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

Friday, December 7, 2012

When Accessible Tourism Practice Needs to Meet the Rhetoric: First South-East Asian Accessible Tourism (SEACAT) Conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

On November 23-25 I was supposed to be the keynote speaker for the First South-East Asian Conference on Accessible Tourism, Kuala Lumpur Malaysia. I was looking forward to the presentation which was to provide an overview of the business case for accessible tourism through current international and national statistics. Unfortunately the conference organisers had chosen a hotel that did not have an accessible room with a roll in shower and upon my insistence they eventually found a hotel that could accommodate my needs but one hour from the conference venue. This together with a number of other issues associated with the trip meant that as a person with a high level spinal cord injury who uses a power wheelchair I could not make an informed decision that my trip would be as successful and enjoyable as a person without a disability attending the same conference. The outcome was that the conference lost a key note speaker with a disability. While the conference was well represented by experts in the field too often conferences on disability issues are dominated by nondisabled speakers talking about experiences of people with disabilities. Luckily this conference also had two excellent Singaporeans, Judy Wee and Patrick Ang who are consultants with disabilities who could speak as experts in their own right but also provide the lived experience of people with disabilities.

Yet, my cancelling of a tourism trip for business purposes pales into insignificance with the day-to-day experiences of people with disabilities in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I am inspired by the advocacy, passion and dedication of the local delegates from the conference who took to the streets of Kuala Lumpur to highlight what inaccessibility means for their citizenship rights. Before accessible tourism can become integrated within the tourism offerings of destinations, city planners and destination managers need to work with the local disability community to ensure that the city environments are accessible for their residents. Far too often people with disability are literally confined to their homes as their local streetscapes do not offer a continuous and safe path of travel so that they can get out of their houses and go about their business of shopping, getting to work or having quality leisure experiences. If people cannot be visible in their local communities how can they be part of their local community? If people cannot get out of their houses how can they become part of the social fabric of their community? If the local transport interchanges and public transport options are not accessible and affordable how can they access employment to enjoy the benefits of economic prosperity? If they can't get to commercial centres, how can they be employed? If they are denied employment how can they have the resources to experience the arts, sport and the benefits of accessible tourism?

I was heartened to see an excellent article in "The Star" that did a very good job in representing the issues that people with disabilities face on a day-to-day basis in the accessibility of urban environments in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The article also went on to explicitly examine some of the substantial issues facing people when they travel away from their place of residence. Whether that be air transport, ground transport, the accessibility of hotels and tourist attractions, or the attitudes of the industry towards people with disability, they all cumulatively make travelling with a disability much harder than it should be. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, suggests that the countries that have signed the convention should be working to ensure that the principles become more than just rhetoric so that people with disability can enjoy all the rights of citizenship including when they travel. Yet, this story would suggest that we are a long way from that ideal. Let's hope that the experiences I loaded by this conference are starting point for Kuala Lumpur becoming a accessible tourism destination where I will be able to visit in the future.

reprinted with permission

Poor accessibility for disabled deters tourists


<b>Stumbling block:</b> Members of Seacat 2012 venturing out on the streets of Kuala Lumpur to check some of the sights in the city. Poor accessibility for the disabled deters tourists from visiting our country. — Chin Mui YoonStumbling block: Members of Seacat 2012 venturing out on the streets of Kuala Lumpur to check some of the sights in the city. Poor accessibility for the disabled deters tourists from visiting our country. — Chin Mui Yoon
Accessible tourism benefits more than just the disabled and the elderly in our rapidly aging society. It provides a win-win scenario for everyone.
SOCORRO Jabor was looking forward to a wonderful holiday in Singapore with her husband. She wanted to celebrate her birthday in March, differently this year.
However, upon arriving at Singapore’s Changi Airport, the couple waited one hour for a wheelchair lift before they were told to pay 11,000 pesos (RM820) for its use. Jabor refused to pay the extra money, and crawled down the airplane stairs to the tarmac where her husband waited with her wheelchair.
“My husband also has spinal injuries and it was against the (Cebu Pacific) airlines staff regulations to carry me,” explained Jabor, president of the Philippine Paralympic Sports & Development Inc.
“My travel agent had already contacted the airlines before my trip, to inform them that a disabled person would be on aboard. So why do I need to pay so much more just because I am disabled?”
Jabor also had to pay double the normal hotel room rates, for a disabled-friendly room. Her experiences underscore the unnecessary hassles and barriers the disabled face when travelling. This discourages many of them from venturing abroad, or travelling within their own country.
Accessible travel is no longer regarded as a small market. It is growing in importance but many cities and countries still lack the infrastructure and facilities to cater to this market.
The first South-East Asian Conference on Accessible Travel (Seacat 2012) was held in Kuala Lumpur last weekend. More than 200 participants from various countries such as China, Hong Kong, India, the Philippines, Taiwan, Nepal, South Korea, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand, attended the conference.
The Prime Minister’s Department gave a grant of RM150,000 to organise the event but there was no representative from the Tourism Ministry throughout the three-day event.
Last Sunday, a convoy of over 400 people, including conference delegates, wheelchair users and volunteers, took a five-hour trip on the KL Monorail and LRT to check out some of the sights from Berjaya Times Square to Suria KLCC.
The group was left disappointed, as there was no disabled accessconnecting the KLCC LRT station to the mall. The lone folded stairlift was out of order; it has been so for weeks although the disabled community had brought the matter to the attention of the authorities.
And so the group detoured to the Ampang Park LRT station, where the convoy made its way by road to Kuala Lumpur’s premier tourist attraction. Unfortunately, the steep curbs with narrow ramps were littered with broken pavement tiles, potholes and piles of earth left behind by roadworks. This made access a problem, even for non-wheelchair users.
Frustrated with the poor access and sapped of energy by the searing midday sun, most abandoned their plans to check out the newly opened KLCC-Bukit Bintang elevated walkway which leads to the Pavilion mall. This experience is typical of the difficulties the disabled encounter in moving around Kuala Lumpur.
“People with disabilities and the elderly who have mobility impairment, desire to travel just like the rest of the population,” said conference organiser Sia Siew Chin, executive director of Beautiful Gate Foundation for the Disabled.
“For the able-bodied, a broken-down lift is an inconvenience; for us, it is a barrier. We, too, desire the freedom to move around independently. Barrier-free access caters not just to the disabled but also the elderly and those with temporary disabilities.
“Like any parent, I want my children to enjoy their childhood and go on holidays with their parents. Last year, we went to Hong Kong with a group of 22 which included 14 wheelchair-users. It was a memorable holiday. The city is so accessible, from our pick-up at the airport to our hotel rooms and tourist spots.”
At the conference, an interim committee was formed for an Asia Pacific Network on Accessible Travel, made up of members from various countries.
Hong Kong’s disabled-friendly infrastructure and facilities make it a popular holiday destination for the disabled. —Sia Siew ChinHong Kong’s disabled-friendly infrastructure and facilities make it a popular holiday destination for the disabled. —Sia Siew Chin
Independent living
“Every individual has the right to independent living, inclusive education, and access to information, the environment and social systems,” said Judy Wee, vice-president of Singapore’s Disabled Person’s Association and a resource person with the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (Unescap).
“There are about one billion people with disabilities worldwide; this is about 15% of the world’s population. This makes it the largest minority group in the world. Why are we ignoring this group?
Ivor Ambrose, managing director of the European Network for Accessible tourism, which is an association of 200 organisations from 30 European nations, said: “Tourism opens the door for every visitor to experience other cultures. This helps develop our understanding and contributes to our common humanity. People who have disabilities or who experience access problems cannot be denied this right. To be a tourist is everyone’s right.
“Tourism development and local community development must go hand-in-hand. By making tourism destinations and services accessible to visitors with disabilities, seniors, and families, we are also contributing to an improved quality of life for local residents.”
Joseph Kwan, an architect and current chairman of the Rehabilitation International Commission on Technology and Accessibility, pointed out that vacations for people with disabilities could cost between 30% and 200% more than holidays for the non-disabled.
“The first phase on achieving inclusive tourism is to increase awareness; we need the commitment of tourism authorities to make all future tourism projects accessible and economically sustainable,” said Kwan.
Law King Kiew, secretary-general of Society of the Chinese Disabled Persons Malaysia, recalled how a front desk staff at a hotel in Malacca turned her away when she entered the door.
“She said: ‘We have no rooms for the disabled’,” Law recounted.
“Malaysia made huge announcements when we became a signatory of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Article 30 clearly states that the disabled should enjoy access to places such as theatres, museums, cinemas, libraries, monuments and sites of national cultural importance,” said Yam Tong Woo, chief operating officer of the Centre on Advocacy, Research and Empowerment of the Blind, which was set up by the National Council of the Blind Malaysia.
“Yet we lack ramps for wheelchairs, tactile walkways, audio descriptions or headsets for the blind to help them understand what they can’t see. We will be having a Visit Malaysia Year 2013; are we not welcoming the disabled to our beautiful country?”
European Network for Accessible Tourism president Lilian Müller highlighted the urgency to make tourism accessible.
“Enabling access to tourism is our priority. Accessible tourism is not a niche market; it’s a demographic explosion and we will all feel the effects. We have to improve access now,” she said.
The World Health Organisation (WHO)’s first World Report on Disability 2011 shows that there are over one billion people living with some form of disability. In the years ahead, disability will be an even greater concern due to ageing populations and the global rise in chronic health conditions.
Valuable market
Chris Veitch, a university lecturer and tourism consultant in Britain, explained that the accessible tourism market had been ignored for so long because the disabled and elderly were not seen as a valuable market by the tourism sector.
“There is an increasing number of older travellers. Travel is part of senior lifestyle,” said Veitch. “These are not the old people we knew 30 years ago. They aspire to do more and go to new places in their old age. The baby-boomer generation is changing the perception of customers with disabilities. Innovative businesses are gearing up to meet the needs of seniors, disabled visitors, families and an increasingly diverse market.”
There is huge economic potential for accessible tourism in South-East Asia in terms of information, infrastructure, transportation, services and facilities.
“But what we have seen is a clear case of ‘market failure’ in which the public sector and entrepreneurs have failed to provide what potential visitors need. Customers do not come simply because they can’t. This spells economic loss for the country,” said Veitch.
Dr Sandra Rhodda, director of Access Tourism New Zealand, highlighted a lack of even basic information while searching for accessible travel and hotels in Kuala Lumpur.
“For the various types of disabilities, what is needed are independent assessments and descriptions of transport available, accessible routes to the different destinations, entrances, local terrains and accessible toilets,” said Rhodda.
“Like any first-time visitor to Malaysia, I googled for information. There is a lack of accurate, sufficient or detailed information. Disabled tourists will not risk going to Malaysia if they cannot find any information. The Tourism Malaysia official website is difficult to navigate and has no information on accessible travel. Most websites give general overviews and point out that it is not easy to travel with a disability here. Apparently there isn’t any travel agency that offers accessible travel either.”
On comparison, an “Inclusive London” website that was launched last March by the Greater London Authority has received 12 million hits so far.
“We are all reluctant to go somewhere if we don’t know what to expect when we get there. This can be doubly so for a person with disabilities – are their access needs going to be met?” asked Dr Rhodda.
Veitch pointed out that the US accessible tourism market is worth US$13.5bil according to the HarrisMarket Research 2002 and 2005, while the European accessible tourism market is ‚80bil. The economic benefits to inclusive tourism is clearly obvious.
Since the Equality Act was introduced in Britain in 2010, London’s famous double-decker buses now have drop-down ramps to accommodate wheelchairs. Many Underground stations have disabled-friendly features now although many of the 19th century stations were not built for accessibility.
“It is a slow and incremental change. What is key is changing people’s attitudes,” said Veitch.
“While it is not possible to quantify how much of Britain is barrier-free, it is against the law to discriminate a person because of any disability. Businesses are not allowed to charge extra, and must demonstrate they have made reasonable changes to be as inclusive as possible. Heritage places have to be as accessible as possible. Even nature-based attractions can become accessible. In France, there are tracking on beaches; they can go scuba diving. A forest may not be wheelchair accessible, but it can make a great sensory path for the visually impaired.
“You can’t ignore this trend. If governments don’t start now, they will find themselves left behind as trends change.”
Kwan, from Rehabilitation International, said the disabled community in Hong Kong played a very active role in working with the government to make accessibility a reality.
“But it takes government and political willpower; the government must have a desire to do this or you’ll keep running into a brick wall,” said Kwan.
“Accessible tourism generates economic benefits to the entire community and country. You are also building up infrastructure that benefits the local community. A universal design benefits everyone – children, mothers pushing prams, older persons, those who are visually and hearing impaired, and wheelchair users. One system is good for everyone.”
“We’d need certain legislations as voluntary is not going to work. Britain, the United States, Hong Kong and Singapore all have laws that prevent discrimination against persons with disabilities. This is a global trend.”
Hong Kong’s earliest buses which catered to the disabled started running in 1978. The fleet of bright yellow Rebabus are fitted with ISO grade wheelchair securing systems and cater to an average of 700,000 users a year, most of whom are locals.
The Easy Access Bus which was introduced in 2001 to send the elderly to public hospitals or clinics, serves over 150,000 patients every year.
“We see a worldwide trend of aging populations. With a rapidly aging society, we are not preparing accessibility for only the disabled; we are also preparing for the future when each one of us will grow old and find ourselves with mobility difficulties,” said Rex Luk, director of Accessible Transport and Travel for the Hong Kong Society for Rehabilitation. Luk oversees three accessible vehicle fleets with over 170 vehicles.
Hong Kong’s public transportation system, including the MTR, is equipped for hearing, visual and mobility impaired travellers. Websites include videos shot by wheelchair users themselves, showing the exact terrain and slope gradients they would need to travel across from the bus or car drop-off stations all the way to the tourist site itself.
There are many challenges in store for accessible travel in South-East Asia. Lack of continuity in the travel chain is a barrier at some point.
Judy Wee recalled how her holiday abroad was abruptly cut short during transit when the second airline refused to allow her to board, citing regulations that did not permit her to travel alone.
“The disabled do not need to hold protests or marches. Just be out there so that society can see what your needs are,” said Jacky Hsu, secretary-general for Taiwan Access For All Association.
“We organise Let’s Take A Walk campaigns to increase visibility of the disabled. Every month we pick a route we’d like to go and everyone participates. Last year we joined a public Lantern Festival in Taipei. There were many barriers like parked motorbikes, benches, flower pots and signages, which prevented access to the venue. Many (able-bodied) participants came to assist us and tried to figure out how to get around the barriers.
“Not too long after that, all the barriers were removed. So we don’t have to protest. We just need to get out there so that our countrymen can see the barriers for the disabled.
“The disabled just want to be able to get around independently,” added Hsu.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Story and video on accessible travel by Kahla Preston


Image: Kahla Preston
Does the tourism industry lack support and information for people with disabilities? Kahla Preston investigates.
The first baby boomers reached retirement age in 2011, and for many of them travel is a top priority. The largest outbound sector in Australia, this is a generation of adventurers who don’t see age as an obstacle.
Yet research conducted in 2009 indicates that the boomers face a higher rate of disability than previous generations. It’s estimated up to 40% will retire with a disability.
In this story, Baby Zoomers reporter Kahla Preston meets two Australians – Peter Negri, director of Ozmates, and Simon Darcy, one of the creators of Sydney For All -  who are passionate about making travel accessible for people with disabilities.  They’re providing the kind of support and information they say is lacking in the tourism industry.


REPORTER: Sydney’s sunshine and harbour views are its most appealing features for many travellers. But for some, it’s all about the postcards.
(Peter Negri talking to tour member Liz about her postcards)
REPORTER: Liz is part of a tour from Melbourne to Port Stephens with  OzMates, a specialist Company providing supported holidays for people with a range of disabilities. Today she’s joined by fellow travellers Steve and Veronica,  along with OzMates carer Marlene, tour leader Lisa, and director Peter Negri.
PETER NEGRI (OZMATES DIRECTOR): OzMates was started by another guy, we’ve owned it for six years, my wife and I. In the last six years we’ve expanded significantly, we’ve gone from just having intellectual disabilities right through to now physical disabilities as well.
REPORTER: OzMates runs up to fifty trips per year, not including individual tours. Travellers can choose from a range of destinations in Australia and abroad.
PETER NEGRI: I wanted to take people away with a disability, didn’t matter what sort of disability, but to be able to offer them a holiday anywhere in Australia or overseas, at any time of the year. We’re a licensed travel agent and a fully registered, qualified tour company as well. So we can do anything, and go anywhere, that we want to do.
REPORTER: The last Bureau of Statistics survey indicated that almost one in five Australians have a disability. An increase is expected as the population grows and ages. Despite this figure, travelling with disability remains a challenge for many. The aim of OzMates is to provide disabled travellers with opportunities that may not be available to them otherwise.
PETER NEGRI: Our idea is that they should be able to do whatever you and I want to do. Just because they’ve got some kind of physical or intellectual disability doesn’t hold them back.
REPORTER: The effort is certainly appreciated by OzMates’ clients.
PETER NEGRI: We have repeat clients, they come back over and over again, because we’re one of the few companies that can just do it. We don’t say no. We might get off the phone and go, “How are we going to do this?”, but then we do our research. You can always do it.
REPORTER: The idea of a tour doesn’t appeal to all travellers, however. Many people who develop disabilities, particularly those related to ageing, don’t necessarily view themselves as having a disability. It’s an attitude likely to be carried by the adventurous baby boomers as they reach retirement and head abroad.
SIMON DARCY (DIRECTOR, COSMOPOLITAN CIVIL SOCIETIES RESEARCH CENTRE, UTS): If you think of your own family, that’s your uncle that’s had a knee replacement, the aunty that’s had the hip replacement, somebody you’re speaking a little louder to… They don’t associate with disability, they don’t see themselves as having a disability, but they’ve definitely got disabilities and they require different forms of inclusion to make travel that little bit easier for them.
REPORTER: Simon Darcy is a leading researcher in the field of accessible tourism based at the University of Technology, Sydney. Simon has been a power wheelchair user since incurring a spinal injury in 1983. He says a lot of preparation and research is required for disabled travellers to have confidence their trip will run smoothly.
SIMON DARCY: You really just can’t rely on somebody saying, “it’s accessible”, because what’s accessible to me is not accessible to the next person. And even amongst wheelchair users, different people’s abilities mean they look for different things in the hotel rooms, in transport and accommodation, and then open space areas like this one. So you look for a baseline of information and then check, check and double check.
REPORTER: Simon was part of a steering committee that created Sydney For All, an online portal designed to provide information on accessible locations and activities in Sydney.
SIMON DARCY: What we did was to take a different approach, an innovative approach that said, ‘What are those really cool things that anyone would want to do when they come to Sydney?’, identify those experiences that are accessible, and collaboratively market and promote those.  Everything as basic as getting on a ferry and going to Manly through to some things like the building we’re at now, Hyde Park’s Barracks Museum.
REPORTER: The information is targeted at four disability groups – those with mobility or cognitive disabilities, people who are deaf or have hearing impairment, and people with vision impairment or who are blind.
SIMON DARCY: You don’t have to accessible for all those groups, they’ve just got to be accessible for one of the groups and we clearly label that on the website.
REPORTER: Although initiatives like Sydney For All and OzMates help to make travel accessible for people with disabilities, there’s still some way to go. Peter Negri and Simon Darcy agree that changes to industry education and attitudes are vital steps in moving forward.
PETER NEGRI: There needs to be more education from the normal, run-of-the-mill travel agents and tour companies, so they understand what the clientele needs. We’re working on that in a big way, so we’re making a lot of inroads – we’ve got a lot of mainstream tour events and things like that to try and educate people.
SIMON DARCY: Most people with disability recognise that things aren’t going to be perfect. But want they want is somebody that’ll go, “Okay, but I think we can get maintenance up and we can take the hinge off the door and that’ll allow you to fit through. Then you’ll be able to enjoy that experience.”

Saturday, October 27, 2012

(Dis)Embodied Air Travel Experiences: Disability, Discrimination and the Affect of a Discontinuous Air Travel Chain

Simon Darcy
University of Technology, Sydney, Australia
Address for correspondence: Simon Darcy, Associate Professor, UTS Business School, University of Technology, Sydney, P.O. Box 222 Lindfield NSW 2070, Australia. E-mail:

This article presents an investigation of the embodied air travel experiences of people with disability. The study was informed by human rights frameworks, social approaches to disability and critical tourism. The research design included a review of newspaper articles, human rights complaint cases, open-ended responses to a survey on the tourism experiences of people with disabilities and semistructured in-depth interviews. The findings revealed that the air travel practices routinely contravened disability discrimination legislation and identified a series of socially constructed constraints across the air travel chain from the preplanning of trips through to disembarking after a flight. What emerged from these experiences was that the embodied individuals became (dis)embodied at each stage of the air travel chain. The inequitable, inaccessible, undignified and dependent practices resulted in heightened anxiety, increased helplessness and, in some cases, humiliation to which they were not subjected in their everyday lives.

Keywords: air travel; travel chain; disability; embodiment; human rights; citizenship; lived experience; social model

The genesis of this article came from ongoing media coverage over the last two decades of the air travel experiences of people with disability (PwD) — a global phenomenon not restricted to western or eastern practices or the developed or developing world. Two recent examples from Europe (European Disability Forum, 2011) and New Zealand (The Dominion Post, 2011) identified that the issue is not just a case of service failure but one of disability discrimination. Disability discrimination occurs when PwD are treated less fairly than people without a disability before the law. The newspaper articles highlight the multidimensional outcome for the individuals involved — discriminatory practices had the effect of constraining their citizenship. The media examples link the theoretical developments in the study of disability, tourism and the growing body of knowledge on accessible tourism. The issue falls within the United Nations Convention On the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPWD), which is underpinned by social approaches to disability (Kayess & French, 2008). The article takes up the challenge posed by disability studies academics (Shakespeare & Watson, 2001; Thomas, 2004) to incorporate a more complex understanding of embodiment than the current dichotomous social model understanding of impairment and disability (as discussed later). To this end, critical theory in tourism has also incorporated embodiment as core to its approach and it is argued that the social model of disability and critical tourism bodies of knowledge provide an opportunity to move beyond identifying constraints to seek transformative outcomes for tourists with disabilities.

To read more please see either

Epilogue - the Italian experience
Yet, the air travel situation does not need to be as problematic as shown in this research. Good quality customer service training with a dedicated team approach by airlines at individual airports is one strategy that can be adopted. This type of approach values travellers with disability by treating them in an equitable, dignified and independent way. I was the recipient of such a service experience at the Leonardo da Vinci Fiumicino International Airport, Rome. As one should expect from a country with a history of valuing customer service and a Formula One racing car pedigree, this service for wheelchair users was first rate and like a well oiled pitstop crew. It was an incredibly empowering experience where the travel trip chain was continuous and with out critical incident. Photo 1 shows the customer service team escorting me to the boarding gate on an accessible light rail system.

Photo 1: The author Simon Darcy with the excellent customer service staff at Rome airport on a wheelchair accessible light rail system moving to the boarding gate (Photo with permission © 2012 Fiona Darcy)

When referencing the paper please quote
Darcy, S. (2012). (Dis)Embodied Air Travel Experiences: Disability, Discrimination and the Affect of a Discontinuous Air Travel Chain. Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management, 19(e8 August), 1-11.

Buhalis, D., & Darcy, S. (Eds.). (2011). Accessible Tourism: Concepts and Issues. Bristol, UK: Channel View Publications.
Kayess, R., & French, P. (2008). Out of Darkness into Light? Introducing the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Human Rights Law Review, 8(1), 1-34.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

New Research Article: Sources of tourist information used by Deaf people. Case study: the Polish Deaf community

Very little research has been carried out on accessible tourism and people who are Deaf. People reading the blog entry may be wondering why I am using Deaf capital D? The reason is that people who are Deaf do not regard themselves as having a disability but as being part of a cultural group that is bound together by their language, sign language (Corker & French, 1999). Photo 1 shows an Auslan (Australian sign language) interpreted tour of the NSW Art Gallery in Sydney, Australia as identified on the Sydney for All website.

Photo 1: Auslan (Australian sign language) interpreted tour of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney Australia. (Photo courtesy of Art Gallery of New South Wales)

A new article by Alina Zajadacz from Poland has sought to redress this gap through examining the sources of tourist information used by Deaf people. This study was longitudinal from 2004 to 2010 and surveyed 292 Deaf people comparing them to 1780 people with hearing. The findings present a breakdown of the information sources used with the discussion focusing on the need for involvement by Deaf people in the development of tourist information. An abstract of the study can be found at

Corker, M., & French, S. (Eds.). (1999). Disability Discourse. Buckingham: Open University Press.
Zajadacz, A. (2012). Sources of tourist information used by Deaf people. Case study: the Polish Deaf community. Current Issues in Tourism, 1-21. doi: 10.1080/13683500.2012.725713

Friday, September 14, 2012

Post Commentary on the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games - Observations on Disability, Access and Legacy

In a slight divergence from accessible tourism research, this article creates a series of links to commentary on the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. It was certainly a fascinating period for disability, access and accessible tourism brought about by a major sport event. The interdependent and overlapping nature of the areas that we work mean that there are always opportunities for cross promoting equity, diversity and sustainability. While I enjoyed the spectacle, I was actively involved in writing a series of articles about alternative perspectives on the games themselves, sport participation for people with disability, equity in the Paralympic games and what I titled the dark side of the Paralympics (cheating).

While from a distance the elite athletes were incredibly well taken care of, broke a myriad of world records and were watched by a sell-out crowds, there was still a number of serious issues of discrimination from the perspective of spectators. The most noted of these were issues that involved segregated seating policies, segregated ticket booking policies and the inability to seat a man and his guide dog in a premium seat location - articles and links below.

The only good thing about the guide dog incident was that the authorities were just as discriminatory towards VIPs as they work towards the general public as the person involved was an ex-member of the British Parliament! How could these basic considerations in the service blueprint that was a case of foreseeable customer service failure happen at the games that did everything else so well? 

On an accessible tourism front there were some good news stories about some very accessible experiences for those people lucky enough to make it to the games were a local Londoner and Paralympic games swimming medallist Andy Gilbert offers his favourite accessible places to visit.

Figure 1: London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Evaluation Framework (UK Department of Sport, Media and Culture, 2009)

Now the challenge for London is to live up to the hype of legacy planning. Hopefully accessible tourism will be one of the legacy outcomes from the games. However, this won't just eventuate and requires strategic planning and resourcing. London has become the first Olympic and Paralympic games to extensively plan for impacts and legacy evaluation through an extensive framework shown in Figure 1 (UK Department for Culture Media and Sport, 2009). Unlike the Sydney 2000 Olympic and Paralympic Games, which only started to plan for legacy some years after the games had finished (Cashman, 2006; Cashman & Darcy, 2008; Darcy & Appleby, 2011), only time will tell as to what the legacy of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games will be and how well it is evaluated.

Cashman, R. (2006). The bitter-sweet awakening: the legacy of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games: Walla Walla Press in conjunction with the Australian Centre for Olympic Studies, University of Technology, Sydney.
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., & Appleby, L. (2011). Sydney 2000: Moving from Post-Hoc Legacy to Strategic Vision and Operational Partnership. In D. Legg & K. Gilbert (Eds.), Paralympic Legacies (pp. 75-98). Champaign, IL USA: Common Ground Publishing LLC.
UK Department for Culture Media and Sport. (2009). London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games Impacts and Legacy Evaluation Framework: Final Report   Retrieved from

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A new article on perceptions of people with disability working in the tourism and hospitality sector

While the blog has examined the importance of customer service attitude for accessible tourism (click here to see previous post), what has not been examined is people with disability as employees in the tourism and hospitality sector. Foundation work by Goffman (1963) on stigma, institutions and disability examines the marginalising nature of social attitudes. Whether it is fear or aversion there is no doubt that people with disability are placed in marginalised positions because of the social attitudes people have to "the other" (Darcy & Buhalis, 2011; Wearing & Darcy, 2011). The literature has shown that the tourism and hospitality sector values the aesthetic of the image of its employees sometimes as much as performance whereby certain people get to work "front of office" while others will never get promoted from “back of office" duties (G. F. Ross, 2004). While Photo 1 shows an exception to the rule where Hotel Panda in Budapest is run by staff with disabilities, too often people with disabilities may not even make an interview due to discriminatory selection practices (Darcy, Green, & Taylor, 2011). Other research has also shown that those in management in tourism have become very good at "camouflaging" their attitudes to appear "politically correct" while still acting in a discriminating manner (G. A. Ross, 1994). A number of articles have focused on the importance of disability awareness training as a way of improving attitudes to disability (Bizjak, Knezevic, & Cvetreznik, 2011; Daruwalla & Darcy, 2005; Navarro García-Caro, de Waal, & Buhalis, 2012) as well as ethical frameworks for understanding discriminatory attitudes towards people with disabilities as employees (G. F. Ross, 2004). Yet, little work has actually been undertaken on people with disability who are employees in the tourism and hospitality sector.

Photo 1: Hotel in Budapest run by staff with disabilities (source:

A new article by Gröschl (2012) undertakes a study of employees with disability in the German Embrace hotel association by interviewing managers, employees and guests with and without disabilities together with observations. The study refutes a lot of the stereotypes that suggests that people with disabilities don't have the capabilities to meet industry specific work requirements and that they are too costly to employ. The study found that "employees with disabilities are loyal, are reliable, and on balance, require moderate accommodations" to the workplace. The study concludes by suggesting that a change in organisational culture from one of exclusivity and intolerance may provide opportunities for employees with disabilities to be integrated within the workplace in an effective and efficient manner. Given that the hospitality industry worldwide suffers from high turnover, high casualisation and labour shortage, there may be lessons to be learnt and collaborations to be made with the disability advocacy sector to create a win-win environment for both people with disability and the tourism and hospitality sector. Gröschl (Gröschl, 2005, 2007) has also made to other contributions to the study of disability within employment in the tourism and hospitality sector.

A link to the abstract and the article is provided below
Gröschl, S. (2012). Presumed Incapable: Exploring the Validity of Negative Judgments about Persons with Disabilities and Their Employability in Hotel Operations. Cornell Hospitality Quarterly. doi: 10.1177/1938965512453082


Research has shown that managers in the hotel industry perceive persons with disabilities as people who lack the required innate capacities and attributes, are unable to meet industry-specific work requirements, and are too costly to employ. A case study of hotels within the German Embrace hotel association finds little support for those negative judgments. Based on interviews with forty-nine managers, employees, and guests with and without disabilities as well as nine days of observations, the study found that employees with disabilities are loyal, are reliable, and, on balance, require moderate accommodations. On average, more than 60 percent of Embrace hotel employees are persons with disabilities. Embrace’s employment concept is based on the integrative model, which aims to create employment opportunities for persons with disabilities who do not find employment in the regular labor market. Many disabilities had no effect on the mobility or shift work of employees. The processes of accommodating and training persons with disabilities were frequently associated with minimal costs, and expenses incurred for some accommodations were offset by German government grants. Moreover, the physical attributes of persons with disabilities did not negatively influence the experiences of guests. The findings indicate that developing an organizational climate of openness and tolerance, placing employees with disabilities at the center of managerial planning and operational processes, and investing in good human resources management practices are essential elements for the integration of persons with disabilities in the workplace.


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