The English Tourism Council (ETC) has estimated that there are around 10 million disabled people living in Britain with a diverse range of physical and sensory impairments, learning disabilities and mental health issues. In the United states the number of people with disabilities (PwD's) is estimated to be as high as 50 million, approximately around 19.5% of the total population of individuals over the age of five. These numbers illustrate clearly that this marginal group of people is actually relatively high in terms of population, and it is expected to increase as a result of increasing life-span. Therefore, it is suggested that tourism managers and researchers 'must learn to consistently and effectively assess and address these specialised travel needs of individuals with disabilities'.
Maybe the most significant policy development in this area was made in 1995 by Disability Discrimination Act (DDA). More specifically this meant that after the act became law in the UK in 1996, it is illegal for service providers, including attractions and accommodation establishments, to discriminate against people with disabilities removing responsibility from voluntary basis of PwD tourism to the tourism industry. Therefore, in order to meet the requirements of the legislation on practical levels and to provide circumstances for 'equality' in treatment in terms of hospitality, all types of tourism destinations need to make their attractions accessible.
The development for better accessibility has however produced some reluctance among tourism agencies as well as among destination managers due to the physical difficulties and expenses of these accommodations and it is recognised that there is also a lack of understanding in how to address the needs of customers with disabilities among tourism managers, and that there is a gap in given service between PwDs and other travellers in terms of quality and access. Furthermore, it is identified that there is a lack of provision for disabled people in accessing the outdoors, creating frustration and producing disabled people to feel that the countryside and wilderness is not for them. This set-up raises an issue with divided views held within the tourism industry and disabled people, where others are supporting the legislation (DDA) pleading the rights of PwDs' arguing that tourism industry should be more considerate of disabled tourism yet the industry seems 'unenthusiastic' to fulfil their responsibilities.
Despite the legislations and the development during the last decades it is still true that people with disabilities face more barriers to travel and to experience tourism compared to able-bodied people, and as stated above there is a strong pressure on industry, partly because of the law, to remove the physical barriers which are setting limitations to disabled people's tourism participation. However, these barriers are not the only factor affecting on disabled people's tourism behaviour. The constraints to leisure are embedded in three categories: intrapersonal, interpersonal and structural. Intrapersonal constraints are associated with a person itself including areas like psychological state, physical functioning or cognitive abilities, personality and health problems. Interpersonal constraints are the barriers or limitations regarding a person's social context and interaction with other people.
Where the main debate and discussion in literature is focused on physical barriers what people with disabilities are facing in their leisure time or travel, some of the literature states that tourists with disabilities experience greater role of intrapersonal and interpersonal constraints compared to tourists without disabilities, and due to these their tourism experience might be influenced negatively which reduces their participation. However these constraints have had left with clearly less focus in disabled people's tourism development and therefore it should be taken under consideration to adopt a more effective and fair approach for reducing discrimination and exclusion of disabled people that goes beyond the tourism industries responsibility, a core approach that emphasis not only anti-discrimination policy, but also Human Rights and creating equal capabilities for people with disabilities.
Daniels, M. J. et al. (2005), '"Travel Tales": an interpretive analysis of constraints and negotiations to pleasure travel as experienced by persons with physical disabilities', Tourism Management, Vol. 26, pp 919-930
Freudenberg, P. & Arlinghaus, R. (2009), 'Benefits and Constraints of Outdoor Recreation for People with Physical Disabilities: Inferences from Recreational Fishing', Leisure Sciences, Vol. 32 (1), 55-71
Lovelock, B. A. (2009), 'Planes, trains and wheelchairs in the bush: Attitudes of people with mobility-disabilities to enhanced motorised access in remote natural settings', Tourism Management, Vol. 31 (2010), pp 357-366