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Assessing Accessibility Constraints upon the Physically Disabled

Assessing Accessibility Constraints upon the Physically Disabled
Author: Lexie-Rose Homer
2 Commentries
This aims to add further knowledge on the effects of travel on people with physical disabilities in relation to accessibility and how travel is impacted because of this. Secondary data will be utilised for the basis of the knowledge. In addition, a semi-structured interview was conducted, providing research into the experiences of one person with physical disabilities, using their personal narratives to better understand the travel patterns and behaviours of disabled travellers.

Key Words:
Accessibility; Accessible Tourism; Physical Disability; Disabled Travellers; Marginalisation; Barriers to Travel

Discussion Paper:
The disabled population worldwide represents over 500 million people, therefore constituting around 8% of the overall population (Var et al., 2011, 599). Therefore, access to tourism for the disabled is an important issue, with this segment representing a large potential for the consumer market within the tourism industry. For that reason, the aim of this is to add further knowledge about this market segment, by assessing the effects of travel on physically disabled people, looking at accessibility as an issue, and how travel is impacted because of this.

According to the UK Equality Act (2010) disability means “having a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long term’ negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities” (GOV.UK, 2017). Therefore, disability can be broken down into four different categories; hearing, sight, physical deficiencies and intelligence deficiencies.

People who live with a disability face many challenges that can have an impact upon their participation in many activities, tourism is an example of one activity that involves the cooperation of physical, mental and social capabilities, therefore this can prohibit someone with a disability and compromise their participation (Var et al., 2011). Thus, those facing a physical disability must consider more barriers to travel, such as accessibility, accommodation, location or transportation etc. which can have a negative impact upon the way they experience tourism.

A semi-structured interview was conducted to provide further insight into the tourism experiences of one person with physical disabilities, using personal narratives to better understand the travel patterns and behaviours of the physically disabled. The participant expressed feelings of marginalisation because of her physical disability, discussing constraints that she had and the barriers she faced when it came to accessibility, such as accommodation, attractions, locations etc. These findings, correlate back to a study conducted by Turco et al (1998) who conducted interviews with disabled travellers. His findings also displayed commonality of the constrains pertaining to attractions and accommodation, such as that displayed by the participant (Turco et al, 1998). Therefore, this validates the need for further measures to be enacted to help alleviate some of the barriers that the physically disabled face. Some of the measures could include the need for regulations, that could increase disabled facilities, resources and attractions to make it accessible by those with a physical disability. In addition, reduced fees need to be put into place in attractions where the physically disabled are prohibited in partaking.

Additionally, the primary research also revealed that location choices were predominantly made by the participant in conjunction with her disability. Because of this, she tended to choose UK seaside resorts as a primary choice because of its reliability for wheelchair friendly facilities, as well as being more cost friendly. In addition, many other disabled travellers also felt that location and site accessibility was an extensive decision-making process, as highlighted in a study by Israeli (2002). It was argued that without sufficient information pertaining to the accessibility of a location, then disabled visitors would make a conscious decision not to go (Israeli, 2002, 103). Therefore, to increase the accessibility of a site, it is vital for further measures to be implemented to improve the ease of access and increase visitation for disabled visitors as well as the improvement of marketing initiatives. Additionally, equality of travel would be further promoted, providing a wider range of locations and attractions for disabled tourists, giving them equal access to those without a disability.

To provide a more in depth understanding of the impacts of tourism and accessibility to travel for those facing a physical disability, further exploration is needed of disabled tourist’s experiences, with a particular focus upon more qualitative methods. This will provide a better understanding of their travel behaviours and the barriers they face in tourism. Additionally, academic research needs to be further developed to promote disabled travellers as a consumer, marketing them to tourism organisations to highlight their importance as travellers within the tourism consumer market. In addition, promoting equal access for all and the promotion of further initiatives need to be put into place. This would also help to expand the knowledge about these types of travellers, which is needed to further educate the importance of equality to travel and to provide a better understanding about physically disabled travellers behaviour, their taxonomy and characteristics.

Israeli, A. (2002) A preliminary investigation of the importance of site accessibility factors for disabled tourists. Journal of Travel Research, 41(1) 101 – 104.
Turco, D., Stumbo, N. and Garncarz, J. (1998) Tourism constraints for people with disabilities. Parks and Recreation, 33(9) 78 – 84.
Var, T., Yesiltas, M., Yayli, A. and Ozturk, Y. (2011) A Study on the Travel Patterns of Physically Disabled People. Asia Pacific Journal of Tourism Research, 16(6) 599 – 618.
Physically disabled travellers and accessibility issues.
Author: Alice Clewes
This paper was chosen due to the similarity of ideas it presents. It discusses the barriers faced by physically disabled people within the context of tourism, this includes accommodations, travel, attractions etc. The broad scope of areas in which barriers are faced is backed up with the primary and secondary data, providing background to some of the stigma faced by physically disabled people. With around 27 million people within the EU living with a disability (Bizjak et al, 2011), and around 10% globally (Atef, 2011), it is a very current topic to be discussing.

Often within tourism accommodations there are regulations for disabled rooms, however, no training for the staff, leading to the right physical environment yet still the feelings of exclusion and isolation within the accommodation. When you are forced by the environment you are entering, to think of which barriers you face and will have to overcome, it can create scepticism. This paper takes importance in its correlating primary and secondary data.

To further support this, a study into quality of life for people with and without disabilities, the data shows that with there is nearly half as many people stating they are satisfied, around 30% (Card et al, 2006). It shows that even during everyday life they could be encountering barriers, so this will be amplified during the unfamiliar surroundings of tourism. There are not only the steps of providing wheelchair ramps, grab bars and wide doorways (Coppola et al, 2012); there are also steps in improving how these tourists are viewed by staff and other tourists while in the destination or resort. Also mentioned is the fact the participant chose the UK over abroad, this could be due to their needs not being understood within a foreign language, or simply down to lack of easy travel.

It is impressive the extent of research done for this paper, from the secondary to the interview; it shows that the topic is understood well by the author. For a topic such as disabilities, where there is a high chance to over and underestimate the needs of the person, this study into how accessible tourism is to be perceived allows readers to learn that it is not only providing a ramp which will aid a disabled tourist to travel. All areas of their travel needs to be inclusive, including activities and accommodation, for them to fully be able to immerse into travel without feelings of isolation.

Atef, T, M. (2011) Assessing the ability of the Egyptian hospitality industry to serve special needs customers, Managing Leisure. 16 231-242. [accessed 19 March 2017].

Card, J, A; Cole, S, T; and Humphrey, A, H. (2006) A Comparison of the Accessibility and Attitudinal Barriers Model: Travel Providers and Travelers with Physical Disabilities, Asia Pacific Journal of Tourism Research. 11 (2) 161-175. [accessed 17 May 2017].

Coppola, S; Sakornsation, S; Thongkuay, S. and Trevittaya, P. (2012) Innovative practice in accessible and inclusive tourism, WFOT Bulletin. 66 43-47. [accessed 28 March 2017].
A Commentary on 'Assessing Accessibility Constraints upon the Physically Disabled'
Author: Jade Rossell
The reason for choosing this paper to comment on is due to the interests and similarities to my area of research, this being; the accessibility of the physically disabled including the barriers that they may be faced with during day to day activities within tourism. It is clear that having a physical disability can be an issue for many people whilst travelling, however this can impact on experiences dependent on the type of activity and certain destination(s) visited.

The research suggests that specific barriers can directly effect visitor needs to which therefore cause visitors to leave with negative experiences (Turco et al, 1998:51).
Buhalis and Darcy (2011:50) suggest that physically disabled tourist barriers come in three categories: Physical access constraints, Attitudinal barriers, and lack of information. Specific physical barriers can consist of many things i.e. ramps, lifts, and handrails. Amongst many more these physical barriers can prevent physically disabled tourists from travelling to certain destinations. Whereas Yau et al, (2004) states that overcoming a key issue being the attitude of the public will help to increase the number of physically disabled participation rates throughout tourism.

The main strength within this discussion paper consists of a semi-structured interview where results link directly to secondary research findings. This helps to add key information to this study in the shape of evidence through the experiences and feelings. The interview provides interesting points regarding the choice of destinations and barriers of travel, although broad.

Limitations are seen through the author expressing the need for a more in depth understanding of this topic area, in particular further development and discussion of legal legislation(s) as this enables the reader’s understanding in comparison to the thoughts and feelings of the interviewee. Also a limitation can be seen through limited specific barriers, therefore further research into the exploration of actual physically disabled experiences could see detailed precise barriers discovered, as opposed to overall barriers solely within ‘accommodation and location’.

Although much primary and secondary research has been conducted, overall the author has provided a brief insight into the access of physically disabled tourists to which mention certain barriers and experiences from the participant within the semi-structured interview. The desire for further development within this study should outline important legislation and specific key barriers for physically disabled people, also including recommendation for development, i.e. what can be put in place by destinations in order to follow guidelines and ensure access for all disabled visitors within the tourism industry. This study appears to provide a starting point into research within this topic by touching the surface of accessibility constraints for the physically disabled, therefore I feel the requirement for further development will aid the exploration of the discussed topic providing greater detail.


D. Buhalis & S. Darcy (2011) Aspects of Tourism: Accessible Tourism, Concepts and Issues. ‘Barriers to Accessing Tourism’. Bristol, Channel View Publications. p.50.

Yau et al, (2004) Cited. D. Buhalis & S. Darcy (2011) Aspects of Tourism: Accessible Tourism, Concepts and Issues. ‘Barriers to Accessing Tourism’. Bristol, Channel View Publications. p.51.

Turco et al, (1998) Cited. D. Buhalis & S. Darcy (2011) Aspects of Tourism: Accessible Tourism, Concepts and Issues. ‘Barriers to Accessing Tourism’. Bristol, Channel View Publications. p.51.