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Wheelchair vs. hotel

Wheelchair vs. hotel
Author: Elizabeth Rodgers
2 Commentries
Wheelchair vs. hotel:
Access issues of mobility-disabled tourists in hotels in the UK
By Elizabeth Rodgers

The mobility-disabled tourists are a market which is too often ignored and authors Shaw and Coles (2004) found that the tourism industry appears to be reluctant to make any necessary changes required by disabled customers. "Between 5% and 20% of the [global] population are disabled" (Yau et al 2004: 947) and the number of disabled people is expected to rise because of the aging 'baby boom' generation, increasing life span and reduced child mortality due to better healthcare and improved medical technology (Yau et al 2004; Burnett and Bender Baker 2001; Miller and Kirk 2002; Ray and Ryder 2003). This paper will analyse the literature on disability tourism and also undertake some primary research to validate the findings.

Two methods of primary research were used for this paper; the first was a brief analysis of disabled facilities in London hotels. Another aspect that was considered was whether the hotels with disabled facilities were part of large chains, to see whether this affected their provision of facilities. The second method used was two unstructured interviews with parents and carers of people who are both wheelchair bound and learning disabled. The first interview was conducted with two NHS carers, and the second was with two parents of a wheelchair user.

There are personal and environmental barriers which a mobility-disabled person will face in their daily life; these barriers sometimes mean that they cannot participate in tourism and leisure activities (Yau et al 2004; Daniels et al 2005). The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA) aims to reduce physical barriers for wheelchair users in public places.

Authors Miller and Kirk (2002: 4) and Campbell (2000) found that "the present standards of service provision for disabled persons are far from satisfactory". Authors Burnett and Bender Baker (2001), as well as the interviews, found that there were many environmental barriers in hotels which can affect a disabled person's experience. Some hotels take note of these issues and provide some rooms which are specifically designed for wheelchair users; this will be addressed in more detail further on in the paper. Although many wheelchair users feel that disabled facilities could be better across the tourism industry, "the accommodation sector in particular, apparently see little demand for accessible facilities" (Yau et al 2004: 948) and in both the UK and US they are lobbying against governments to reduce the disabled requirements.

Yau et al (2004: 954) found that "international calibre hotels usually have better facilities, but they come at a premium price". The primary analysis of London hotels found that most of the chain hotels did not actually advertise disabled facilities and the amount of independent and chain hotels with disabled facilities was of an equal amount.

One of the most important points which arose from the interviews, concerning disabled facilities, was that even if a hotel, or any establishment, advertises disabled facilities this should not be taken at face-value. The interviewees have found from experience that you should always ring up a hotel with a list of requirements for the individual wheelchair user to confirm that the hotel caters to what they need. Many of the disabled facilities in hotels are inadequate for some levels of disability, for example many lifts will be big enough for a standard wheelchair, but not for a reclining wheelchair which has to be used for a severe disability.

Another important barrier which disabled tourists can face before even reaching their destination is that of planning as they need to do a lot more research into the destination, hotel, transport and facilities (Yau et al 2004). The importance of planning a holiday for a wheelchair user, especially one who is also learning disabled, was the main issue highlighted in the two interviews. The NHS carers interviewed said that it can take up to a year to plan a holiday because of aspects such as risk assessments which need to be conducted before they can take the wheelchair user on holiday. Risk assessments are undertaken to cover the carers in case anything goes wrong on the trip.

Burnett and Baker (2001) found that many disabled customers are very loyal, and this was also revealed in the interviews; that once the wheelchair user has found a hotel that they like and which caters to their specific needs, they will usually return several times because they know that they will be comfortable there. The interviewees said that the internet and word-of-mouth recommendations are the main way in which they find out about hotels, because they do not trust travel agents' knowledge of disabled facilities (Mckercher et al 2003, Daniels et al 2004, Ray and Ryder 2003). The interviewees said that they often visit specifically designed hotels for wheelchair users, but there are not many in comparison with the amount of wheelchair users, and they are often more expensive than 'normal' hotels.

Overall the provision of disabled facilities in hotels in the UK could be improved so that wheelchair users have a wider variety of hotels and places they can visit. It should be in the interest of hotels to provide disabled facilities as the disabled market tend to be a very loyal niche.


Burnett, J. J and Bender Baker, H (2001) "Assessing the Travel-Related Behaviours of the Mobility-Disabled Consumer", Journal of Travel Research, vol. 40, no. 4, pp 4 - 11, www.sagepub.com, [03.03.2010]

Miller, G and Kirk, E (2002) "The Disability Discrimination Act: Time for the Stick?" University of Surrey, www.epubs.surrey.ac.uk, [10.03.2010]

Yau, M. K., Mckercher, B and Packer, T. L (2004) "Travelling with a Disability - More Than an Access Issue", Annals of Tourism Research, vol. 31, no. 4, pp 946 - 960, www.sciencedirect.com [03.032.2010]

Hotels are on their way to fulfil the qualifications for wheelchair-bouded people ...
Author: Kathleen Pfannenschmidt
I chose to make a comment on your discussion paper because there are a lot of similarities with my work. I also tried to focus on one special segment within the tourism sector and to which extent wheelchair-bounded people can find an access to it.

Primary research is a good way to get detailed information about this special topic. For your work it was a good decision to make interviews with people who have to use a wheelchair. So you are able to get an insight into their feelings and motivations that influence their travel behavior.

I have to admit that the mobility-disabled tourism market is not that specialized that it should be but I do not think that organizations are reluctant to necessary changes. With launching the American with Disability Act (ADA) in 1991 a lot of changes have been done and in particular in the hotel segment. They built ramps or even provide disability-friendly rooms (Burnett and Baker, 2001, Ray and Ryder, 2003). I have to suggest that there are still barriers which need to be abolished in the near future to enable people with mobility impairments a nice holiday. Many service members in tourism organizations are not really trained to handle the special needs of these people. It also happened in the past that wheelchairs got lost or broken while travelling (Yau and McKercher, 2004).

As you mentioned in your paper mobility-disabled travelers have to spend more money than others for the same destination. Suitable disability-friendly accommodations are in most cases in the premium price segment and so they are forced to accept these prices when they want to spend a relaxing holiday (Yau and McKercher). According to this topic it was mentioned in the literature that people with mobility impairment are able to pay higher amounts of money and that they feel up to do this (Ray and Ryder, 2003).

Supporting to your findings from the interviews some authors pointed that people who are wheelchair bounded need to do a high level of planning. They have to research all components of their stay and in most cases they also have to find someone who will accompany them (Yau and McKercher, 2004). Unlike your statement I can add that there are more and more guides like "Gimb on the go" and "Access-able Travel Source" available that provide mobility-disabled people with trustful descriptions of public places and destinations that can satisfy their special needs (Shi, 2010). They also can ask specialized agencies like "Rfb Tourisk" or "Access Travel" that offer a lot of holidays for disabled people (Shaw and Coles, 2004). It is not only the world-of-mouth recommendation that is important to get information about certain destinations.

All in all, wheelchair-bounded travelers are a profitable segment within the tourism industry. Therefore more facilities should be provided that enable them a satisfying holiday experience. Also hotels have to change their concepts and offer disability-friendly accommodations to attract this new established niche.

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

Ray, N.M. and Ryder, M.E. (2003) "Ebilities" tourism: an exploratory discussion of the travel needs and motivations of the mobility-disabled. Tourism Management, 24, pp.57-72

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.

Barriers of the Disabled
Author: Grace O'Sullivan
I have chosen to comment on your as it share similar ideas to my own paper.

Firstly, from the literature on the subject of disabled tourism we have both commented on the facts and figures of the population of a whole and both found that between 5%-20% of a countries population is disabled. As suggested by Shaw and Cole that tourism industry is very reluctant to make the necessary changes that a disabled customer requires. This could be a big mistake for the tourism suppliers, as figures from the Disability facts 2009 show 8 million disabled people in Europe take trips aboard at least once a year. This means that people with disabilities are important customers among the travel industry, so it is important that tourism suppliers are able to recognize the needs of people with disabilities.

From the works of Yau et al 2004, we both identified two main types of barriers that a disabled traveller will face these been social and physical. However I do not agree with your statement when you mention that "these barriers sometimes mean that they cannot participate in tourism and leisure activities".

As understand from my research that disabled people do in fact face many barriers and cannot participate as easily in tourism as a non disabled person could, I do not believe that these barriers stop them. I can back this up with research findings from the Hong Kong researchers Kwai-sang Yau, M, McKercher, B and Packer,T, they found that entry or re-entry into tourism requires fives stages: the first stage is the Personal stage, second stage is reconnection, the third stage is travel analysis stage; this stage involves weighing up the possibilities of travel. The fourth stage is the physical journey; people with disabilities need to make compromises and adopt a number of strategies in order to manage and enjoy their tourism experience. For example the third stage involves weighing up the possibilities of travel and deciding where to travel, if a hotel doesn't have the amenities that this person needs it won't stop them from travelling, they will just chose a different hotel that has the amenities.

It has become clear to us both that the DDA is in the process of removing the many environmental barriers, however it seems that social barriers are something that the individual has to overcome their self and is not within the role of the tourism supplier. The DDA seems too concentrated more on the issues surrounding the mobility impaired, rather than ways in which travel for the hearing, visual or mentally impaired can be improved.

Directgov. (2010). Tourism and the Disability Discrimination Act. Available: http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/DisabledPeople/TravelHolidaysAndBreaks/TravelAndHolidaysInTheUk/DG_4019030. Last accessed 21 March 2010

Kwai-sang Yau, M, McKercher, B and Packer,T.(2004) Traveling with a disability. Annals of Tourism Research,. 31 (4), 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