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Stay at home or be embarrassed. Travelling with a disability.

Stay at home or be embarrassed. Travelling with a disability.
Author: Kristina Sloka
4 Commentries
People with disabilities have got the same desire to travel as everyone else, however tourism participation poses a lot of barriers for them. This paper examines these barriers from the experiences of people with disabilities.

Key words: disability, barriers

Travel and tourism is an important aspect of every person's life, however people with disability poses a lot of unique challenges which influence tourism participation (Guerra, 2003). Evidence exists that people with disabilities do not travel at the same rate as non disabled due to the travel barriers (Packer, McKercher and Yau, 2007). The aim of this paper is to critically analyse barriers which people with disabilities face in regards to tourism accessibility.

All individuals are subject to travel barriers, however people with disabilities may find that these barriers are more prevalent (Smith, 1987 in Daniels, Rodgers and Wiggins, 2005). Travelling barriers is the reason people with disabilities enjoy less access to tourism than people without disabilities (Yau, McKercher and Packer, 2004). However, tourism experience for people with disabilities is more than just physical access issues (Shelton and Tucker, 2005 in Darcy and Ravinder, 2008). There are four different groups of barriers which people with disabilities face during tourism participation:
• Intrinsic barriers
• Economic barriers
• Environmental barriers
• Interactive barriers
McKercher, Packer and Yau (2002)

Environmental barrier is a major travel barrier for people with physical disabilities (Darcy, 1998). Due to this, Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) was released in 1995 and has brought increased political and economic attention to service providers and tourism industry in regards to disabled people (Shaw and Coles, 2004). It had created a greater awareness of the benefits of welcoming disabled customers, as well as highlighted the potential areas of discrimination in employment and provision of services (Phillips, no date). There has been much progress made in removing environmental barriers, so that today the transport, accommodation and attractions seem to be largely accessible for people with disabilities (McKercher et al, 2003). However, according to the experiences of people with mobility disabilities and sensory impairments, some attractions and historic sites still have environmental barriers (McKercher et al, 2003). Furthermore, communication difficulties also exist, as not all service providers have a textphone service to assist persons with hearing impairments.

The lack of physical access can be compensated by pleasant assistance of staff, other travellers or local residents (Daniels, Rodgers and Wiggins, 2005). Unfortunately, disabled people still face social exclusion and suffer discrimination in such areas as leisure and tourism (Goodall et al., 2004). Attitudes toward people with disabilities remain a significant barrier regard to pursuing a satisfying leisure experience, as society tend to avoid and reject people who are different (Bedini, 2000). During travel disabled people have to rely on the willingness of site personnel and non disabled people (Burns, Paterson and Watson, 2009). It was stated by Israeli (2002) that serving disabled is not something that comes naturally to most people and disabled people often feel deserted, susceptible to harm, embarrassed and afraid during the service provision (Brown, Kaplan and Quaderer, 1999). It was pointed out by travellers with disabilities, that people without disabilities treat them as children (Veitch, 2000 in Shaw, 2007). These attitudes reflect in a lack of empathy and discrimination towards people with disabilities (McKercher et al., 2003).

Information availability about currently accessible sites is very significant for people with disabilities (Stumbo and Pegg, 2005 in Eichorn et al, 2008) Most of the information provided to travellers with disabilities is inaccurate, incomplete and difficult to obtain (Daniels, Rodgers and Wiggins, 2005), what causes social exclusion and frustration (Miller and Kirk, 2002). People with disabilities also express that they feel low confident with travel agency sector due to the negative attitude of the agency staff, misconceptions about people with disabilities and preference for selling package tours, which may not be appropriate for their needs (McKercher et al., 2003).

A greater number of people around the world now use air travel as their preferred travel mode due to the low-cost airlines (Doganis, 2006). It was outlined that low cost airlines are not fully prepared to serve disabled people (Doganis, 2006) and that in several instances passengers with disabilities being manhandled, embarrassed and humiliated during the boarding and disembarking process (Darcy, 2007).

Tourism-related expenditures also pose a barrier for people with disabilities, as in some cases they cannot work, have lower job status or receive lower salaries than non disabled people (Shaw, 2007)

To conclude, people with disability receive poorer quality service, experience higher level of risks when travelling and in some cases cannot afford to travel at all (Packer, Small and Darcy, 2007). Even with the implementation of DDA not all the sites and service providers have made adjustments in order to cater and accommodate people with disabilities. People with disabilities find it very difficult to find accurate information in regards to the accessibility and travel agencies are not professional enough to provide sufficient information for them. Moreover, in some cases people with disabilities have to be embarrassed or even humiliated in order to undertake a holiday, as workers in the industry are not prepared to treat them in professional way.

Darcy and Ravinder (2008) "Last out of the plane": air travel for people with disabilities. Conference on Tourism in India - Challenges Ahead [online]. [cited 18th April 2010]. Available at: <http://dspace.iimk.ac.in/bitstream/2259/594/1/502-505.pdf>.

McKercher, B., Packer, T. L., Yau, M.K. and Lam, P. (2003) Travel agents as facilitators or inhibitors of travel: perceptions of people with disabilities. Tourism Management, 24, pp. 465 - 474.

Yau, M.K., McKercher, B. and Packer, T. L. (2004) Travelling with a disability: more than an access issue. Annals of Tourism Research, 31(4), pp.946 - 960.
Time to get out there, things are changing for disabled travellers!
Author: Emilie Gay
I chose to comment on your paper as the subject is very close to the one I chose and I thought I might be able to add some information to an already very interesting paper.

You mention that people with disability travel less than others due to the barriers they face when doing so. A case study carried out by Shaw and Coles (2004) found that it seems very clear that access and costs are two significant controlling factors for many disabled people. Access involves a range of physical barriers, both in public and private spaces, but especially regarding transport. They believe that all of these factors serve to marginalise disabled people as tourists and travellers as does the limitations brought about by low income. In this sense, many disabled people are economically disadvantaged and share the problems of this wider group.

You brought up the issue of lack of income for such market. Therefore, I would like to add that while travellers with disabilities and their families might be price-sensitive, they might also be time-insensitive when taking pleasure trips. Thus, discount deals might be an effective way to attract them. Their above-average length of stay could then financially compensate for lower prices, especially if entertainment and activities specifically designed to appeal to travellers with disabilities and their families can be provided (Hugh and Singh, 2007).

I also agree with your statement that there has been some progress made concerning catering for disabled tourists. Some of the recommendations that have been made by several researchers have resulted in some measures being taken to better accommodate disabled travellers. Mayling (2005) reports that Thomas Cook agencies have started to target the disabled market. Cook agencies offer special-assistance team, which can help clients who have a range of disabilities, not just mobility problems. Hearing induction loops have also been installed in shops to help the hard of hearing. Moreover, VisitBritain (2006) produced a guide to accessible accommodation in tandem with the Tourism for All UK Charity, which features accommodation that can cater for guests with a range of disabilities.

I also mentioned in my paper that disabled tourists have low confidence in travel agents due to their lack of awareness. Cavinato and Cuckovitch (1992) mentioned that first; many travel agents do not have access to all of the disability-related information necessary to plan a full trip. Most frequently, they lack comprehensive information about ground transportation incidental to air travel for the disabled. Second, travel agents may have inaccurate information. Most hotels and restaurants hold out their services as being "accessible," when in fact many are less than fully accessible for particular disabilities, which is due in part to there being no single accepted definition of the words disabled and accessible.

I think both our papers dealt with the broader definition of disability; it not being limited to only mobility-disabled tourists. We made some similar point regarding lack of income or lack of awareness. However, it was important to point out that some organisations are really trying to make things change and that some travel agencies specifically cater for such a market segment.

Cavinato, J. and Cuckovich, M. (1992) Tourism and Transportation for the Disabled: An Assessment, Transportation Journal, pp 46-53.

Huh, C. and Singh, A. (2007) Families travelling with a disabled member: Analysing the potential of an emerging niche market segment, Tourism and Hospitality Research, 7(3/4), pp 212-229.

Mayling, S. (2005) Cook targets disabled market. Travel Trade Gazette. 11 June, p.7.

Shaw, G. and Coles, T. (2004) Disability, holiday making and the tourism industry in the UK: a preliminary survey, Tourism Management, 25, pp 397-403.

VisitBritain (2006) "Accessible UK" guide published. Travel Trade Gazette. 5 May, p.26.

Barriers of the Disabled Traveller
Author: Grace O'Sullivan
I have chosen to comment on your discussion paper as it shares similar ideas to the topic I have chosen.

I think are papers, are both very similar as we both focused on the barriers that restrict someone with a disability when wanting to participate in a travel.
It is clear from both are papers we have come to recognize from the literature, that a disabled traveller faces many barriers. The majority of literature on the subject of travel and disabilities tends to highlight the same the barriers faced. Which are; intrinsic, economic, environmental and interactive. All four of this barriers where identified from the research of Kwai-sang Yau, M, McKercher, B and Packer,T.
I agree with you when you say that economic barriers are been reduced by service providers due to the Disability discrimination act. However when conducting my research for the conference paper, I only ever seemed to come across literature that highlighted the barriers of a traveller with mobility impediment. When we look at environment issues we tend to focus on things like even paving, ramps, and wider doors etc. I think this is also the issues with service provides, they tend to make there product/services more assessable to somebody with mobility impediments, and things like hearing and vision impediments tend to be washed aside. I have seen this self first hand in shops and hotels; there is clearly access for people with wheelchairs, but no assistances for people with other mobility's.
Your work tends to focus more on the barriers faced during their travel experience, and I do agree with these barriers especially when you speak about not only having to face physical barriers but social barriers. In the sense of the attitudes of staff members, I agree with you when you say that dealing with a disabled person is not something that comes naturally to most people, so if that is the case perhaps a service provider should be making investments in training staff.
On the literature of the subject in hand, I found that the four barriers; intrinsic, economic, environmental and interactive can be split into two different categories: Internal barriers and exogenous barriers. (Internal these barriers happen before the trip) and Exogenous barriers (these barriers happen during the trip). Before travel even takes place a person with a disability needs to overcome barriers such as acceptance and the financial aspect of travel (Page,S and Connell J).
Its seems that from both are work, we found the work done by the Hong Kong researchers Kwai-sang Yau, M, McKercher, B and Packer the most useful to are papers. They seemed to be the strongest writers on the subject of the barriers faced by a disabled traveller.

Yau, M.K., McKercher, B. and Packer, T. L. (2004) Travelling with a disability: more than an access issue. Annals of Tourism Research, 31(4), pp.946 - 960.
Page,S,.Connell,J,.(2006).Tourism a modern synthesis. 2nd ed.Britain :Thomson Learning .74-75.
Couldn't they go on a trip?
Author: Kathleen Pfannenschmidt
I chose to make a comment on your paper because your headline really sparks my interest in your work which is fairly similar to mine. I also noticed that you used different references. Therefore I tried to examine if we can come to the same conclusion. I have to admit that I was not sure which kind of disability you focused on.

As you mentioned in the first part of your work I have to suggest that disabled people are faced with a lot of barriers and that many destinations and places are not accessible for them at all (Kwai-sang Yau et al, 2004). Next to this also high prices and other additional costs can influence the decision-making process of people with disability (Shaw and Coles, 2004).

In addition to the mentioned Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) the American with Disability Act (ADA) was launched in 1990 as well to encourage changes within the tourism industry (Shaw and Coles, 2004). Since then improvements have been made and disability-friendly places have been designed (Burnett and Baker, 2001). But there are still problems that can complicate the travel of people with a disability. Most service members are not trained to handle with these people (Kwai-sang Yau et al, 2004). There you can see the connection to your findings that disabled people feel deserted, embarrassed and treated as children. Contradictory to your statement I have to suggest that people without disability and in particular service members do not intentionally discriminate disabled people. They are not familiar with this special situation and so they do not now how to handle it.

I also think that on the one hand people with disability are often faced with social exclusion. But on the other hand there are also non disabled people who offer their help. Disabled people want to interact with people from other countries and become friend with them. So they can ask for advice for further travels (Shi, 2010).

Affirmative to your statement information about accommodations and places are very important for people with disability. They choose a destination after its accessibility. Next to inadequate information you mentioned more and more guides like "Access-able Travel Source" are available that can provide them with these special information (Shi, 2010).

All in all, your paper can give an informative insight into this topic. As you mentioned people with disability are faced with many barriers and in many cases it is not possible for them to find an adequate access to destinations. They also have to experience a higher level of risk when they leave their familiar environments to go on a trip. But I do not think that the situation is that negative as you stated it in your paper. Many of them travel as much as people without disability and they are also able to satisfy their travel motivations. Over the last years special agencies have been established to support them to find an adequate holiday destination for further trips (Shaw and Cole, 2004).

Burnett, J.L. and Baker, H.B. (2001) Assessing the Travel-Related Behaviours of the Mobility-Disabled Consumer. Journal if Travel Research, 40 (4), pp.4-11

Kwai-sang Yau, M., McKercher, B., Packer, T.L. (2004) Traveling with a disability - More than an Access Issue. Annals of Tourism Research, 31 (4), pp.946-960

Shaw, G. and Coles, T. (2003) Disability, holiday making and the tourism industry in the UK. A preliminary survey. Tourism Management. 25, pp.397-403

Shi, L. (2010) Understanding Leisure travel motivations of frequent travelers with mobility impairments. Unpublished Master of Science dissertation. Indiana University.
The difficulties disabled tourists face on holiday planning
Author: Heidi Anttila
I chose to comment on this conference paper because this subject was my second option and I am interested about this topic. Disabled people are considered to be the one of the most ignored group in tourism industry, even though people with disability cover 5-20 % of the population. The paper has focused on the main problems which disabled people face when going on holiday. These barriers affect that disabled people might reduce or even abandon traveling.

From the four barriers mentioned in the paper, intrinsic barrier is the greatest obstacle for people with disability. Intrinsic barrier is associated with physical, psychological or cognitive functioning level. Feelings of incompetence or helplessness may result to reducing or abandoning traveling. This is why first holiday experiences usually are very important and affect enormously on future traveling.

One of the problems when disabled people are planning holiday is the dependence of company. Disabled people prefer to travel with friends or family rather than being dependent on tour guides and other staff on the way. Traveling partner will help disabled person during the holiday but more over that travel partner provides feeling of security. Disabled peoples' traveling is greatly influenced by people around them and rarely the holiday can be chosen based on individuals' wants. Often disabled people have to make compromises in order to manage the holiday experience such as relating to unsuitable accommodation, architectural and ecological barriers and not to visit all the attractions they would like to. Disabled travelers often need to compromise also about the destination, time and date of traveling.

As mentioned in the paper finding information can be difficult which makes it more difficult to plan a holiday. For disabled people it is essential to be able to get information beforehand about accessibility. Finding information is even more important to those who are traveling alone. Sometimes the information that is provided can be wrong or misleading, so it is difficult to be sure about the accessibility in the destination. Because of this often disabled tourists have to rely on the words heard from other people for example about which attractions they are able to visit.

People who are working in tourism industry rarely have training for serving and helping people with disability. And this result that most of the staff, with whom disabled people interact during their holiday, have either non-understanding or misunderstanding of how to address their needs. Disabled people are often facing the problem that they have to pay more for the holiday than people without disability, because of the arrangements they need to be able to enjoy their holiday.

To conclude this conference paper presents well the problems disabled people are facing when taking a holiday. If these barriers could be eliminated disabled people would travel more. There have been actions towards more accessible tourism and many destinations are easier to access than before.


Yau, M. K, McKercher, B. & Packer, T. L. (2004), 'Traveling with Disability: more than an Access Issue', Annals of Tourism Research, vol. 31, (pt 4), pp 946-960

Daniels, M. J, Rodgers, E. B. D. & Wiggins, B. P. (2005), 'Travel Tales: an Interpretive Analysis of Constraints and Negotiations to Pleasure Travel as Experienced by Person with Physical Disabilities', Tourism Management, vol. 26, pp 919-930