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.