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, November 3, 2013

The First World Summit Destination for All will be held in Montreal in October 2014: Prof Simon Darcy Appointed to the Scientific Committee

Prof Simon Darcy from the Cosmopolitan Civil Societies Research Centre at the University of Technology Sydney, has been appointed to the scientific committee for the First World Summit On Destinations for All. Prof Darcy is the co-author/editor of the first two books on accessible tourism that explores how the intersection of disability and tourism requires complex processes to provide an equality of experience for people with disability at tourism destinations. He will coordinate a stream at the world summit on developing inclusive approaches to outdoor recreation activities. Providing inclusive outdoor experiences involves the mixed economy of disability organisations, equipment suppliers, commercial outdoor and tourism operators, together with destination and National parks managers working together to create an equality of experience for the group. One example of equipment that has provided opportunities for a variety of outdoor experiences for people with disabilities is the Joëlette. As Photo 1 shows, Simon used this equipment recently to gain access to the archaeological sites in Rome that otherwise would have been inaccessible to wheelchair users.
Photo 1:  Simon Darcy using the Joëlette in Rome
Image
References
A press release about the World Summit now provided for further information.
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The First World Summit Destination for All will be held in Montreal in October 2014.
Montreal, October 19, 2013. The first World Summit Destination for All aims to establish an international strategy to develop inclusive tourism. Mr. André Vallerand and Mr. Ivor Ambrose are the co-chairs of this prestigious, one-of-a-kind event.
“The development of universal accessibility of infrastructures, tourism services, and transport services cannot be done without a global partnership: we must share our knowledge and best practices for dissemination, and convince our partners that sustainable development must be inclusive.”
-André Vallerand, Special Advisor to the Secretary General of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), President of the World Centre of Excellence for Destinations, and co-chair of the Summit.
“Tourism for all is not only a question of human rights, but it is also a target market that investors should consider. Destinations that can offer accessible experiences for all their visitors will see a favourable return on their investments, as demographic change brings greater numbers of older travellers who tend to stay longer and travel throughout the year.”
-Ivor Ambrose, Managing Director of the European Network for Accessible Tourism (ENAT) and co-chair of the Summit.
“We need not only international standards, but also an independent evaluation mechanism or a certification in order to properly inform the clientele of accessible conditions in an establishment and/or a destination.”
-     André Leclerc, CEO of Keroul and instigator of the World Summit Destinations for All.
Several prestigious international organizations have joined this event, including the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the International Social Tourism Organisation (IST) , the European Network for Accessible Tourism (ENAT), the World Centre of Excellence for Destinations (CED), the ONCE Foundation in Spain, and the Tourisme & Handicaps Association in France .
This Summit comes at a crucial turning point in the international economy for the development of inclusive tourism, as discerned by these facts:
□    In October 2011, the European Parliament adopted a Resolution on mobility and inclusion of people with disabilities and the European Disability Strategy 2010 - 2020 in favour of people with disabilities;
□ The international standard ISO 21542 on the accessibility of the built environment for people with disabilities was launched in December 2011;
□ In 2013, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO-ICAO) has published its Manual on Access to Air Transport by Persons with Disabilities;
□ On September 11, 2013, the World Tourism Organization released its revised Recommendations on Accessible Tourism for All;
□ On September 25, 2013, France launched a call for nominations to territories wishing to take advantage of the label "Destination for all" ;
□ The French Republic law for the integration of disabled people established January 1, 2015 as the deadline for the accessibility of facilities open to the public;
□ At the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in July 2013, the co-chair of the UN Committee on Sustainable Development Goals made a clear link between sustainable development and the inclusion of persons with disabilities;
□ The United Nations has initiated discussions with the international community to determine the goals the UN will follow after the end of the Millennium Development Goals in 2015.
Conditions are therefore timely and conducive for establishing a global partnership to develop Tourism for All.
We invite all destination managers, tourism service providers, municipalities, researchers and the entire international community involved in tourism development to reserve the dates of October 19 to 22, 2014 when the World Summit will take place in Montreal, Canada.
The Steering Committee invites the individuals or organizations, practitioners and scientists, wishing to share their experience and point of view, to participate in the Summit.
A description of the themes and issues that will be addressed during the event as well as all the details for submitting a paper or a video for the Summit can be found on our Web site.
The World Summit Destination for All will be held at the Palais des congrès de Montreal, from the 19th to 22nd of October 2014.
For more information, please visit our website www.destinationspourtous2014.com
Contact for Editors: Michel Trudel, Keroul , +1 514-252-3104, mtrudel@keroul.qc.ca
Summit Secretariat c/o JPdL International
1555 Peel St., Suite 500, Montréal (Québec) Canada H3A 3L8
T + 1 514-9898, ext. 222 /  F +1 514 287-1248 / destinations2014@lpdl.com / www.destinationspourtous2014.com 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Compounding Constraints to International Air Travel: the case of Simon Darcy's non-attendance at the IV International Congress on Tourism for All, ONCE Foundation/UN WTO - Avila Spain



One of the truths in the lives of people with disability is that the personal is political. I am a Professor at the UTS Business School, University of Technology Sydney where I research, teach and collaboratively engage with our stakeholder communities on critical business, not-for-profit and government issues. However, I am also a power wheelchair using person with a high-level spinal cord injury where my professional persona quite often collides with the reality of living with a disability. As such, my research activities that are reported on the blog involving accessible tourism are also very instrumental in that I have an "insider's perspective" on what it means to be treated differently, discriminated against and marginalised in the travel process.


The video presentation "Understanding the Economic Challenges and Opportunities through the Travel Chain and Value Creation" was to be presented in person at the IV International Congress on Tourism for All hosted by the ONCE Foundation sponsored by the United Nations' World Tourism Organisation held in Avila, Spain 25-29 June 2013. However, as the video outlines a series of international travel constraints involving airline schedules, archaic airline policy, destination policy regarding medication and availability of disability equipment hire in destinations meant that I was not able to attend the Conference. What is incredible is that I am an experienced traveller, research and consult in the area, am aware of my rights, articulate in both written and verbal communication, and I still had these issues.

What I didn't want reinforced was that it was my disability that led to my nonparticipation at this conference. As outlined above and in the video, clearly it is a series of structural constraints involving government policy, airline practice, destination coordination and attitudes of those in management across these areas that make travel so much more difficult for people with disability than the nondisabled general public. This video was my technological solution to participation by distance at the conference but should in no way be considered a substitute for the benefits with disability participating in all aspects of social life. In the video I deliver these messages to an audience with high-ranking government officials, CEOs across the tourism sector, international and National non-government organisations and other people with disability that attended the conference. While my messages may have been surprising to the nondisabled in the audience, I have had many e-mails of support from those people with disability who attended the conference offering their stories of support and anecdotes of similar constraints that they have been subjected to in their efforts to travel.

The video itself presents a way forward for accessible tourism through understanding the concepts of the travel chain, the economics of the sector, the importance to move from focusing on accessibility to experience development, how this can add to the value chain and the importance of mainstream economic data sources as a starting point to document return on investment in this important area.

References
Darcy, S. (2013). Understanding the economic challenges and opportunities through the travel chain and value creation. Keynote presented at the IV International Congress on Tourism for All, Avila, Spain - ONCE Foundation & United Nations World Tourism Organisation. 

Friday, March 29, 2013

United States Transport Security Administration Assistance for People with Disability


Following on from a previous blog discussion on Air Travel and Disability that outlined the European Union initiatives on customer service for travellers with disabilities in airports, we find a similar initiative in the US. The US Transport Security Administration (TSA) has recently announced enhancements to its support for travellers with disability and those with medical conditions. The program is an extension of their TSA Cares Program, as shown in the Photo 1, provides a dedicated number for travellers with disability or medical conditions to improve customer service provision across US airports and airlines. However, the new initiatives go a lot further than this and include "Passengers with special circumstances may include travelers with disabilities or medical conditionsWounded Warriors, passengers who wear specific religious clothing or head coverings and passengers struggling with understanding checkpoint procedures" (TSA, 2013). The separate program recognising Wounded Warriors expedites veterans with disability and medical conditions through the travel process (TSA, 2013).

TSA Cares toll free at 1-855-787-2227.
Photo 1: TSA Cares graphic (Source: http://www.tsa.gov/ 2013)

Information released from TSA on 6 March 2013 about the Passenger Support Specialists Program (PSS) included (TSA, 2013):
  • "Passenger Support Specialists are Transportation Security Officers, Lead TSOs and Supervisors who, in addition to their regular checkpoint duties, have volunteered to take on the collateral responsibility of assisting passengers who may be in need of assistance.
  • A traveler who needs assistance or is concerned about his or her screening can ask a checkpoint officer or supervisor for a Passenger Support Specialist at the respective checkpoint. Or, if TSA personnel recognize someone is having difficulty, a PSS could be called to ask whether assistance is needed.
  • TSA still encourages travelers with disabilities and medical conditions to contact TSA Cares before they fly. At some airports, Passenger Support Specialists will also complement the TSA Cares program.
  • In the course of assisting a passenger, the PSS will adhere to all of TSA's Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). While customer service will be emphasized, security is our primary mission and will not be compromised.
  • While all Transportation Security Officers receive training on how to screen individuals with disabilities and medical conditions, PSSs receive enhanced training directly from subject matter experts in the field of disability and from individuals with disabilities themselves.
  • PSSs receive approximately four hours of additional training, including two hours from the TSA Disability Branch, focused specifically on travelers with disabilities and medical conditions. This training includes additional instruction on civil rights for individuals with disabilities and medical conditions, and strategies for providing assistance with dignity and respect.
  • Members of TSA's disability coalition helped to develop, and participated in, the training of our PSS volunteers to ensure that our specialists are learning directly from the community they will be assisting.
  • TSA is committed to having a Passenger Support Specialist available during all screening checkpoint operating hours. If a traveler believes he or she may need to request the assistance of a Passenger Support Specialist, he or she is encouraged to arrive at the airport early and immediately ask an officer or a supervisor for a PSS". 
The European Union and the US have taken the lead on such initiatives and we can only hope that Australasian, Asian, African, Latin American and other nations can also be so strategic in their approaches to supporting people with disability and those with medical conditions when travelling. It is this type of customer service initiative that will start to breach the significant gap between the experiences of people with disability and the general public in not only transportation related matters but across accessible tourism experiences. These initiatives are what are required by the tourism industry more generally to address the requirements of the United Nations' (2006; 2008) Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Articles 9 and 30, which specifically identified transport and tourism*. 

Note *: see previous post on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

References

Transportation Security Administration. (2013). About transportation security administration  Retrieved 29 March, 2013, from http://www.tsa.gov/about-tsa 
United Nations. (2006). Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities. New York http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/enable/rights/convtexte.htm: 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 http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=26554&Cr=disab&Cr1=

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Landmark Federal Court Case Places Coach Operators in Australia On Notice For People with Mobility Disabilities



A recent Federal Court action has placed the Australian bus and coach operators on notice that long or short haul routes must have access for people with mobility disability. The action by Julia Haraksin against Murrays Australia Ltd played out over its three-year battle in the court system. Her perseverance is to be noted and congratulated. However, the case once again highlights the weakness of the system that places the onus of proof of disability discrimination on individuals with disability. Having a case heard in the Federal Court is a significant personal financial risk to the individual as the Federal Court is a "cost jurisdiction" where even if you win you may still have some costs awarded against you. While this does not occur very often, and that there are opportunities to have cost limits placed on what an individual may risk, this system is unnecessarily biased towards organisations with the financial resources to be able to ignore the mediation processes through the complaint case mechanisms set up under the Disability Discrimination Act and force people to either risk their personal assets or walk away from many situations that are blatantly direct discrimination under the law. Of course, that is not even take into account the emotional energy and sacrifice that individuals make in taking a Federal Court action. What makes this case more frustrating is that the right to access public transport and generally was tested in three separate court actions in three states of Australia in the lead up to the Sydney 2000 Olympic and Paralympic Games (Darcy, 2003). Why did this Federal court action need to go ahead? Figure 1 shows the author boarding an accessible coach in Victoria in 1998, hardly revolutionary for some bus and coach companies.

Figure 1: Simon Darcy preparing to board an accessible coach in Melbourne, Victoria Australia in 1998


While the organisation that assisted Julia, the Public Interest Advocacy Centre are to be congratulated for their many efforts and success, it is time that we have a vision for the system to either place the onus on organisations to prove that they are not discriminating against people with disability or have a sufficiently funded government statutory authority or non-profit sector to take public interest cases on behalf of people with disability. As Darcy & Taylor (2009) highlight in their paper at on a human rights analysis of the leisure, sport, recreation, the arts and tourism sectors described under the UN Convention On the Rights of Person's With Disabilities as "cultural life" under Article 30, there are the more examples of serial complaint cases being undertaken by individuals with disabilities involving the same circumstances and sectors year in year out. One such area is hotel accommodation that has proved problematic with possibly hundreds of complaint cases being launched without any systematic change by the hotel and accommodation sector. Yet, the hotel accommodation sector had been lobbying at the federal level to have the proportion/number of accessible rooms reduced in new developments. Darcy (2010; 2011) outlines the significant issues that people with disability face trying to source and make an informed decision about the hotel accommodation for their needs. Will this be the next Federal court case?

For further information on the Haraksin v Murray Australia Ltd please see http://www.piac.asn.au/news/2013/03/are-bus-companies-meeting-disability-standards 

References
  1. Darcy, S. (2003). The politics of disability and access: The Sydney 2000 Games experience. Disability & Society, 18(6), 737-757.
  2. Darcy, S., & Taylor, T. (2009). Disability citizenship: An Australian human rights analysis of the cultural industries. Leisure Studies, 28(4), 419-441.
  3. Darcy, S. (2010). Inherent complexity: Disability, accessible tourism and accommodation information preferences. Tourism Management, 31(6), 816-826.
  4. Darcy, S. (2011). Developing sustainable approaches to accessible accommodation information provision: A foundation for strategic knowledge management. Tourism Recreation Research, 36(2), 141-157.
A media release about the case http://ymlp.com/zx0FiH 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

AIR TRAVEL AND DISABILITY - ONGOING DILEMMAS, DISCRIMINATION AND LOSS OF DIGNITY IN NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL MOBILITY


Over the last three years a number of papers have been published that contribute to understanding one of the most basic links in the travel “trip chain" (World Health Organization & World Bank, 2011) for people with disability - airline travel. Air travel is the lifeblood of contemporary tourism that has been democratised through the advent of low-cost travel (Doganis, 2005). Yet, media coverage of national and international air travel experiences highlight the adverse flight experiences of people with disabilities are ongoing and a global problem. Two recent examples from Europe (European Disability Forum, 2011) and New Zealand (The Dominion Post, 2011) highlights some of the issues that people with mobility and vision impairments. What these incidents highlight is critical service failure by airlines that is not ad hoc but characterised by systematic failure within their service blueprint (Shostack, 1993).

Over the coming week I will present the abstracts of articles that examine disability, air travel and the accessible tourism. The first provides an overview of the flight experiences of people with disabilities in Israel involving people with mobility and vision disabilities (Poria, Reichel, & Brandt, 2010). The second involves the physical infrastructure required to provide a seamless "trip chain" for people with disability in air travel in Taiwan (Chang & Chen, 2012). The third examines the resultant effect that disabling practices have on the embodiment of people with disability through phenomenology or essence of experience in Australia (Darcy, 2012). Lastly, a chapter from a book on accessible tourism examines the impact that low-cost airlines may have on the critical service elements of the air travel experience drawing examples across the Asia-Pacific (Darcy & Ravinder, 2012).

While these articles identified a number of serious issues that have resulted in lack of accessibility, physical injury, loss of dignity and discriminatory service attitude, air travel can be an enjoyable experience. On a recent trip to Italy I had nothing but an extraordinary level of service at both Milan and Rome International airports facilitated by a dedicated service support group provided across all airlines for people with disabilities. Photo 1 shows my service team who provided me from arriving at the check-in counter to being seated on the plane a continuous service experience. This service is provided no matter what airline I would have been travelling on. I liken the experience to being serviced by a Formula 1 pit crew, totally professional, courteous and the highest levels of service provision. Fantastico!

Photo 1: Author Simon Darcy with the ADR Assistance team on the light rail transferring to the boarding gate (© Fiona Darcy 2012 é)



What I subsequently learnt from my colleague Ivor Ambrose from the European Network For Accessible Tourism was that for all airports with over 100,000 pasengers per year, this was a requirement brought in by EU REGULATION (EC) No 1107/2006  which came into force in 2007. As Ivor states “Gradually the implementation of this Regulation is working and improving... although the way it is carried out varies from country to country, as you might expect, according to training practices etc. But the good thing is that all airlines are covered by it - for all incoming and outgoing flights in the European Union”.

Well done Europe!

The rest of the world has a lot to learn. On the same trip where I had an awesome experience travelling from Italy to Hong Kong and then to Australia, my experiences in Hong Kong and Australia have always been ad hoc depending upon the individuals on for the airlines that I am travelling with. I've had everything from first-class transfer experience right through to being dropped in the transfer process. These types of experiences and take the gloss off what should be a wonderful travel experience.

References
Buhalis, D., & Darcy, S. (Eds.). (2011). Accessible Tourism: Concepts and Issues. Bristol, UK: Channel View Publications.


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