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How Can Technology Be Implemented To Improve Accessibility For Tourists Living With A Disability?

How Can Technology Be Implemented To Improve Accessibility For Tourists Living With A Disability?
Author: Keziah Greeman
1 Commentries
In recent years, there has been a shift in the way the tourism industry deals with accessibility and inclusiveness towards the disabled market. For the industry, paying attention to this market is vital as it’s a growing segment, with 10% of the world’s population reported to have some form of disability, which equates to roughly 650 million people (Buhlalis and Darcy, 2011). Therefore, to gain a competitive advantage from other destinations, improving destinations, hotel, attraction or restaurant accessibility will help achieve this. For disabled travelers, accessible tourism is hugely impactful on one's wellbeing. Tourism can be used as a tool to pursue happiness, contributing to the improvement to their spirits (Piuchun and Suntikul, 2016). Not only this, but other benefits include providing a break from the troubles of everyday life associated with their disability, providing educational experiences, and giving individuals excitement in their life which they can use as conversational material with friends and family.

However, to achieve this, work needs to be done to reduce the barriers which this group of people is faced with when it comes to travelling. Firstly, there is an outdated assumption that those who live with disabilities are not interested in travelling, which creates less focus on doing more to provide accessible experiences for this group. Further barriers include time, resources, untrained staff, inaccessible booking systems, unavailability of adapted faculties and unavailability of information on accessible facilities (Buhalis and Darcy, 2011, 10).

One method to open the tourism experience up to being more accessible and inclusive is through the implementation of innovative technologies. Technological advancements have meant that the term ‘’computer accessibility’’ has been introduced. This is where technology is designed to include users which previously may have been excluded. These technologies include speech recognition, screen magnifiers, and screen reading software. Reducing barriers can be linked to a recent concept, ‘’smart tourism’’, which is the connection between tourism and smart technologies. A smart tourism destination is where a specific place uses technologies in order to achieve the goals as a destination (Chung et al, 2016). There is a range of technologies available which can increase accessibility.

Mobile applications are an important technological tool which has been gaining more significance within the industry. They have the ability to be utilised in various ways to become beneficial to users. They are a way to provide information regarding the physical accessibility of destinations. This is explored through the application ‘Access Earth’, which is a mobile application designed to offer those living with mobility disabilities a chance to read reviews from people living with similar conditions and needs around the accessibility of hotels, restaurants and attractions. Users are able to rate and provide information on what facilities are available such as accessible bathrooms, parking, step-free, and wide doors. This app is beneficial for its users as although company websites provide information regarding facilities and the overall accessibility, this information may be incorrect. It is not uncommon for people to be given false information, and left disappointed on arrival. The app allows for real reviews which can provide confidence in their travelling.

Another important technology which is being used in museums to include those with hearing impairments is ‘Signly.’ Signly is a mobile application which when scanned at certain exhibits, the content will appear on their phone through signed or spoken methods. This technology is important when it comes to the issues of accessibility as it allows users to independently access the same information, and enjoy the same experience as other visitors.

Although technology has been shown to be a useful catalyst for improving accessibility in the tourism industry, there are still issues regarding excluding certain groups from being able to access the benefits from it. This is the case for groups such as the elderly, which a significant proportion (75%) suffer from some form of disability. Technology is often considered harder for the elderly to grasp compared to younger generations, in addition to conditions such as hand tremors which effect touch screen technology. Therefore, it is recommended that in future technology is implemented alongside traditional methods to improve accessibility within the industry.




References

Buhlalis, D., and Darcy, S. (2011) Accessible Tourism Concepts and Issues. Bristol: Channel Views.
Casari, C., Clemente, M., Francesco, M., Giusto, D., Nitti, M., Milesi, C., Popescu, V., Zanda, S. (2018) Using IoT for Accessible Tourism in Smart Cities. Available from DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.77057 [Accessed 14 May 2019].

Chung, N., Gretzel, U., Koo, C., Shin, S. (2016) Conceptualization of Smart Tourism Destinations Compeititveness. Asia Pacific Journal of Information Systems. 26(4). 367-384. Available from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/314264576_Conceptualization_of_Smart_Tourism_Destinat ion_Competitiveness [Accessed 28 April 2019].

Piuchan, M., and Suntikul, W. (2016) The Study of Well-being in Tourism: An Analysis of Literature. 14th APacCHRIE Conference 2016. Bangkok. Available from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/303812933_The_Study_of_WellBeing_in_Tourism_An_Analysis_of_Literature [Accessed 17 May 2019]
Commentary on 'How Can Technology Be Implemented To Improve Accessibility For Tourists Living With A Disability?'
Author: Naomi Sewell
I have decided to comment on this discussion paper based on the topic being closely related to my own, and to my interest in overcoming the barriers faced by disabled tourists. Through the use of case examples, this paper carefully examines how technology can be utilised to overcome barriers and improve the well-being of disabled travellers.

The inclusion and consideration of the disabled market is vital. The author clearly expresses this importance within the paper by highlighting the staggering 10% of the world’s population who this applies to (Buhalis and Darcey, 2011). Despite this, travellers with disabilities are often overlooked. Complimentary to my own findings, the author has identified the misconceptions generally held by the tourism industry and wider community that people with disabilities do not desire to participate in tourism, which needs to be further addressed in the future (Small et al., 2012).

Benefits to the well-being of disabled travellers as well as the barriers which they face have been addressed alongside case examples of the uses of technology. The mobile application ‘Access Earth’ presents a particularly interesting solution which allows people with mobility disabilities to read reviews on hotels and attractions from other disabled travellers who understand their needs. The author has also identified the need for this app, as it provides security for disabled travellers who may otherwise be given false information and subsequently not have their needs met. This provides a major development in helping to aid disabled travellers for whom the provision of information during the pre-travel stage regarding accessible features is essential (Eichhorn et al., 2008).

Disabilities are often linked to ageing. As highlighted by the author, a significant proportion (75%) of elderly people tend to suffer from some form of disability, many of which are developed later on in life. As such the importance of accommodating the needs of this market are further emphasised as most people will develop some form of disability in their lives, often later on, making this research relevant to all (Small et al., 2012).

The author has presented a well structured and articulated paper which has enabled effective communication of their findings. The importance of this research as has been emphasised and clear examples of how technology can be utilised to overcome barriers have been presented, forming a strong argument. The recommendations made by the author compliment their findings and aim to overcome the age-related issue identified. To further enhance the value of these findings, additional consideration of the drawbacks or limitations of technology in presenting a feasible solution could be examined.



Buhalis, D., and Darcy, S. (2011) Accessible Tourism Concepts and Issues. Bristol: Channel Views.

Eichhorn, V., Miller, G., Michopoulou, E., and Buhalis, D. (2008) Enabling access to tourism through information schemes? Annals of Tourism Research, 35(1), 189-210.

Small, J., Darcy, D., and Packer, T. (2012) The embodied tourist experiences of people with vision impairment: Management implications beyond the visual gaze. Journal of Tourism Management, 33(4), 941-950.