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

Monday, March 15, 2010

Vancouver 2010 Winter Paralympic Games Research?

In keeping with the accessible tourism theme of the Olympics, I draw attention to the opening ceremony of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Paralympic Games and all competition coverage that it is provided free online by the International Paralympic Committee’s own broadcaster (Paralympic Sport TV, 2010). Brilliant coverage! The Games sites and Vancouver generally will get a full access testing by the 40 countries competing with their 1350 athletes, officials and countless supporters (Tourism Vancouver, 2010) testing the Accessible Tourism Strategy set up by a consortium of organizations (2010 Legacies Now, 2010). The premise of the strategy incorporates access for the major dimensions of disability access including: mobility; Deaf or hearing impaired; and blind or vision impaired. To this end, the Vancouver Organising Committee (VANOC) for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games has produced an accessibility guide as a compendium to the spectator guide (Vancouver Organising Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC), 2010). This guide is also being supplemented by participants and visitors to the Paralympics by some excellent local access guides and blogs such as Whistler for the Disabled (2010) that provides a wealth of information for travelers and white powder lovers. As previously mentioned on the blog, a book is currently in the preparation on Paralympic legacy by David Legg and Keith Gilbert titled The Paralympic Games: Legacy and Regeneration (2010). Yet, a notable omission is that not one of the chapters deals with Winter Paralympic Games. Hopefully, someone in Vancouver will rectify the situation by documenting the planning, operation and legacy of the 2010 Vancouver Olympic and Paralympic Games. What is quite often lost from the “official” history of Olympic and Paralympic Games is the central role that disability advocates play in ensuring an equitable, dignified and independent experience for those that attend as participants, team management, employees, volunteers, spectators and tourists alike. For example, the Sydney 2000 Olympic and Paralympic Games was one where the official record (Olympic Coordination Authority, 2001; Sydney Paralympic Organising Committee, 2001) differed to more critical observations of Games processes (Cashman & Darcy, 2008; Darcy, 2003; Goggin & Newell, 2001; Olympic & Paralympic Disability Advocacy Service, 2000). What was omitted was the critical role of the underlying human rights framework, building codes and standards, and the advocacy of disability organizations and individuals with disabilities had in contesting, collaborating, protesting, litigating and assisting all aspects of planning and operations in the seven years prior to the opening ceremonies. Let’s hope that some Canadian researchers document the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games disability and access processes.

2010 Legacies Now. (2010). Accessible Tourism Strategy: accessibility rating icon guidelines business Available from
Cashman, R., & Darcy, S. (Eds.). (2008). Benchmark Games: The Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games. Petersham, NSW Australia: Walla Walla Press in conjunction with the Australian Centre for Olympic Studies.
Darcy, S. (2003). The politics of disability and access: the Sydney 2000 Games experience. Disability & Society, 18(6), 737-757.
Goggin, G., & Newell, C. (2001). Crippling Paralympics? Media, disability and Olympism. Media International Australia, 97(Nov), 71-83.
Legg, D., & Gilbert, K. (Eds.). (2010). The Paralympic Games: Legacy and Regeneration. Champaign, IL USA: Commonground Publishing.
Olympic & Paralympic Disability Advocacy Service. (2000). Final Report to the Department of Family and Community Services. Sydney: Commonwealth Department of Family and Community Services.
Olympic Coordination Authority. (2001). Accessible Operations Post Game Report - Sydney 2000 Olympic and Paralympics Games. Sydney: Olympic Coordination Authority.
Paralympic Sport TV (Producer). (2010, 15 March) Vancouver 2010. Paralympic Sport TV. Live TV feed
Sydney Paralympic Organising Committee. (2001). Paralympic Post Games Report (1 Vol). Sydney: SPOC.
Tourism Vancouver. (2010). 2010 Vancouver Olympic and Paralympic Games. Retrieved 15 March, 2010
Vancouver Organising Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC). (2010). Spectator guide: accessibility. Retrieved 14 March, 2010, from
Whistler for the Disabled. (2010). The 2010 Whistler Accessibility Blog. Retrieved 14 March, 2010, from

Saturday, March 13, 2010

German National Tourist Board gets serious about barrier-free tourism research

The German National Tourist Board (GNTB) got serious about “barrier-free tourism” in 2007 by adding a supplementary question to the Quality Monitor - German tourism industry survey, which surveys 17,000 German and international visitors (German National Tourist Board, 2010). The monitor distinguishes between four dimensions of access: restricted mobility or in wheelchairs; partially sighted or blind; deaf or hard of hearing; and visitors with pushchairs. Since introducing this initiative the GNTB has introduced barrier-free tourism products, overhauled their websites to be more accessible and provide selected reporting on barrier-free satisfaction and quality (German National Tourist Board, 2008). Importantly, the GNTB regard barrier-free tourism as part of their international marketing efforts (German National Tourist Board, 2009). The limited results released suggest that international tourists with disabilities have higher expectations and lower satisfaction than German domestic tourists but overall people with disabilities rated their satisfaction as ‘good’ (Muqbil, 2010). We look forward GNTB making all the results of the study freely available.

Germany's main travel destination website includes a page entitled "Germany for all", which highlights barrier free travel amongst other groups including 50+, GLBT (gays lesbians bisexuals transgender), honeymooners, young people and families. Within their barrier free travel includes photos relating to people with mobility, vision, hearing and cognitive disabilities. This approach are being inclusive of all groups is a refreshing approach for a National Tourism Office and is to be commended. Photo 1 depicts a person who is blind enjoying a tactile experience and strongly connects with the most recent academic literature on embodied tourist experiences.

Photo 1: Accessible tactile experience for blind or partially sighted people (source: )

German National Tourist Board. (2008). Importance of Tourism Available from
German National Tourist Board. (2009). Press Release: GNTB global marketing - Barrier-free travel an integral part of GNTB's marketing activities.   Retrieved 13 March, 2010, from
German National Tourist Board. (2010). Quality Monitor - German tourism industry survey.   Retrieved 13 March, 2010, from
Muqbil, I. (2010). 4. Travelling In Germany Rated 'Good' By People With Disabilities. TRAVEL IMPACT NEWSWIRE, 16(12 March 2010), np

Monday, March 1, 2010

Meetings, Incentives, Conferences & Events Industry interested in Disability Events Research

Disability, Human Rights and Disability Specific Events

One of the exciting things about working in this area is engaging with different industries that can affect the lives of people with disability. When disability advocates and researchers get the opportunity they should always provide relevant industry with stories based on sound research evidence. A chance meeting with Major Events International provided an opportunity to discuss the UN Convention (see previous blog), disability discrimination issues with the events industry, market size and dynamics and outlining universal design as a concept to develop enabling events environments. The article finishes with information about two major disability sporting events: the Paralympics; and the Special Olympics. No matter which part of the typology of events [1] - locally based community events, regionally important festivals, hallmark events or mega-events like the Olympics and Paralympics - people with disabilities have the right to participate and the events industry needs to know how to create more enabling events environments. 

The website link is provided below as is the story and the references.

In 2006 the United Nations’ [2, 3] Convention for the Rights of People with Disabilities was introduced and has been adopted by over 100 nations by 2008 . The Convention provides the international agreement on which national disability discrimination legislation and policy is framed. Article 30 of the Convention specifically identifies the rights of people with disabilities to culture, recreation and tourism, which has direct implications for the events industry. Yet, many in the events industry regard such conventions as a threat to the way that they operate rather than regarding it as an opportunity to open their operations to inclusive practices that broaden their markets. The remainder of the article provides market arguments, conceptual approaches, a case study of outcomes inclusive strategies and further information on two major disability specific events.

Globally there are over 650 million people with disabilities equating to about 10% of humanity [4]. As the World Health Organisation [5] state, by 2020 there will be 1.2 billion people over 60 years of age. The ‘greying’ of the population has been well documented as a market opportunity and is a phenomenon that affects all major inbound tourism and, hence, events markets [6]. The combination of disability over lifespan and the ageing of the population provide a significant convergence that the events industry need to react to not only on the human rights basis but from simple business sense [7]. Research in the United Kingdom, United States, Europe and Australia has shown that people with disabilities attending events or travelling for tourism purposes do so in a group rather than being alone [8-12]. If you are not inclusive of people with disabilities or those who are ageing, you not only lose their business but also the business of those who travel with them, which has been estimated at three to five other people on day trips to events or on overnight travel.

One way to ensure that disability and ageing is incorporated within event planning is through the principles of universal design. Universal design provides a framework in which to develop inclusive market practices for people of all ages, sizes and abilities by making products and environments usable without the need for specialist design [13]. In an Australian context, there has been the Disability Discrimination Act in force since 1992 and there have been significant cases of discrimination identified across the events industry [14, 15]. These included:

·         access to venues that event organisers had booked but were not accessible;
·         lack of provisions of accessible information formats including Braille, sign language interpreters and website accessibility to W3C international protocols;
·         staging that was not accessible to people with mobility disabilities;
·         policy on not charging for carer/attendants to support people with disabilities; and
·         registration procedures that did not identify people’s access requirements.

Yet, rather than focusing on the negative aspects of these discriminatory practices both the Australian Meetings and Events Industry [16] and the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations [17] have been proactive in  providing direction to the industry in producing inclusive and accessible events guides.

Apart from the argument that access considerations should be part of every event organisation, the events industry can benefit from many disability specific events including: adaptive technology expositions; disability organisation congresses; sport related travel; human rights meetings; inclusive education events; and disability specific arts productions. One example of how an organisation has benefited from pursuing disability specific events is the Perth Convention Bureau Ltd [18]. In developing a disability, ageing, and events strategy, the Perth Convention Bureau Ltd invested $50,000 in a Beyond Compliance Initiative. Beyond Compliance encouraged tourism operators in Western Australia to recognise the disability sector as a growing tourism market and subsequently provide universally accessible services to allow people with a disability and their carers and families to access and enjoy the stunning assets of Western Australia as a tourist destination for both business and leisure travellers. The initiative had lead to 18 national or international conferences being confirmed for Western Australia, translating to 10,385 delegates coming to the state for the purpose of a disability related conferences with an expected expenditure of nearly $20 million over three years [18].

An example of two major world disability events in the sporting sector is the International Paralympic Committee winter and summer Paralympic games and the Special Olympics.

The Paralympic Games are the pinnacle event of the International Paralympic Committee ( and the showcase of elite performance for athletes with disabilities. They are considered a ‘parallel’ movement to the Olympics. The Paralympics are held every four years generally after the Olympic Games, and mostly, in the same host City as the Olympic Games. The Paralympics had their roots in the rehabilitation of injured war veterans in England. The first staging of an international event took place in England at Stoke Mandeville hospital in 1948. The main aims of the first events were rehabilitation and social integration of people with disabilities. The first Paralympics was held in Rome in 1960 with 400 athletes from 23 countries. The Paralympics include the disability categories of: Amputee; Cerebral palsy; Intellectual disability; Vision impaired; Wheelchair; and Les autres. Fourteen sports are common to the Olympic Games with the sports of wheelchair rugby, boccia, goal ball and power lifting being specific to the Paralympics. The Paralympics have grown rapidly since their inception to become part of a global network of sports events. In doing so they have brought an increased visibility and status to people with disabilities by focusing on their abilities [adapted from 19]. Since the Sydney 2000 Olympic and Paralympic Games there has been an operational partnership that ensures that the big city for the Olympic Games also holds the Paralympic games in the same year, in the same city and no longer than two weeks apart. Photo 1 shows the opening ceremony to the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games.

Photo 1: Welcoming the elite athletes with disability at the Opening Ceremony of the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games © Fiona Darcy 2000

Special Olympics ( ) is a non-profit, international program of sports training and competition for people with intellectual disabilities. Founded in 1968 the Special Olympics provides training and athletic competition in 24 Olympic type sports for more than one million athletes in nearly 150 countries. The Special Olympics uses sports training and competition to develop relationships between the athletes, their families and the community. The goal is to provide people an opportunity to enjoy the benefits of sport to become useful and productive citizens who are accepted and respected in their communities.  While eligibility for participation in the Special Olympics is based on an IQ score as international competition seeks to be fair, challenging and provide individuals with a reasonable opportunity to succeed. This is a very different focus to the Paralympics that is based on a policy of elite sport participation where competition is based on a functional classification for each disability group where success is measured by winning [adapted from 20].

The overview of these two major disability sporting events was timely given that the 2010 Vancouver Winter Paralympic games starts on 12 March 2010 [21]. The Winter Paralympic games includes the same disability categories as the summer Paralympic games  and has the common winter sports of Alpine skiing, Nordic skiing, Biathlon and Cross-country skiing, with the disability specific Ice sledge hockey and Wheelchair curling. As VANOC organize the Olympic and Paralympic games the same village, venue and facilities used by both the Olympic and Paralympic athletes [21]. The Sydney 2000 Olympic and Paralympic games has had a full review of the considerations for logistics of planning, developing, managing, delivering and evaluating such an event [22].

Lastly, UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities has provided the event industry with a wonderful opportunity to develop inclusive practices for all events or to open up new market understandings through pursuing disability specific events. An opportunity is only a business potential until actions are taken to move the potentiality to a reality. The challenge is yours!

1.         Allen, J., et al., An overview of the event field, in Festival & special event management, J. Allen, et al., Editors. 2008, John Wiley & Sons Australia: Milton, Qld. p. 3-35.
2.         United Nations, Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. 2006, New York United Nations General Assembly A/61/611 - 6 December 2006.
3.         United Nations. Landmark UN treaty on rights of persons with disabilities enters into force. [Webpage] 2008 3 May [cited 2008 12 May]; Available from:
4.         United Nations. Enable.  2009 2 June 2009; Available from:
5.         World Health Organization. Global Age-friendly Cities Guide 2007; Available from:
6.         Dwyer, L., Trends underpinning global tourism in the coming decade, in Global Tourism, W. Theobald, Editor. 2005, Butterworth Heinemann: Burlington, MA. p. 529-545.
7.         Darcy, S. and T. Dickson, A Whole-of-Life Approach to Tourism: The Case for Accessible Tourism Experiences. Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management, 2009. 16(1): p. 32-44.
8.         Dwyer, L. and S. Darcy, Chapter 4 - Economic contribution of disability to tourism in Australia, in Technical Report 90040: Visitor accessibility in urban centres, S. Darcy, et al., Editors. 2008, Sustainable Tourism Cooperative Research Centre: Gold Coast. p. 15-21.
9.         HarrisInteractive Market Research. Research among adults with disabilities - travel and hospitality.  2005 January; 66]. Available from:
10.        UK Department for Culture Media and Sport, Accessible tourism: Making it work for your business. 2010, UK Department for Culture, Media and Sport: London.
11.        Buhalis, D., et al., Accessibility market and stakeholder analysis - One-Stop-Shop for Accessible Tourism in Europe (OSSATE). 2005, University of Surrey: Surrey, United Kingdom.
12.        Van Horn, L. Disability Travel In The United States: Recent Research And Findings. in 11th International Conference on Mobility and Transport for Elderly and Disabled Persons (TRANSED) - "Benchmarking, Evaluation and Vision for the Future". . 2007. June 18-22, 2007, at the Palais des congrès de Montréal.
13.        Center for Universal Design. Universal Design Principles.  2009  [cited 2009 20 May]; Available from:
14.        Darcy, S. and R. Harris, Inclusive and accessible special event planning: an Australia perspective. Event Management, 2003. 8(1): p. 516-536.
15.        Darcy, S. and T. Taylor, Disability citizenship: An Australian human rights analysis of the cultural industries. Leisure Studies, 2009. 28(4): p. 419-441.
16.        Meetings and Events Australia. ACCESSIBLE EVENTS: A Guide For Organisers.  2006  [cited 2010 26 Feb]; Available from:
17.        Australian Federation of Disability Organisations, A guide for Accessible Events for People With Disability. 2007, Compiled by the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations, incorporating information from the Canadian Guide to Planning Inclusive Meetings and Conferences and the Victorian Inclusive consultation and communication with people with a disability (used with permission): Canberra.
18.        Darcy, S., et al., Technical Report 90042: Developing Business Cases for Accessible Tourism, in STCRC technical report. 2008, Sustainable Tourism Cooperative Research Centre: Gold Coast.
19.        Darcy, S., Paralympics, in Encyclopedia of Leisure and Outdoor Recreation, J.M. Jenkins and J.J. Pigram, Editors. 2005, Routledge - Taylor and Francis Group: New York and London. p. 350-351.
20.        Darcy, S., Special Olympics, in Encyclopedia of Leisure and Outdoor Recreation, J.M. Jenkins and J.J. Pigram, Editors. 2005, Routledge - Taylor and Francis Group: New York and London. p. 475-476.
21.        Vancouver Organising Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games (VANOC). Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Games.  2010  [cited 2010 26 February]; Available from:
22.        Cashman, R. and S. Darcy, eds. Benchmark Games: The Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games. 2008, Walla Walla Press in conjunction with the Australian Centre for Olympic Studies: Petersham, NSW Australia.

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