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

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Towards a Definition of Accessible Touirism

Defining Accessible Tourism

It is interesting that while accessible tourism has been developing as an area of academic study and industry practice, there has been relatively little discussion defining the field. Most study has focused on the experiences of people with disabilities while travelling without an articulation of the defining elements of the field. My own Ph.D. took such an approach where it drew its definitional inspiration from the theoretical areas of disability studies (see Gleeson, 1999; Oliver, 1996), leisure constraints (see Daniels, Drogin Rodgers, & Wiggins, 2005; Jackson & Scott, 1999), tourism systems (see Leiper, 2003; Leiper, Stear, Hing, & Firth, 2008) and human rights approaches (see Darcy & Taylor, 2009; United Nations, 2006) to propose a Comprehensive Tourism Access Model (CoTAM) as a way to understand the experiences that people with disabilities have while travelling (Darcy, 2004). As we can see by Figure 1, CoTAM provided a way to articulate the relationships between these very different bodies of theory.

Figure 1: The Comprehensive Tourism Access Model (CoTAM)

Source: Darcy 2004 p331.

Yet, at this stage of my research I was very much focused on the relationship between disability and tourism where the development of a body of knowledge that we now call accessible tourism was a logical progression. Not long after the completion of my PhD I started to think more broadly about definitional issues and what constituted accessible tourism. An opportunity arose to develop A Research Agenda For Accessible Tourism in Australia through funding provided by the Sustainable Tourism Cooperative Research Centre. The agenda was the outcome of a national workshop that brought together 50 they told was from the tourism industry, disability advocacy movement, government representatives and individuals with expertise in the area. The workshop used a series of focus group activities to brainstorm the issues facing disability and tourism from each of the stakeholder perspectives. In writing up the ideas captured in the workshop, I brought together the literature that discusses the relationship between disability and ageing (see Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2004; World Health Organization, 2007), disability studies, universal design (see Center for Universal Design, 2009; Preiser & Ostroff, 2001), building codes (see Standards Australia, 2009; U.S. Architectural and Transportation Barriers and Compliance Board (Access Board), 2002; UN ESCAP, 2008) and human rights approaches to disability. Through examining the ideas outlined by the approaches and what people contributed in the workshop I proposed that accessible tourism could be defined as,

… a process of enabling people with disabilities and seniors to function independently and with equity and dignity through the delivery of universal tourism products, services and environments (adapted from Olympic Co-ordination Authority, 1999). The definition is inclusive of the mobility, vision, hearing and cognitive dimensions of access (Darcy, 2006, p. 6).

More recent work with Dr Tracey Dickson on Alpine Accessible Tourism (Dickson & Hurrell, 2008) has provided an extension to this definition through the Whole of Life Approach to disability (Darcy & Dickson, 2009). This approach has a nexus to universal design where access is not isolated to disability but is more broadly linked to people’s bodily states over their lifespan. This provided the opportunity to be far more inclusive of a broader group of people who benefit from access provisions. The following definition incorporates these ideas:

Accessible tourism enables people with access requirements, including mobility, vision, hearing and cognitive dimensions of access, to function independently and with equity and dignity through the delivery of universally designed tourism products, services and environments. This definition is inclusive of all people including those travelling with children in prams, people with disabilities and seniors (Darcy & Dickson, 2009, p. 34).

More recently we have been drawing on the destination management approaches to suggest that tourism industry needs to provide high quality accessible destination experiences to provide a ‘sense of place’ so critical to tourism. These ideas have been developed and implemented through the Alpine Accessible Tourism project as well as the Visitor Accessibility in Urban Centres project (Darcy, et al., 2008) and Tourism Australia’s Accessible Drive Tourism Routes (Cameron, 2008). From these projects it is proposed that accessible destination experiences can be defined as:

Accessible destination experiences take direction from universal design principles to offer independent, dignified and equitable quintessential experiences that provide a ‘sense of place’ within the destination region for people with access requirements (Darcy, et al., 2008, p. 51).

I would like to ask those of you reading these ideas to contribute your thoughts so that we can develop a more robust basis on which to define and research the field.

Australian Bureau of Statistics (2004). Disability Ageing and Carers Summary Of Findings, 2003 (Cat No. 4430.0). Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Cameron, B. (2008). Accessible Drive Tourism Routes Available from
Center for Universal Design (2009). Universal Design Principles Retrieved 20 May, 2009, from
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. (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. Unpublished Ph.D., University of Technology, Sydney, Sydney.
Darcy, S. (2006). Setting a Research Agenda for Accessible Tourism. In C. Cooper, T. D. LacY & L. Jago (Eds.), STCRC Technical Report Seriespp. 48). Available from
Darcy, S., Cameron, B., Dwyer, L., Taylor, T., Wong, E., & Thomson, A. (2008). Technical Report 90064: Visitor accessibility in urban centrespp. 75). Available from
Darcy, S., & Dickson, T. (2009). A Whole-of-Life Approach to Tourism: The Case for Accessible Tourism Experiences. Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management, 16(1), 32-44.
Darcy, S., & Taylor, T. (2009). Disability citizenship: An Australian human rights analysis of the cultural industries. Leisure Studies, 28(4), 419-441.
Dickson, T., & Hurrell, M. (Writer) (2008). Alpine Accessibility Tourism Toolkit [DVD]. In T. Dickson (Producer). Australia: Australian Tourism Development Program/Australian Federal Government Initiative.
Gleeson, B. (1999). Geographies of Disability. London: Routledge.
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.
Leiper, N. (2003). Tourism management (3rd ed.). Sydney: Hospitality Press.
Leiper, N., Stear, L., Hing, N., & Firth, T. (2008). Partial Industrialisation in Tourism: A New Model. Current Issues in Tourism, 11(3), 207 - 235.
Oliver, M. (1996). Understanding Disability: From Theory to Practice. Basingstoke, Houndmills: Macmillan.
Olympic Co-ordination Authority (1999). Access Guidelines (3rd ed.). Sydney: Olympic Co-ordination Authority.
Preiser, W. F. E., & Ostroff, E. (2001). Universal Design Handbook. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Standards Australia (2009). AS 1428.1 Design for access and mobility - General requirements for access - New building work. Homebush, NSW: Standards Australia.
U.S. Architectural and Transportation Barriers and Compliance Board (Access Board) (2002). Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities. Washington: U.S. Architectural and Transportation Barriers and Compliance Board (Access Board).
UN ESCAP (2008). Disability at a glance: a Profile of 28 Countries and Areas in Asia and the Pacific (Vol. 2002,  Available from
United Nations (2006). Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. New York United Nations General Assembly A/61/611 - 6 December 2006.
World Health Organization (2007). Global Age-friendly Cities Guide from

No comments:

Post a Comment

Total Pageviews

Popular Posts