As of currently, the accessibility of tourism has not been equal to every individual of which concerns are being raised about the extent to which the sector is committed to ensuring that equality prevails. Particularly, research and studies have been carried out with reports indicating or confirming that most of the hotels are designed with the consideration of equality in accessing the facilities. However, the situation is further aggravated by the fact that to greater extent, research has been limited to addressing the barriers and challenges for persons with disability in accessing tourism. The implication is that the existing findings only document some of the adverse or poor experiences that the persons with disabilities have been exposed to in the tourism sector but not on some of the plausible solutions for addressing the barriers. For example, limited research has been focused on exploring the nature of accessibility of the visually impaired. The implication is that emphasis has been put so much on other physical disabilities like movement without considering that the blind customers too have a right to enjoy the tourism experiences. In addition, research evidence assert that both the normal and visually impaired have the same motivations for consuming tourism services and this informs the need for ensuring equality in accessibility of the products and services among the visually blind. In light of the evidence and the existence of the information on the extent to which tourism has not been accessible to the individuals with visual impairment, the conference paper has explored, into details, what it means or implies to have accessible tourism to the visually impaired. Accordingly, accessibility has been defined from the context or perspective of having or ensuring that every individual, regardless of their physical ability, has the same opportunities of accessing and enjoying the tourism products and services.
Therefore, to improve accessibility for the individuals with visual impairment, the conference paper has made some of the plausible recommendations. One of the recommendations is on ensuring that there is proper signage and as such, providing ways through which the visually impaired individuals can red signs, information to guide them through the hotel. However, all begins by having a proper plan or strategy for changing sign and instructions into the format that those with visual impairment can read. In this case, the paper encourages the extensive use of braille in the hotels to help in disseminating information to the individuals. The use of braille should be integrated into all areas of the hotel. For example, at the entrance, braille should be present in helping the individuals to read the signs about the way to move around, some of the directions like where the help desk is located. Braille should be extensively used in all areas, even in the bathrooms to differentiate the items. Therefore, for signage purposes, it is imperative and vital for the hotels to include or integrate braille into ensuring that the visually impaired individuals can read the instructions and as such, improve the quality of experience that they have within the hotel.
For the visually impaired, a major consideration should be on the lighting of the hotels. As the paper founds out, most of the hotels have not taken into consideration the need to have proper lighting for the individuals because they have visual problems. In this sense, lighting entails have proper or bright lighting within the corridors to help with the navigation.
However, part of the challenge for most of the hotels is that the staff have poor attitude towards individuals with disabilities. In this case, there is the necessity for ensuring or providing training for the staff to improve their competence in dealing with the customers who are visually impaired. Training, for instance, aids the hotel in ensuring that the staff has the knowledge of the implication that changing or relocating the items or personal items of the customers may have. Training always ensures that the front desk office has the right attitude towards the customers and as such, improving the overall experiences of the individual customers or clients. In light of such considerations, it is equally vital that training the staff should be concurrent with highlighting the importance of using or providing braille in every corner of the hotel.
The conference paper has provided the example of the Hilton Hotel in Dublin whose design and provisions have been directed towards accessibility for all. Particularly, the hotel ensures that all facilities, from the elevators, alarms, the corridors and alarms are tactile enough to allow for the visually impaired the easy time moving around and accessing the important areas of the hotel.
Therefore, from the conference paper, accessibility of tourism begins with the hotels and the pertinent players within the tourism industry considering that inclusion should be embraced from all fronts. The visually impaired should be allowed the chance of enjoying hotel services through proper lighting, staff attitude to improve communication and signage.
Altinay, Z., Saner, T., Behcelerli, N. and Altinay, F. (2016). . The role of social media tools: Accessible tourism for disabled citizens. Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 19(1), pp.89-99.
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Accessibility in hotels for people with visual impairments. A study made by Tutuncu and Lieberman (2016) suggested that alone in United States was reported 2.2 percent of people with visual impairments in 2012 and this percentage has estimated to grow until this day. People with visual difficulties are no different from the people who do not need any help or guidance when traveling and they should all be treated equally but taking into notice the difficulties of these visually impaired people. Earlier research done of this topic has found that people with visual impairments experience the similar travel motivation and its associated pleasures, benefits and anxiety than any other traveller. What has been found to be experienced differently are barriers and difficulties linked to the physical design of the environment and the behaviour of staff members. The researches has noted that people with visual impairments often feel unsafe in the guest rooms of the hotel as well as in the general areas of the hotel (Poria et al, 2011).
The study conducted by Tutuncu and Lieberman (2016) found out that lighting, colour and contrast, as already explained on the discussion paper above, could be made more efficient and better for the people with visual impairments. Such things as class doors and fountains in the hotels can be a big barrier for a people with visual impairments as class door is difficult to notice and fountains makes the environment to echo which makes it more difficult to orient or see.
Another point which were made on the discussion paper was about braille and this has been noticed in the other studies as well. Hotels and especially restaurants are in need to make some modification to provide menus and other printed information in braille (Baker et al, 2002). Braille is significant modification for people who are completely blind. For other visually impaired people large print, color and contrast of walls, menus, halls, guest rooms, and other areas are important considerations for the hotels and restaurants to be made.
Overall this discussion paper is noticing some really valid points to be improved in order to make the travel experience for people with visual impairments as enjoyable as for people with no disabilities.
Baker, S. M., Stephens, D. L., and Hill, R. P. (2002). How can retailers enhance accessibility: Giving consumers with visual impairments a voice in the marketplace. Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, 9(4), 227–239.
Poria, Y., Reichel, A., and Brandt, Y. (2011). Blind people’s tourism experiences: An exploratory study. In D. Buhalis & S. Darcy (Eds.), Accessible tourism: Concepts and issues. Bristol, UK: Channel View.
Tutuncu, O. and Lieberman, L. (2016) Accessibility of hotels for people with visual impairments: from research to practice. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindess. 110(3) 163-176