2017: Towards equal tourism participation and inclusive working environments: access, security and wellbeing  >  Making tourism accessible to all


The accessibility of physically disabled people within the tourism industry; more specifically Lincoln, UK.

Written by: Rossell, Jade

University: Lincoln

Abstract: Research into Lincoln and the accessibility of physically disabled visitors within the city, including areas for development. Primary research conducted through a semi-structured interview including first hand experiences, personal thoughts and feelings.

Key Words: Access, Accessible Tourism, Disability, Physically Disabled, Lincoln, Steep Hill, Interview, Barriers.

Discussion Paper:

The interpretation of disability is seen by Thomas (1999:60) as; “A form of social oppression involving the social imposition of restrictions of activity on people with impairments and the socially engendered undermining of their psycho-emotional wellbeing”. Sometimes seen as a disadvantage, many disabled tourists are denied equal access, whereas Charities such as ‘Tourism For All UK, (2008)’ and destinations such as Lincoln are working hard to ensure accessibility for all. Buhalis et al, (2012:1) explain accessible tourism is gaining momentum across different areas and activities within the tourism industry, linking to human rights and for growing recognition as an important contribution to economics. Visit England (2015) state there are 4.7million physically disabled travellers both young and old, to which Buhalis et al, (2012:3) explains disabled people should be ‘barrier free’, and that accessible tourism should enable people with access requirements, including mobility to function independently with equity and dignity.

There are a variety of barriers for physically disabled tourists when visiting Lincoln. Although improvements have been made, Buhalis and Darcy (2011:50) suggest there are three key barriers; Physical access constraints, Attitudinal barriers, and lack of information. Both Darcy (1998:50) and Goodall (2006:50) state inaccessibility is a major barrier for physically disabled people. However, along with the latest technology and access requirements the responsibility is down to destinations to develop their services and access requirements for disabled visitors.
Lincoln aim to fully include physically disabled people of all generations within the communities, ensuring the correct information is given and providing the relevant installations i.e. handrails, shuttle buses. Turco et al (1998:51) goes on to suggest that if aspects of limited physical access such as; inaccessible transportation, accommodation facilities and attractions, do not satisfy needs then this will lead to bad experiences.

Physically disabled people are protected by the non-discrimination law which states accessibility for the disabled is compulsory for tourism suppliers (European Commission, 2009), to which Lincoln displays with access to their attractions. Yau et al, (2004) suggests; ‘if underlying barriers can be eliminated, tourism participation would increase. The passing of the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) brought increased political and economic attention to disabled people’s difficulties, especially from service providers and the tourism industry. The Act makes it illegal for service providers, including attractions and accommodation establishments, to discriminate against people with disabilities (G, Shaw et al, 2004).

Through the primary research of a semi-structured interview key themes focus on: Issues of access, recommendations for improvement, and first hand experiences. The interviewee expressed key issues for them when visiting Lincoln were; a lack of ramps, many narrow paths, limited disabled parking, and a shuttle service, which should be free. When asked if the interviewee feels limited, they quickly replied, they are lucky to have the use of a prosthetic leg, which allows them not to be or feel limited, however acknowledge Lincoln need to do more for its disabled visitors. Although Visit Lincoln, (2017) states a number of disability friendly things in place, the interviewee suggests key recommendations as: having a specific car park for disabled people at the top of Steep Hill; installing more ramps in certain areas; and free accessible services to which take disabled visitors up to Steep Hill.

Being physically disabled should not mean a disadvantage over a physically abled person. Tourism For All (2008) aims to be the UK voice for accessible tourism, including the physically disabled, both young and old. Each travel experience is different, however, travel can lead to more stress and uncertainty, for example many authors including; Pegg & Patterson, (2011:4), and Small & Darcy, (2011:4) state disabled tourists can become anxious because at every stage of the travel process accessibility is unknown. Hana Valkova, (2014) states: ‘Tourism and its accessibility for persons with disabilities (in this case physical) should be accepted as the recent and future trend, which includes: The humanitarian aspect: tourism for all’.


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

G, Shaw & T, Coles, (2004) Tourism Management: ‘Disability, holiday making and the tourism industry in the UK; A preliminary survey’. Available from: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0261517703001390. 25 (4) 397-403 [Access 18th March 2017).

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.