This report aims to gain an in-depth understanding of the barriers that visually impaired travellers encounter to perform travel activities and to investigate the cases that the tourism industry currently practices for those with disabilities.
Accessible tourism, Visually impaired tourists, blind tourists, visitors with disabilities, accessible tourism practices, tourism.
Accessible tourism refers to the inclusion of all people who have difficulty performing tourism in a wide range of areas, including mobility, sensory, mental health and psychological disorders. It is one of the fast-growing industries in tourism. Due to this report specifically describing the tourism of people with visual impairment, to add a little more detail to them, visual impairment can be categorised into four groups: mild, moderate, severe, blindness. Furthermore, worldwide, about 2.2 billion people have vision impairment, and in Europe, more than 30 million people, including 2.7 million blind people, are blind. Those types of visitors with visual impairment’s tourism experience could be limited as their sensory abilities are insufficient and moreover, academia could often be only focused on people with mobility difficulties such as wheelchair users but not on others such as hearing or vision problems (Poria et al, 2011). The common barriers tourists encounter are divided into three categories: individual, social, environmental (Cole and Morgan, 2010). Without physical assistance such as service dogs or white sticks, it is not easy to distinguish their disability. The lack of knowledge and understanding of this specific impairment often affects people’s attitude, how people treat them. It leads to the social barrier that the visually impaired struggles with during tourism activities. In the field of accessible tourism, promotions serve to communicate the tourism infrastructure in the physical environment, such as tourism products, to visitors or, in particular, people with disabilities and other accessibility needs (UNWTO, 2016). Specifically, in order to increase access to tourism information on websites for people with visual impairment, technical changes are needed such as changing the size and colours of the font in various ways, increasing visibility for those who would have difficulty viewing the mouse pointer by enlarging it and changing the background colour, and using the in-built speech system and applying screen reader technology (UNWTO, 2016). VisitEngland's website has made such technological changes exemplary, allowing visually impaired tourists to receive a wide range of information on tourism products without being excluded, and is still receiving feedback from website users.
Accommodation services are a large part of tourism, and they must provide services that provide complete autonomy, privacy and comfort for customers. The most problematic thing for visually impaired people is that the design of hotel rooms, the arrangement of furniture, interferes with their mobility (UNWTO, 2016). In addition, even finding a room assigned to it and entering it using an electronic key have problems (Poria et al, 2011). Some environmental changes are needed for visually impaired people to gain access to properties. It is recommended to physically adjust the height of the counter, install signs using braille, install magnetic loops, and secure sufficient distance without taking up the passage with minimal furniture to facilitate front and movement (UNWTO, 2016). In addition, information such as how to use the hotel, instructions and precautions should be written in the clear and distinctly legible language. Moreover, it is recommended that they have (radio) beacons available at any time (UNWTO, 2016). It should also be noted here that well-trained staff are always in place. One of the best-practised accommodations is the Scandic Hotel, which establishes 101 standards of accessibility and strives to meet customer satisfaction with special needs in all chain hotels.
People with visual impairment often travel with people or guide dogs to help them, mostly because of visual problems. They may be afraid to miss new information and go to new places alone. Therefore, this problem is related to the difficulties faced by visually impaired people. In order to increase their accessibility in terms of transportation, all transportation personnel must be trained to clearly recognise how to help them, have the necessary equipment in transportation, and design to minimise exposure to risks and obstacles. Most notably, Canadian Transportation Agency requires all employees to receive accessibility training and every three years to increase accessibility.
What is most commonly mentioned in terms of promotion, accommodation and transportation is the training of staff. Staff's knowledge leads to attitudes towards disabled tourists, and good behaviour affects increasing their demand for tourism. What is most commonly mentioned in terms of public relations, accommodation and transport is the training of staff. Employee’s knowledge leads to attitudes towards disabled tourists, and good behaviour affects increasing their demand for tourism. One of the most representative of these educational programs is the "Turismo Inclusivo" project at the CEDEC-MIRAS INTRA Education Center in Portugal (UNWTO, 2016). Having a well-balanced training guide and a variety of educational systems, such as interactive online course development, enables tourism workers to understand the needs of disabled customers and to learn expertise about them.
Cole S. and Morgan N. (2010) Tourism and Inequality: Problems and Prospects. CAB International.
Poria Y., Reichel A., and Brandt Y. (2011) Blind People’s Tourism Experiences: An Exploratory Study. In: D. Buhalis and S. Darcy (eds.) Accessible Tourism Concepts and Issues. Bristols, New York, Ontario: Channel View Publications, 149-159.
UNWTO (2016) Manual on Accessible Tourism for All: Principles, Tools and Best Practices. Module V: Best Practices in Accessible Tourism. The World Tourism Organization: Madrid. Available from: https://www.e-unwto.org/doi/book/10.18111/9789284418091 [accessed on 23 May 2021].