jackson, E. L. (2000). Leisure constraints research: its value as a framework for understanding tourism seasonality. Current Issues in Tourism, 3(2), 87-107.
Hudson, S., & Gilbert, D. (1999). Tourism constraints: the neglected dimension in consumer behaviour research. Journal of Travel and Tourism Marketing, 8(4), 69-78.
Israeli, A. (2002). A Preliminary Investigation of the Importance of Site Accessibility Factors for Disabled Tourists. [Swetswise]. Journal of Travel Research, 41(1), 101-104.
Jackson, E. L., & Scott, D. (1999). Constraints to leisure. In E. L. Jackson & T. L. Burton (Eds.), Leisure studies: Prospects for the twenty-first century (pp. 299-332). State College, PA: Venture Publishing, Inc.
Jenkins, O. H. (1999). Understanding and Measuring Tourist Destination Images. International Journal of Tourism Research, 1(1), 1-15.
Kerstetter, D., & Holdnak, A. (1990). Comparison of Perceived Travel Constraints to Travel Behaviour - Characteristics of College-Educated Mature Adults: An Exploratory Study. Paper presented at the Resort and Commercial Recreation Association Research Symposium. Amelia Island, Florida.
Pennington-Gray, L. A., & Gray, D. L. (2002). Testing a constraints model within the context of nature-based tourism. Journal of Travel Research, 40(4), 416-423.
Ray, N. M., & Ryder, M. E. (2003). "Ebilities" tourism: an exploratory discussion of the travel needs and motivations of the mobility-disabled. Tourism Management, 24(1), 57-72.
Samdahl, D. M., & Jekubovich, N. J. (1997). A critique of leisure constraints: Comparative analyses and understandings. Journal of Leisure Research, 29(4), 430-452.
Samdahl, D. M., & Jekubovich, N. J. (1997). A rejoinder to Henderson's and Jackson's commentaries on "A critique of leisure constraints". Journal of Leisure Research, 29(4), 469-471.
Smith, R. (1987). Leisure of disabled tourists: barriers to participation. Annals of Tourism Research, 14(3), 376-389.
Turco, D. M., Stumbo, N., & Garncarz, J. (1998). Tourism Constraints - People with Disabilities. Parks and Recreation Journal, 33(9), 78-84.
Williams, P., & Fidgeon, P. R. (2000). Addressing participation constraint: a case study of potential skiers. Tourism Management, 21(4), 379-393.
Witt, C. A., & Wright, P. L. (1992). Tourist motivation: life after Maslow. In P. Johnston & B. Thomas (Eds.), Choice and Demand in Tourism (pp. 33-55). London: Mansell.
Woodside, A. G., & Lysonski, S. (1989). A general model of traveller destination choice. Journal of Travel Research, 27(4), 8-14.


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