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

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The United Nations' conventions, the World Tourism Organisation and Accessible Tourism Policy

The UN human rights conventions have been in existence since 1948 (United Nations, 1948). It wasn’t until 1975 that people with disabilities were specifically identified in a declaration with the subsequent actions and declarations reinforcing that people with disabilities should enjoy the same rights of citizenship as those without disabilities (United Nations, 1975, 1976, 1993). More recently, the United Nations (2006, 2008) Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities became a galvanizing agent for operationalising these rights within each signatory country. Yet,  countries operationalise these rights under their own legislative and policy frameworks.  Given the various UN conventions over the years, it is surprising that only 40 countries have introduced specific disability discrimination legislation (United Nations, 2009). Table 1 shows, a chronology of disability discrimination legislation for a sample of countries.

Table 1: National Disability Discrimination Legislation

United States
Americans with Disabilities Act
The Law of People's Republic of China on the Protection of Disabled Persons
Disability Discrimination Act
United Kingdom
Disability Discrimination Act
Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act
Costa Rica
Law No. 7600 on Equality for Persons with Disabilities
Hong Kong
Disability Discrimination Ordinance (1996)

Source: (UN ESCAP, 2008; United Nations, 2009)

Similarly, the UN World Tourism Organisation has been active in promoting the rights of travelers with disabilities through a series of statements (World Tourism Organization, 1985, 1991, 2005). The latest of these directly supports the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities where Article 30 includes tourism within its discussion of the cultural industries. Figure 1 shows that the WTO identify the importance of universally asccessible tourism (source: ).Yet, the WTO has not deployed resources beyond these statements but has operated programs, research and development opportunities in many other areas. So where does this leave the use of such international declarations in respect to improving the material position of people with disabilities on the ground? Nation states must still implement the goodwill of these declarations through their own frameworks whereas government’s resource and regulate their implementation of the UN Convention as a way to empower people with disabilities to achieve all their rights of citizenship. However, the presence of antidiscrimination legislation does not guarantee its implementation or a change in the material position of those that it is designed to empower (Handley, 2001; Heap, Lorenzo, & Thomas, 2009).

Figure 1: Shows that the WTO identify the importance of universally asccessible tourism (source: )

What research has been carried out on the implementation of human rights legislation in nation states as it relates to accessible tourism provision? First, there are other disciplines and fields of study that have carried out significant research on the impact of disability legislation generally and comparatively for countries (Burns & Gordon, 2009), the accessibility of the built environment (Imrie, 1996, 2000; Prideaux & Roulstone, 2009) and the accessibility of transportation systems (Aldred & Woodcock, 2008) . This body of research can provide major insights into how each nation state regards accessibility for its citizens. Yet, as we know people with disabilities and those who benefit from the accessible tourism provision face many tourism specific issues when they travel away from their place of residence into unfamiliar territory. These have been documented literature and I refer you back  to the blog entry on constraints

While many studies and articles refer to human rights legislation as an important reason to undertake studies on accessible tourism, very few studies analyse the relative impacts or outcomes of the human rights laws. A small but growing body of literature that examines the outcomes of human rights legislation as it impacts on accessible tourism is beginning to emerge. The most well-developed body of research is within the UK (Goodall, Pottinger, Dixon, & Russell, 2004; Miller & Kirk, 2002; Shaw, 2007; Shaw, Veitch, & Coles, 2005), the US (Davies & Beasley, 1994; Gallagher & Hull, 1996; Griffin Dolon, 2000; US Dept Justice, 2007 ; Van Horn, 2007) and Australia (Darcy & Taylor, 2009; Public Interest Advocacy Centre, 2007; Small & Darcy, 2010). These issues certainly affect other countries and there has been significant coverage of air travel disability and embodiement discrimination in the media in France, South Africa, India, Canada and Malaysia. I called for other researchers in other countries to include an analysis of the human rights implications of accessible tourism as part of their research agenda for their own citizens as well as those who travel to their countries.

Aldred, R., & Woodcock, J. (2008). Transport: challenging disabling environments. Local Environment: The International Journal of Justice and Sustainability, 13(6), 485–496.
Burns, K. K., & Gordon, G. L. (2009). Analyzing the Impact of Disability Legislation in Canada and the United States. Journal of Disability Policy Studies, 1044207309344562.
Darcy, S., & Taylor, T. (2009). Disability citizenship: An Australian human rights analysis of the cultural industries. Leisure Studies, 28(4), 419-441.
Davies, T. D., Jr., & Beasley, K. A. (1994). Accessible design for hospitality: ADA guidelines for planning accessible hotels, motels and other recreational facilities. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Gallagher, J. M., & Hull, A. H. (1996). Cruise ship accommodations for passengers with physical limitations due to disability or age. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 50(8), 685-687.
Goodall, B., Pottinger, G., Dixon, T., & Russell, H. (2004). Heritage property, tourism and the UK Disability Discrimination Act. Property Management, 22(5), 345-357.
Griffin Dolon, J. (2000). Accessibility, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the natural environment as a tourist resource. anatolia: International Journal of Tourism and Hospitality Research, 11(2), 101-110.
Handley, P. (2001). 'Caught Between a Rock and a Hard Place': Anti-discrimination legislation in the liberal state and the fate of the Australian Disability Discrimination Act. Australian Journal of Political Science, 36(3), 515-528.
Heap, M., Lorenzo, T., & Thomas, J. (2009). ‘We've moved away from disability as a health issue, it's a human rights issue’: reflecting on 10 years of the right to equality in South Africa. Disability & Society, 24(7), 857-868.
Imrie, R. (1996). Disability and the city: international perspectives. London: Paul Chapman.
Imrie, R. (2000). Disabling environments and the geography of access policies and practices. Disability & Society, 15(1), 5-24.
Miller, G. A., & Kirk, E. (2002). The Disability Discrimination Act: Time for the stick? Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 10(1), 82-88.
Prideaux, S., & Roulstone, A. (2009). Good practice for providing disabled people with reasonable access to the built environment. Built Environment, 1(1), 59-81.
Public Interest Advocacy Centre. (2007). Flight Closed: Report on the experiences of People with Disabilities in Domestic Airline Travel in Australia. Sydney: Public Interest Advocacy Centre.
Shaw, G. (2007). Disability legislation and empowerment of tourists with disability in the United Kingdom. In A. Church & T. Coles (Eds.), Tourism, Power and Space (pp. 83-100). London: Routledge.
Shaw, G., Veitch, C., & Coles, T. I. M. (2005). Access, disability, and tourism: changing responses in the United Kingdom. Tourism Review International, 8(3), 167-176.
Small, J., & Darcy, S. (2010). Chapter 4: Tourism, disability and mobility. In S. Cole & N. Morgan (Eds.), Tourism and Inequality: Problems and Prospects (in press) (pp. pp1-30). Wallingford CABI.
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. (1948). Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Geneva. United Nations.
United Nations. (1975). Declaration on the rights of disabled persons. Geneva. United Nations.
United Nations. (1976). The International Year of Disabled Persons 1981 (General Assembly resolution 31/123). Geneva. United Nations.
United Nations. (1993). Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities (General Assembly resolution 48/96). Geneva: United Nations.
United Nations. (2006). Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. New York United Nations General Assembly A/61/611 - 6 December 2006.
United Nations. (2008, 3 May). Landmark UN treaty on rights of persons with disabilities enters into force.   Retrieved 12 May, 2008, from
United Nations. (2009, 2 June 2009). Enable. from
US Dept Justice. (2007 ). Common ADA Problems at Newly Constructed Lodging Facilities. Washington, DC: Civil Rights Division, Disability Rights Section.
Van Horn, L. (2007). Disability Travel In The United States: Recent Research And Findings. Paper presented at the 11th International Conference on Mobility and Transport for Elderly and Disabled Persons (TRANSED) - "Benchmarking, Evaluation and Vision for the Future". , June 18-22, 2007, at the Palais des congrès de Montréal.
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World Tourism Organization. (1991). Creating Tourism Opportunities for Handicapped People in the Nineties (A/RES/284(IX) (Resolution A/res/284(IX) of the General Assembly held at Buenos Aires, Argentina). Madrid, Spain: World Tourism Organization.
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  1. The UN policy should be all over the world!
    When I travelled to Argentina, I rent apartments Buenos Aires that had a ramp for wheelchairs, in case the elevator does not work, but I think it is the only one!

  2. Dear Natasha

    Thank you very much for your comment and yes I would love to travel to Argentina myself but finding accessible accommodation is very difficult particularly as I am not a Spanish speaker.


  3. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I think I will leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often. lots in Costa Rica

  4. Dear Talena
    Thank you very much for your comment. If you have any Costa Rican research that you would like me to highlight on the blog then please send it to me. I look forward to your ongoing involvement.

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    The concept of Gross National Happiness is a Development philosophy in Bhutan. The Late Druk Gyalpo Jigme Dorji Wangchuck expressed his view on the goal of development as making "the people prosperous and happy". The importance of "prosperity and happiness" was highlighted in the King's address on the occasion of Bhutan's admission to the United Nations in 1971. This vision was further elaborated by the Fourth Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuck who declared in the first years of his reign that "our country's policy is to consolidate our sovereignty to achieve economic self-reliance, prosperity and happiness for our country and people".

    While the emphasis is placed on both, prosperity and happiness, the latter is considered of more significance. The Fourth DrukGyalpo emphasized that for Bhutan "Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross National Product" and this is now being fleshed out by a wide range of professionals, scholars and agencies across the world.

    Concerned about the problems afflicting countries that focused only on economic growth, Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuck decided to make the nation's priority not it's G.D.P. but its G.N.H. (Gross National Happiness). He suggested that the progress of nations be measured by "Gross National Happiness" for the rich are not always happy while the happy generally consider themselves rich. While conventional development models stress economic growth as the ultimate objective, the concept of GNH claims to be based on the premise that true development of human society takes place when material and spiritual development occur side by side to complement and reinforce each other with Directive Principle of State Policy to give Fundamental Right to the people.

    Gross National Happiness consists of four pillars:

    Fair socio-economic development (better education and health)
    Conservation and promotion of a vibrant culture
    Conservation of environment and
    Good governance.
    Guided by Gross National Happiness Bhutan has tread the trail of economic development but not to the detriment of the Happiness of her people. This development philosophy has made the lives of the Bhutanese comfortable by embracing the Middle Path. Bhutan has savored immense stride of economic progress that had complemented in the preservation and promotion of the four pillars of Gross National Happiness. Thus, Bhutan extols its forest cover and diversity of flora and fauna when elsewhere many species are disappearing and are on the verge of extinction. GNH is a unique approach to national and global development.


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