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, May 23, 2010

TRANSED Accessible Public Transport and Tourism Conference, Hong Kong China 2-4 June 2010

One of the great experiences of working within universities, academia and the international research environment is the opportunity to attend conferences, share ideas and network with people from all over the world. One such opportunity is the TRANSED 2010 – 12th International Conference on Mobility and Transport for Elderly and Disabled Person to be held in Hong Kong, China 2-4 June  2010. The conference has stream on accessible tourism research and policy that brings together perspectives from all over the world. I am lucky enough to be a plenary speaker and I am looking forward to the conference as a first time visitor to Hong Kong and experiencing the delights of one of Asia’s great cities. The conference incorporates a series of opportunities to undertake field visits to a variety of accessible transport and tourism offerings and I will be availing myself of these opportunities. As a person with high support needs, I will also report on my experiences as a traveler with disabilities to Hong Kong. It is excellent to see that the Hong Kong Tourism Board (2010) at least has a page on Accessible Hong Kong.

In continuing from Rafael de Castro's (2010) research, Hong Kong is a city where east meets west in so many ways yet there has been very little examination in the literature of cross-cultural accessible tourism issues. In disability studies more generally, there is a recognition that disability has a cultural construct that must be factored into the way that Western disability studies theory is applied in non-Western systems. For example the work of Miles (1982, 2000, 2001), has critiqued the different value systems between eastern and western philosophies and the implications that this has for policy implementation. There has been research completed on accessible tourism in an Asian context (Bi, Card, & Cole, 2007; McKercher, Packer, Yau, & Lam, 2003; Packer, McKercher, & Yau, 2007; Yau, McKercher, & Packer, 2004) but interestingly this work has not discussed cross-cultural considerations within accessible tourism research.

As a western traveller to Hong Kong, I will report back on my observations of cross-cultural considerations that I experience as well those of my fellow travellers. If you like a personal ethnography or more correctly a heuristic inquiry that draws on the researchers experience of the phenomenon and the essential experience of others who also experience the phenomenon (Patton, 1990, p. 71).

Photo 1: Hong Kong Tourism Board website page image

Bi, Y., Card, J. A., & Cole, S. T. (2007). Accessibility and Attitudinal Barriers Encountered by Chinese Travellers with Physical Disabilities. Int. J. Tourism Res, 9, 205-216.
de Castro, R. T. (2010). Accessibility of Tourists with Special Needs to Air Transport Unpublished Masters, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro.
Hong Kong Tourism Board. (2010). Accessible Hong Kong.   Retrieved 23 May, 2010, from
McKercher, B., Packer, T., Yau, M. K., & Lam, P. (2003). Travel agents as facilitators or inhibitors of travel: perceptions of people with disabilities. Tourism Management, 24(4), 465-474.
Miles, M. (1982). Why Asia Rejects Western Disability Advice. International Rehabilitation Review, 4th Quarter,
Miles, M. (2000). Disability on a Different Model: glimpses of an Asian heritage. Disability & Society, 15(4), 603-618.
Miles, M. (2001). ICIDH Meets Postmodernism, or Incredulity toward Meta-Terminology. Disability World E-Zine (March/April), 2001(7),
Packer, T. L., McKercher, B., & Yau, M. (2007). Understanding the complex interplay between tourism, disability and environmental contexts. Disability & Rehabilitation, 29(4), 281-292.
Patton, M. Q. (1990). Qualitative Evaluation and Research Methods. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
Yau, M. K.-s., McKercher, B., & Packer, T. L. (2004). Traveling with a disability: More than an Access Issue. Annals of Tourism Research, 31(4), 946-960.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Research from the non-English-speaking World: Airport accessibility in Brazil

I am regularly contacted by undergraduate and graduate students from around the world interested in accessible tourism and disability related issues. One of the reasons for creating this blog was to point people to the literature and research resources of common requests such as economic contribution, constraints and national patterns of participation. One such student was a Master of Science in transport engineering student from Rio de Janeiro, Rafael Teixeira de Castro who was interested in air transport accessibility. Rafael wanted some direction with the literature generally, social approaches to disability specifically and methodology as he was studying under a transport engineering faculty where these issues were outside the scope of his supervisors. I am happy to say that Rafael completed his dissertation and has provided an English language abstract that is provided below.

The difficulties faced by people with special needs in air transport are countless. Many authors have investigated this issue; however, only few researches were dedicated to observing, perceiving and listening to these individuals’ needs. The main purpose of this study is to analyze the accessibility of people with special needs in air transport as a factor for social inclusion. By interviews and interaction with people with special needs, “flowchart models” were developed with the objective to understand the real difficulties imposed by the terminals. The methodology used was a qualitative research based on questionnaires and interviews to people with mobility impairments in partnership with NGOs in the city of Rio de Janeiro. The findings point to the essentiality of airport planners, designers and managers hear the voice of these costumers in order to provide the service they wish to have which is guaranteed by the legislation. Listening to these people, learning about their differences and how to deal with them, is of great value for the development of accessible airport facilities (de Castro, 2010).

I am also conscious that a great deal of the research and literature on accessible tourism is only from the English-speaking world and I implore readers of this blog to encourage researchers from non-English-speaking countries to submit English language abstracts so that we can promote their research and get a better cross-cultural understanding of accessible tourism. Congratulations Rafael!

Readers can contact Rafael on

Photo 1: The researcher - Rafael Teixeira de Castro

de Castro, R. T. (2010). Accessibility of Tourists with Special Needs to Air Transport Master of Science Masters, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro.  

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Quality Accessible Tourism Experiences

While there has been a great deal of research that looks at the experiences of people with disabilities while they are travelling (see constraints blog post), there has been surprisingly little research on what makes for quality accessible tourism experiences. This is partly because there has been very little supply side interest in accessible tourism product development and, hence, a great deal of accessible tourism has not been to an equal level of that offered to the nondisabled. This is nowhere more evident than in the array of disability discrimination cases that have been brought against tourism providers and the discussion of the impact of antidiscrimination legislation on the sector (Armstrong, 2001; Darcy & Taylor, 2009; Goodall, 2006; Goodall, Pottinger, Dixon, & Russell, 2004; Griffin Donlon, 2000; Handley, 2001; Miller & Kirk, 2002; Shaw, Veitch, & Coles, 2005; Smith, 2006; Teutsch, 2008). One of the key aspects of legislation whether it be the US Americans with Disabilities Act, 1990 or the Australian Disability Discrimination Act, 1992 or the UK Disability Discrimination Act, 1995 all have a core aim of providing people with disabilities with an equal treatment before the law and, hence, an equality of experience.

Photo 1: Proving the Concept - Sydney for All Web portal wins World Leisure Organisation 2010 Innovation Prize

The concept of an equality of experience before the law has generally fallen short with providers regarding “access” as literally stopping at getting through the front door. Yet, access to the physical premise or alternative information provision should be the starting point for developing truly accessible destination experiences. For example, wheelchair accessible rooms should provided throughout the different classes and amenities of rooms that nondisabled rooms are provided. If a person who is blind wants to take a guided tour of Europe by coach then their experience should be facilitated. The Deaf should not have to make “special” arrangements to get access to captioned video that is showing to all other tourists at a particular attraction. So far, these types of quality tourism experiences are unusual rather than the usual. In an industry obsessed with quality management evaluation that there has been very little consideration of quality accessible tourism experiences. Quality accessible tourism experiences were at the centre of a Sustainable Tourism Cooperative Research Centre project on Visitor Accessibility in Urban Centres (Darcy et al., 2008). The outcome of the project was the development of the Sydney for All Web portal that brought together good quality accessible tourism experiences across mobility, hearing, vision and cognitive dimensions of access. Business 21C undertook a short video to encapsulate the philosophy of the project and to examine what makes for quality accessible tourism experiences. The video can be viewed at the following website

Photo 2:  Author enjoying the streets of Sydney during Festival First Night – the festival organisers included disability access across all spheres of the festival organisation (© Fiona Darcy 2010)

Armstrong, D. (2001, May 9). Discrimination at airlines remains a problem for disabled travelers, Feature, The Wall Street Journal, p.? Retrieved from
Darcy, S., Cameron, B., Dwyer, L., Taylor, T., Wong, E., & Thomson, A. (2008). Visitor accessibility in urban centres (pp. 75).  Retrieved from
Darcy, S., & Taylor, T. (2009). Disability citizenship: An Australian human rights analysis of the cultural industries. Leisure Studies, 28(4), 419-441.
Goodall, B. (2006). Disabled access and heritage attractions. Tourism, Culture & Communication, 7(1), 57-78.
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 Donlon, J. (2000). Accessibility, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the natural environment as a tourist resource. [Yes]. 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.
Miller, G. A., & Kirk, E. (2002). The Disability Discrimination Act: Time for the stick? Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 10(1), 82-88.
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.
Smith, M. (2006). The impact of the Disability Discrimination Act on historic buildings. Journal of Building Appraisal, 2(1), 52-61.
Teutsch, D. (2008, 13 January). Access Restricted: flying can be an ordeal for people with disabilities, Feature, The Sun-Herald, p. 34

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