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, June 28, 2015

Australia lagging behind accessible and inclusive global destinations!

For referencing purposes please cite:
Darcy, S. (2013). Case study: An act of omission, resourcing and will: Tourism, disability and access within the public policy sphere. In B. Lovelock & K. M. Lovelock (Eds.), The ethics of tourism: Critical and applied perspectives (pp. 172-175). Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxam UK: Routledge.

 An act of omission, resources and will - Tourism, disability and access within the public policy sphere.

The acting Prime Minister of Australia Wayne Swan, the opposition leader Tony Abbott, the Commonwealth, Sen Jan McLucas the Parliamentary Sec for Disability and Carers, State Disability Ministers and a large number of VIPs welcomed home the Australian Paralympic Team from the London 2012 Paralympic Games on Thursday, 13 September 2012. The Australian Paralympic Team had done extraordinarily well and were greeted by speeches lauding their performances, their inspiration and their sportsmanship. They were told what a wonderful performance they had done on the world stage and how all Australians supported them. Yet, these same Australians do not have an equal opportunity when it comes to tourism within their own country or when they travel abroad unless they are part of an elite sporting team. Why is this so?

An examination of all Tourism Australia, Australia's Commonwealth tourism marketing authority on its corporate site has no reference to disability or accessible tourism outside of human resources statements about recruitment where it states,

“Tourism Australia is committed to eliminating any adverse action against a person who is an employee, or prospective employee, of the employer because of the person’s sex, marital status, pregnancy, parenthood, race (including colour, national or ethnic origin), age, sexual preference, disability, religious or political conviction” (Tourism Australia, 2011).

With regards to its consumer website it has a single paragraph that states
“Accessible Travel
If you have a disability and are planning to explore Australia, there is a host of services and special deals to meet your needs. Thorough preparation is essential to a successful trip, so speak to your travel agent about your specific requirements. For more information on accessible tourism in Australia go to NICAN or the AustraliaForAll  websites” (Tourism Australia, 2012).

Yet, on the corporate site that they identify the market segments that they target including: the Australian cruise industry; the youth segment; the family segment; the holidaymaker segment; and the honeymoon segment. Nowhere is there any recognition that people with disabilities could be part of all of those segments but require specific information if they are able to participate. This overt omission by the premier Australian tourism marketing authority is a failure to be inclusive for Australians travelling domestically or tourists from overseas.

The situation in Australia is made even more disappointing as in 2011 NICAN (an organisation providing inclusive information for sport and tourism) together with Sen Jan McLucas, Parliamentary Sec for Disabilities and Carers hosted a National Tourism Dialogue at Parliament House that brought together stakeholders in disability and tourism in Australia. The outcome of the dialogue was the joint issuing of a Communiqué, where the stakeholders called for increasing access to tourism for people with disability. Sen Jan McLucas issued a media release supporting the communiqué (McLucas, 2011; NICAN, 2011). Yet 18 months on, there has been no further commitment to increasing access to tourism for people with disability at a Commonwealth level.

Yet, the above reflects historically Australian approaches to disability and tourism policy that have seen a series of well documented policy inclusions (Darcy, Cameron, & Schweinsberg, 2012) that have not been resourced. This lack of leadership at the Commonwealth level can partly explain the cases of disability discrimination in tourism outlined elsewhere in this chapter. The Commonwealth's role as a coordination agency for information, marketing and promotion needs to lead the industry as a benchmark for inclusive approaches to tourism information that acts as a foundation for tourism trip planning. Under the Disability Discrimination Act applies to all services open to the public and states that they should provide an equality of opportunity for people with disability. However, as the disability discrimination cases highlight, even in this most basic of tourism function there has been an abject failure to treat people with disability equally before the law. As we have seen in this chapter, the Australian situation is very similar from a disability discrimination perspective to that of the UK and the United States where similar types of omission, considerations or will lead to discrimination.

The United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability was adopted by over 150 nations in 2008. This presents a significant challenge to government tourism marketing authorities and the industry as Article 30 clearly identifies their responsibilities to provide an equality of tourism experiences for this group. This requires more than policy rhetoric and a significant contribution towards ensuring that the travel chain offers people with disability the opportunities that the rest of the population take for granted  (World Health Organization & World Bank, 2011, p. 179). The travel chain in tourism starts with information to allow tourism planning, and then goes on to include transport, accommodation, attractions and other destination experiences.

So, with the closing of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games we can take heart in the extensive programme of new offerings that Visit England have undertaken over the last three years. These include research, policy, industry collaboration, awareness workshops and a celebration that the Olympic and Paralympic Games offered an opportunity to improve accessibility for all those coming to the UK (VisitEngland, 2012). We can only hope that other destination marketing authorities consider their economic management and equity responsibilities in the same way. As the world looks towards the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games, we can only hope that the Parliamentary Sec for Disability can in the future truly welcome back our Paralympians and offer them an equality of tourism experience in the same way that they experience sport at the elite level.


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