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Tourists with a physical disability have the same desires to travel as someone living without mobility issues: they need to research thoroughly into accessibility within hotels and airports.

Tourists with a physical disability have the same desires to travel as someone living without mobility issues: they need to research thoroughly into accessibility within hotels and airports.
Author: Katie Moncaster
1 Commentries
Keywords: Disability Discrimination, Social Right, Physical Disability, Relaxation, Stress, Anxiety, Social Barriers

Disabled people and the people who care for them, such as carers, family, and friends, are a valuable market segment within the tourism industry (Vignuda, 2001, cited in Var et al., 2011). However, the concept of disabled people and the tourism industry is relatively new. Accessibility should be acknowledged as a social right and should not be discriminated against regarding participation within tourist activities and tourism in general (Var et al., 2011). There needs to be a guarantee that when a person with a physical disability goes on holiday, they will not be faced with issues regarding lifts not being wide enough for wheelchairs, staff not being trained in disability awareness, or their room being on a high level. These are just some of the concerns that people with a physical disability regularly face when they go on holiday. Therefore, these issues need to be mitigated so that the disability market within tourism can increase. This is because "5-20% of a country’s population consist of disabled people" (UNESCAP, 2000, cited in Var et al., 2011, 601). In other words, the disabled market works out to 15% of the worldwide population, an estimate of around 1 billion people (Gillovic and McIntosh, 2020). The 15% of the disabled market worldwide, increases to 30% if families and carers are included (Gillovic and McIntosh, 2020). Chen (2013) expresses that in previous studies, it has been revealed that 70% of people who are disabled would travel more if accessible tourism was more inclusive and considered within the accommodation sector. Another survey was led by the UK government recorded that 26% of registered disabled people took fewer trips within the UK than non-disabled people (GOV.UK, 2021). This is because accessibility was a primary obstacle and social barrier for them within hotels, airports, restaurants, attractions etc.

As part of the methodology, the researcher chose to pursue primary researcher, precisely questionnaire interviews. The researcher was able to interview 2 participants who have a physical disability. The first participant was Jo, who has Hypermobile Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. She was only diagnosed when she was 19 but has had symptoms since she was 9. The condition makes her joints hypermobile and easy to dislocate, as well as it makes her organs stretch. Then the second participant is Fraser, who has a variety of physical disabilities. Still, the primary one is Cervical Spine Injury which impacts his mobility, makes his muscles spasm, and neuropathic pain. Fraser has had the condition for 31 years and the disability has resulted in needing a wheelchair for the rest of his life. Both interviews consisted of both participants completing a questionnaire interview, and it took them around 15 minutes to complete. Thematic analysis was used to analyse the data as it allowed the researcher to pinpoint the reoccurring themes and main findings that were essential data to support the initial research question (Vaismoradi et al., 2016). As part of the ethical considerations’ participants were required to complete an informed consent form to demonstrate that they voluntarily agree to be part of this study (Smythe and Murray, 2000).

There are many disabled people who tend to not travel to avoid stress and anxiety regarding hotel and airport accessibility, but then there are also several disabled people who do like travelling (Yau et al., 2004). However, this does not mean that disabled people who like to travel are not faced with social barriers that can hinder their participation within the tourism industry (Yau et al., 2004). The hotel facilities that people with a physical disability tend to research thoroughly into are wide corridors, wheelchair friendly, ramps for people with mobility scooters and wheelchairs, alarm systems within bedrooms, ground-level rooms, and wide lifts (Nidirect, 2021). These are only the basic amenities that disabled people look for. In comparison to this, an essential airport facility that people with a physical disability look for is wheelchair assistance on arrival (International Airport Review, 2019). However, a common concern is there is not enough staff trained in disability awareness. In some cases, wheelchair assistance does not turn up and then the disabled person is left stranded with no support, which causes stress and anxiety for the disabled person and their families (International Airport Review, 2019).

This conference paper is based on making outsiders aware that people with a physical disability have the same desires and needs to travel as non-disabled people. The difference between a disabled person and a non-disabled person travelling is that disabled people need to scan through websites and travel brochures in advance before booking a holiday. This ensures their holiday, that is for escapism and relaxation, will not be disturbed by the ongoing issue of accessibility within hotels and airports being overlooked.


Gillovic, B. and McIntosh, A. (2020) Accessibility and Inclusive Tourism Development: Current State and Future Agenda [in press]. Sustainability. Available from file:///C:/Users/katie/Downloads/sustainability-12-09722%20(2).pdf [accessed 16 May 2021].

Var, T., Yesiltas, M., Yayli, A. and Ozturk, Y. (2011) A Study on the Travel Patterns of Physically Disabled People. Asia Pacific Journal of Tourism Research, 16(6) 599-618. Available from file:///C:/Users/katie/Downloads/available-online-29-sep-2011.pdf [accessed 26 May 2021].

Yau, M., B. McKercher. and T. Packer (2004) Travelling with a disability; more than an access issue. Annals of Tourism Research, 31 (4) 946-960 Available from file:///C:/Users/katie/Downloads/Traveling_with_a_disability_More_than_an_Access_Is.pdf [accessed 26 May 2021].

A commentary on: Tourists with a physical disability have the same desires to travel as someone living without mobility issues: they need to research thoroughly into accessibility within hotels and airports.
Author: Sara Mouats
This paper was an interesting read as it covers many issues relating to what disabled individuals may go through which the majority of tourists do not have to, as most are free to travel without being worried about these issues. This why it is important for more people to become aware of this topic. It was interesting to read that 70% would travel more if tourism was more accessible.

Regarding accessibility for individuals with physical disabilities within airports, the law states airports/airlines have a duty to ensure disabled people are granted access to board planes. However, airline staff have found this to be physically demanding and time consuming/costly for airlines (Holloway et al., 2015). I would like to add to this topic by providing a case study on Vanilla Air (low-cost airline) who unfortunately dealt with a disabled passenger badly. A disabled passenger who is paralysed from the waist down was forced to crawl up a flight of stairs to get onto the plane due to the airline not being equipped with accessibility measures for disabled passengers to board (McCurry, 2017). Vanilla Air since responded saying they are taking measures to deal with inadequate access for wheelchairs by installing lifts at the airport to get disabled passengers on and off planes (McCurry, 2017).

This case study adds to the argument of those with disabilities having to deal with accessibility issues within airports. Air travel providers have continuously experienced challenges in meeting the needs of disabled passengers during travel (Chang and Chen, 2012). It is these kinds of issues that may deter these individuals from travelling through airports. This case study shows that often workers are not able to accommodate properly, adding to the point the author made that there is not enough staff trained in disability awareness. This is why it is important that airports/airlines can utilise accessibility so that tourists with physical disabilities feel comfortable using these services.

Chang, Y.C. and Chen, C.F. (2012) Meeting the needs of disabled air passengers: Factors that facilitate help from airlines and airports. Tourism Management, 33(3) 529-537.

Holloway, C., Thoreau, R., Petit, E. and Tyler, N. (2015) Time and force required for attendants boarding wheelchair users onto aircraft. International Journal of Industrial Ergonomics, 48, 167-174.

McCurry, J. (2017) Disabled passenger forced by Japanese airline to crawl up stairs to board plane. The Guardian, 29 June. Available from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jun/29/disabled-passenger-forced-japanese-airline-vanilla-crawl-up-stairs-board-plane [accessed 09 June 2021].