Changing the Conversation about Disability


Accessible Tourism is about creating experiences that everyone can enjoy together. Those experiences have to be inclusive so that they can be shared equally. Tourism is about the journey not just the destination and that journey starts with the planning and ends with the shared memories that often last a lifetime.

This great video from the Rick Hansen Foundation in Canada showcases that the key to inclusion is changing the mindset towards people with a disability and creating a set of equal experiences.

The Rick Hansen Foundation works to break down these barriers by changing attitudes, creating accessible spaces and inspiring an inclusive society.

We need to change how we think and talk about accessibility and inclusion in order to break down barriers for the one billion people in the world who have a disability.

Why?

Accessibility isn't just for people who use wheelchairs -- it's also for those with mobility challenges, temporary injuries and parents using strollers. Accessibility is for everyone.

Inclusion isn't just about tolerating differences -- it's about making sure our attitudes don't limit the potential of other people. Everyone deserves an equal chance to be included.
 

How TravAbility Can Help

About TravAbility

TravAbility was founded in 2007 by Bill Forrester.

Our mission is to be agents of change; to inspire people who have never traveled before to do so, and to inspire others to do more. To encourage all cultures of the world to see disability as an integral part of life, and to provide the motivation and tools to the tourism industry to allow them to create accessible environments that enable inclusion in an economically sustainable way.

We offer a range of services to tourism operators and Destination Marketing Boards to enable them to take advantage of the growing Accessible Tourism market. Our core approach is program oriented focusing on the product and service needs of people with a disability an developing a culture of innovation to attract this highly profitable and rapidly growing market:

  • Development of Access Statements
  • Product, service and program development
  • Development of 'Soft Infrastructure' policies and procedures
  • Staff and Management Training
  • Marketing Services and Toolkits
  • Access information kits
  • Industry Presentations and Conference Keynotes and Capacity Building Workshops
  • Property Audits and Universal Design planning
  • Self Audit Tools
  • National/State/Regional Park Guides and Trail Maps
  • Diversity and Inclusion Strategy development
  • Disability Action Plans
  • New Project planning and Development
  • Stock Imagery through PhotoAbility
  • Accommodation listings through TravAbility Properties
Contact

For more information on how you can make your business more attractive to the traveler with a disability contact Bill.

 

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Redefining Accessible Tourism as a Profitable Market


Accessible Tourism is no longer about building ramps and accessible bathrooms. It is about building products and services for a large and rapidly growing market. This is no longer a niche, but rather, a segment that is approaching 25% of the total tourism spend.

The market is being driven by the retiring Baby Boomers, who, despite their age, will be unlike any previous generation. There will be active and will travel to relive their youth, albeit at a slower pace.

This generation has never taken "no" for an answer and will expect the tourism industry to meet their needs.

The attitude of the Baby Boomers is summed up by this quote from Tom Peters:

We are the Aussies. Kiwis, Americans and Canadians. We are the Western Europeans and Japanese. We are the fastest growing, the biggest, the wealthiest, the boldest, the most (yes) ambitious, the most experimental and exploratory, the most different, the most indulgent, the most difficult and demanding, the most service and experience obsessed, the most vigorous, (the least vigorous), the most health conscious, the most female,the most profoundly important commercial market in the history of the world … and we will be the Center of your universe our for the next twent twenty-five years ears. We have arrived! 

The following video from the "Mind the Accessibility Gap Conference" in 2014 summarizes how the tourism industry can go about capturing a lucrative size of this market.

 

Key Points

  • Accessible Tourism is important because it is an investment in the future
  • All investments in accessible tourism studied have paid back
  • There is a high level of loyalty
  • Scandic - of 50 hotels in Europe there was payback in the first year
  • One person may decide what the whole group does, real implications for conferences
  • It is about creating a seamless steam of accessible offers
  • Accessible information has to enable people to make a real choice
  • Small inexpensive things can make a huge difference
  • Accessible tourism is one of the last growing markets in the economy
  • It is a market that is greatly misunderstood and vastly under serviced

About TravAbility

TravAbility was founded in 2007 by Bill Forrester.

Our mission is to be agents of change; to inspire people who have never traveled before to do so, and to inspire others to do more. To encourage all cultures of the world to see disability as an integral part of life, and to provide the motivation and tools to the tourism industry to allow them to create accessible environments that enable inclusion in an economically sustainable way.

We offer a range of services to tourism operators and Destination Marketing Boards to enable them to take advantage of the growing Accessible Tourism market. Our core approach is program oriented focusing on the product and service needs of people with a disability an developing a culture of innovation to attract this highly profitable and rapidly growing market:

  • Development of Access Statements
  • Product, service and program development
  • Development of 'Soft Infrastructure' policies and procedures
  • Staff and Management Training
  • Marketing Services and Toolkits
  • Access information kits
  • Industry Presentations and Conference Keynotes and Capacity Building Workshops
  • Property Audits and Universal Design planning
  • Self Audit Tools
  • National/State/Regional Park Guides and Trail Maps
  • Diversity and Inclusion Strategy development
  • Disability Action Plans
  • New Project planning and Development
  • Stock Imagery through PhotoAbility
  • Accommodation listings through TravAbility Properties
Contact

For more information on how you can make your business more attractive to the traveler with a disability contact Bill.

 

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Accessible Tourism has to be Customer, not Compliance Focused


It is time to understand that a traveler with a disability is not a risk management problem, but a customer who has the same desire as any other traveler – to experience and participate in something they choose for themselves and for which they exchange valuable currency to do so.

Tourism has often been described as selling dreams and indeed that is what the majority of the industry attempts to do by developing products and services that give clients an "experience". The industry has evolved to develop a vast array of experiences that cover all aspirations and budgets. When it comes to Accessible Tourism, however, we see a major disconnect from the customer and instead a compliance mentality towards accessibility and risk management.

"Travelers with a disability are like any other group of people; with their own set of dreams and aspirations. To attract those customers, tourism operators need to start reflecting them in their marketing materials." - Bill Forrester Co-Founder, Travability.

What do you See?

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Our mind is conditioned to recognize an apple from the outline, but what comes to mind when we see the international symbol for disability? - 

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Again, our mind is conditioned based on perception largely created by the media and a lack of first hand knowledge. When most people think of disability they think in terms of a physical disability and its limitations. We have been conditioned to think in terms of the "medical model" of disability. That implies that a person with a disability is seen as passive, not involved and in need of care and special facilities. We seldom think of them as the decision maker or group leader.

The tourism industry in particular, fails to see a traveler with a disability as an active participant. By not seeing them as a customer, the industry has not considered their needs and aspirations as part of the product development cycle.

That Perception, is Not the Reality.

For the next 4 minutes lets have a look at the reality with "Whats Our Scene"

 

Disability is often regarded as a homogeneous concept. The common misconception is that the needs of all people with a disability are the same. The opposite is true. As with the general population ability is on a continuum.

Disability is the only minority group anyone can join in an instant.

People with a disability are present in all sectors in roughly the same proportion as the general population. At the lower end of the age spectrum it is often the more adventurous and active people that acquire a disability through an accident. They are not like the backpackers, adventure tourists, luxury travelers or the Gay and Lesbian sector. In one sense that perception has been reinforced by the social model of disability which, in defining the social barriers, has concentrated on a narrow sub set of physical access requirements largely limited to car parks, toilets building access and hotel rooms. A disability, in reality, is just a different level of ability. We are not all equal in a number of ways. Physical ability is just one set in the total capability set of the human being. If we do take physical ability as the cornerstone of the push for greater accessibility then we need to put it into context. Looking at the travel industry as a case in point. Travelers vary enormously in their physical capabilities and their holiday patterns reflect that diversity. Whether that holiday is climbing a Himalayan peak, walking New Zealand’s, Milford Track, visiting the wine region of the Napa Valley or relaxing on a Caribbean Island that is a personal choice. The tourism industry is adept at discerning and catering for those wide ranges of choices, however, we have categorized a disability, through the medical and now social models as something different and around that built a set of preconceptions that shields it from a market view.

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There are three key messages that come out of that video:

Joanne Kelly - "This is very cool. I was actually a bit nervous to come up here"

This is a particularly important message, as the travel decision is critically based on knowing what to expect on arrival and whether of not a venue, hotel, attraction or destination generally is suitable for their needs. The best facilities in the world will not be utilized if people do not know they exist and are not comfortable with their condition in advance.

Craig Doherty - "It is an enormous market, enormous yet enormously under serviced"

The following analysis will look at the market size and how it is growing with the aging population and the retiring Baby Boomers.

Michael Hannon - "We do not keep separate statistics..........what really is important is that everyone is afforded the opportunity"

In creating the Ice Explorer Brewsters recognized core element of Accessible Tourism, everyone should be treated as an equal and have the opportunity to enjoy the experience together with their family and friends. Travel is as much about creating the memories as it is about the moment itself. Accessible Tourism has to embrace that fact and realize that the average person with a disability travels with 3 friends or family members and wants to share the experience, not sit back and watch.

The Market is Already Big and Growing

Australian research conducted by Dr. Simon Darcy found the following:

  • Some 88% of people with disability take a holiday each year that accounted for some 8.2 million overnight trips.
  • The average travel group size for people with a disability is 2.8 people for a domestic overnight trip and 3.4 for a day trip.
  • There is a myth that the accessible tourism market does not spend because of economic circumstance and are a significant proportion of each travel market segment.
  • They travel on a level comparable with the general population for domestic overnight and day trips.

The total tourism expenditure attributable to the group was $8bn per year or 11% of overall tourism expenditure.

The population is aging in every western country and the Baby Boomer Generation started retiring in Jan 2011.

US research by McKinsey & Company predicts that by 2015, the baby boomer generation will command:

  • 60 percent of net U.S. wealth and 
  • 40 percent of spending. 

In many categories, like travel, boomers will represent over 50 percent of consumption. 

The impact on the Inclusive Travel sector is significant as over 40% of them will be retiring with some form of disability, raising the total value of the Inclusive Tourism sector to over 25% of the market by 2020.

25% of the Market by 2020

Of every person who has lived to be 65 from the beginning of recorded history, two-thirds are alive today.

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Matching Accessible Facilities, Aspirations and the Market

After more than 20 years of disability rights legislation and accessibility requirements built into building codes there is a plethora of good infrastructure available, however, people will not utilize a service they are not aware of. 

Unlike the movie Field of Dreams, where the line was 

“Build it and they will Come”, 

in providing accessible facilities the line is

“Build it, Understand it, Market it and they will Come and Keep Coming!”

The travel industry has evolved to service a continually changing market. Hotels and resorts offer a wide range of products and services, from standard hotel rooms, king size rooms, rooms with different views and prices tags, business suites, family suites and self catering rooms. The list goes on. These rooms have been developed to service market demand or at least perceived market demand. Because their existence is customer driven the industry has developed very specialized and detailed ways to present such information. Each feature is listed in detail as a selling point for the product. Often rooms further up the price line has its additional features listed only to entice the up-sell.

Because disability is seen as a “single” category, the industry has failed to understand the varying needs of the disabled traveler and as a consequence failed to develop or market even its existing infrastructure to service or attract the disabled traveler. While it clearly understands the needs of a business traveler for a writing desk with Internet connectivity and a quiet “executive” breakfast bar it does not appreciate the need for a wheelchair traveler to know the bed and toilet seat heights or indeed the desire of a business wheelchair user for that same writing desk to have knee clearance and a power point a meter above the floor.
The same issue manifests itself in operations, again because those needs are not understood housekeeping staff who reposition furniture moved by the customer often at great effort.

The Baby Boomers will change the perception of disability and except services that cater for a greater level of disability. More than any generation before them they will expect adjustments to allow them to fulfill their travel aspirations with no hassle or fuss.

Those organizations, or destinations that take the time to understand the needs of the disabled traveler will gain a competitive advantage over the rest of the industry. It will take a mindset change to start viewing a disabled traveler as an individual customer and to start developing products and service standards to encourage their custom.

Further, the use of imagery that includes people with a disability in mainstream marketing materials send a very clear and powerful message that a destination not only welcomes them, but wants their business.

The Little Things can make a Huge Difference

Codification of accessibility reinforces the compliance mindset. Travel is all about creating new experiences through innovation which exceed expectations and delight the customer. It is the little things, that can never be codified, that make an everlasting impression on the disabled traveler and keep them coming back for more.

  • Providing seating in reception and waiting areas
  • Large type registration forms and menus
  • Providing large faced analogue clocks
  • Lower reception counters
  • Walking stick holders on reception desks and service counters
  • Marked barrier free paths of travel
  • Raised toilet flush buttons
  • Levers rather than door knobs
  • Step free garden paths
  • Straws avaialble for wine tasting
  • Information on accessible local cafes, bars and attractions
  • Accessible garden furniture

 

Examples of True Inclusion in Travel

 

Koala Conservation Centre, Phillip Island, Victoria Australia 

 

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Phillip Island Nature Parks not only has world class accessible facilities throughout its complex, including the tree top boardwalks, but also sends a powerful message to potential disabled customers that that are welcome by featuring accessibility on the home page of their website including imagery. 

 

Butchart Gardens, British Columbia, Canada

 

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Butchart Gardens has excellent wayfinding facilities throughout the gardens making it easy to navigate a barrier free route 

 

Addo Elephant Park, Port Elizabeth, South Africa

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Wheelchair accessible trails and braille signage

 

Jervis Bay Wild, Accessible Whalewatching, Huskisson, New South Wales, Australia 

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Jervis Bay Wild operates a fully roll-on catamaran with wheelchair access from stern to bow. 
A hoist gives access to the boom net for people with limited mobility.

 

Parks Alberta, Alberta, Canada

Everyone belongs outside

Connecting with nature is important for the quality of life of all people. Parks provide opportunities for people to be active in natural or wilderness settings, to spend time with friends and family, and to escape busy daily routines. The Alberta Parks Division is committed to supporting the participation of all people in park experiences and programs, regardless of ability.

Taking the Leap into Accessible Tourism

The final word goes to Rick Hansen. 25 years after his "Man in Motion World Tour" he clearly identifies in this video, that the issue today is cultural and mindset rather than the lack of physical facilities.

 

 

Bungee Jumping is not the "Last Frontier".

The "Last Frontier" is the Tourism Industry understanding that Accessible Tourism 
is a viable and valuable market segment. 

The "Last Frontier" is understanding the market's needs and developing product accordingly. 

The "Last Frontier" is not about "special accommodation", is not about feel good projects, 
it is not charity, and it is not about compliance. 

It is Fundamental Cultural Change.


 

About TravAbility

TravAbility was founded in 2007 by Bill Forrester.

Our mission is to be agents of change; to inspire people who have never traveled before to do so, and to inspire others to do more. To encourage all cultures of the world to see disability as an integral part of life, and to provide the motivation and tools to the tourism industry to allow them to create accessible environments that enable inclusion in an economically sustainable way.

We offer a range of services to tourism operators and Destination Marketing Boards to enable them to take advantage of the growing Accessible Tourism market. Our core approach is program oriented focusing on the product and service needs of people with a disability an developing a culture of innovation to attract this highly profitable and rapidly growing market:

  • Development of Access Statements
  • Product, service and program development
  • Development of 'Soft Infrastructure' policies and procedures
  • Staff and Management Training
  • Marketing Services and Toolkits
  • Access information kits
  • Industry Presentations and Conference Keynotes and Capacity Building Workshops
  • Property Audits and Universal Design planning
  • Self Audit Tools
  • National/State/Regional Park Guides and Trail Maps
  • Diversity and Inclusion Strategy development
  • Disability Action Plans
  • New Project planning and Development
  • Stock Imagery through PhotoAbility
  • Accommodation listings through TravAbility Properties
Contact

For more information on how you can make your business more attractive to the traveler with a disability contact Bill.

 

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Bill Forrester

Founder

Bill was born and raised in Melbourne, Australia. As a child he was fortunate to travel to many parts of the world and to learn and appreciate cultures other than his own. That passion for learning and understanding has never left him. Bill spent most of his working life in the corporate field in both financial and operation roles. He specialised in corporate and cultural change. He has extensive experience in facility management, major project delivery, stakeholder relations and corporate training programs. He has worked in the private, mutual, and government sectors. Five years ago he left the corporate world and bought three retail travel agencies in Melbourne to pursue his love of travel.

Contact Bill

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A Blueprint for the Development of a Successful Accessible Tourism Strategy


 

 

Executive Summary

The tourism industry is facing a rapidly changing environment. The population is ageing and living longer. The retiring Baby Boomer generation will control over 50% of the total tourism spend and will be demanding experiences that differ from those generations that have preceded them.
This active generation, who will be carrying with them age related disabilities, will expect a new level of accommodation from the tourism industry. They will not identify with the traditional disability sector, but will instead expect accessible tourism services to be provided by the mainstream industry. This generation is tech savvy and online and will expect accessibility information to be provided in the same place as all other tourism information, whether that is accommodation, attraction specific or destination wide.
Government policy encouraging diversity of employment will also greatly affect the MICE market. Conference organisors and venue operators will have to accept that almost all future conferences will have to cater for people with a disability at all levels of client companies.
The tourism industry has to make a quantum shift in the way it views people with a disability and has to learn how to provide fulfilling experiences as it does with any other sector. 
The economics driving accessible tourism are enormous with the contribution predicted to be 25% of the total tourism market by 2020.
It is imperative that the changing demographic is taken into account and that future Tourism Strategies around the world incorporate an active role in encouraging the industry to adopt Accessible Tourism product. Further, tourism advertising should incorporate Accessible Tourism to attract the market. Major events should all cater for people of all abilities as part of the normal operation.

Key Recommendations:

  • Accessible Tourism is added to all Tourism Strategies as a key pillar 
  • Ensure all public infrastructure and transport systems are accessible and have accessibility information available
  • Education and resources developed for tourism businesses to aid in the development of Accessible Tourism products and services
    • Product development
    • Infrastructure requirements
    • Information needs and presentation styles
    • Staff training guides
    • Marketing
    • Effective use of imagery 
  • Include Accessible Tourism on the agenda for tourism conferences and industry briefings
  • Mainstream accessibility information into Tourism Authority destination websites at Federal, State/Provincial, Regional and local levels including accessible travel planning guides
  • Include imagery of people with a disability in tourism advertisements and promotions in all national. state/provincial and regional campaigns
  • Develop a campaign to raise the awareness of the public and industry on Accessible Tourism showcasing accessible destinations and encouraging visitation 
  • Develop and implement an event management guide to ensure all major events are suitable for people of all abilities 
  • Include a rewards and recognition program into all Tourism Awards 
  • Seek champions from within the industry to promote the value of developing Accessible Tourism product and services 

Introduction

Access in tourism has long been regarded as a social issue. It has been driven by the Social Model of Disability and backed up by regulation in the form of the Disability Discrimination Acts in various forms around the world. From a tourism point of view that has translated through building codes and other standards.

The result of a compliance first approach is that travellers with a disability have been regarded as a risk management issue and the accessible facilities that have been created regarded as a cost impost and not a valuable commercial asset. It has been argued that those assets are excessive as they have below industry average utilisation.

The incorporation of Accessible Tourism into a Tourism Strategy creates the opportunity to review Accessible Tourism as a viable tourism market and not just a social responsibility, and in so doing, it affords the opportunity to create a competitive advantage in the Tourism Market.

 

 

 

Exploring Accessible Tourism from a Program Approach 
Travability’s opening presentation to the Destinations for All World Summit.

 

 

What is Accessible Tourism

All sorts of terms have been used to describe this growing market from Barrier Free Tourism in the United Kingdom, Accessible Tourism in Australia, Access Tourism in New Zealand. All of those terms have their foundations based on the physical term of “access” More often than not those expressions also have a narrow interpretation as people think of them applying only to travelers with a mobility related disability.

More correctly what we are describing in talking about basic cultural change within the Tourism industry is an “Inclusive” environment where people of all abilities are felt welcome and wanted as customers and guests.

Accessible Tourism has to be about understanding a new market and developing products and services to match those customer expectations in a programmatic not risk management approach.

  • The growth of the market is being driven by the following key factors:
  • The ageing population
  • The retiring and cash up Baby Boomer Generation
  • A changing perception of the soft adventure market
  • New technologies opening up greater opportunities for people with a disability

The Economics of Accessible Tourism

In recent years the economics of the Accessible Tourism and Leisure sectors have started to come to the fore. The ground breaking research of Dr. Simon Darcy in 2008, as part of the CRC on Sustainable Tourism, put a value on the market of $8bn per year or 11% of overall tourism expenditure.

His findings were:

  • Some 88% of people with disability take a holiday each year that accounted for some 8.2 million overnight trips.
  • The average travel group size for people with a disability is 2.8 people for a domestic overnight trip and 3.4 for a day trip.
  • There is a myth that the accessible tourism market does not spend because of economic circumstance and are a significant proportion of each travel market segment.
  • They travel on a level comparable with the general population for domestic overnight and day trips.

 

US research by McKinsey & Company predicted that by 2015, the baby boomer generation will command:

  • 60 percent of net U.S. wealth and
  • 40 percent of spending.
  • In many categories, like travel, boomers will represent over 50 percent of consumption.

The impact on the Inclusive Travel sector is significant as over 40% of them will be retiring with some form of disability, raising the total value of the Inclusive Tourism sector to over 25% of the market by 2020.

 

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2014 research from VisitEngland confirms the Darcy research and the McKinsey predictions.
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Key Points:
  • 20% of day trip market and 14% of the overnight market
  • Growth in value 3 times tourism in total, 33% for Accessible Tourism 11% Total Tourism
  • Length of stay and average spend both higher
  • Over 65 more people with a disability than able bodied
  • High percentage of the total market at a young age

In 2015 the Open Doors Organisation conducted further research on the US Economy:

  • Disability travel generates $17.3 Billion in annual spending up from $13.6 billion in 2002
  • People with a disability travel with one of more adult friends or family putting the total impact at $34.6 billion
  • In the past 2 years
    • 26 million adults with a disability traveled
    • They took 73 million trips

The full report is available from Open Doors

The Impact of the Baby Boomers on the Market is Significant.

From the 2015 Intergenerational Report - Australia in 2055
The number of Australians aged 65 and over is projected to more than double by 2054-55, with 1 in 1,000 people projected to be aged over 100. In 1975, this was 1 in 10,000.
The number of people aged 15 to 64 for every person aged 65 and over has fallen from 7.3 people in 1975 to an estimated 4.5 people today. By 2054-55, this is projected to nearly halve again to 2.7 people.

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Baby Boomer Attitudes will change the required product mix

It is clear from the demographic data that the Baby Boomer generation will have a significant impact on the tourism market. The Baby Boomers will be unlike any other generation of retirees that have come before it. It is an adventurous and consumer driven generation. Further, unlike previous generations, it will spend its accumulated wealth rather than build a nest egg to pass on to future generations. It will dominate the tourism market for the next 20 years.

The Baby Boomer spending power is significant.
(US Statistics from 2009)

  • 70% will inherit $300K average
  • Top 8 million $1.5M average
  • Total inheritance $8.4 Trillion
  • In 2009, households headed by adults ages 65 and older ... had 47 times as much net wealth as the typical household headed by someone under 35 years of age.

The Elephant in the Tourism Room

The Tourism Industry sees itself as a “sexy” industry dominated by glamour, youth and activity.
Both the older generation and people with a disability have an image problem and are seen as passive non-involved people. As a consequence they are ignored in the product offering.

 

“Older people have an image problem. As a culture, we’re conditioned toward youth. .… When we think of youth, we think ‘energetic and colorful;’ when we think of middle age or ‘mature’, we think ‘tired and washed out.’ and when we think of ‘old’ or ‘senior,’ we think either ‘exhausted and gray’ or, more likely, we just don’t think.

The financial numbers are absolutely inarguable — the Market has the money. Yet advertisers
remain astonishingly indifferent to them.”

Marti Barletta, PrimeTime Women

 

“We are the Aussies. Kiwis, Americans and Canadians. We are the Western Europeans and Japanese. We are the fastest growing, the biggest, the wealthiest, the boldest, the most (yes) ambitious, the most experimental and exploratory, the most different, the most indulgent, the most difficult and demanding, the most service and experience obsessed, the most vigorous, (the least vigorous), the most health conscious, the most female,the most profoundly important commercial market in the history of the world … and we will be the Center of your universe our for the next twent twenty-five years ears. We have arrived!”

Tom Peters

 

A Program/Customer approach is required in the development of Travel Services to People with a Disability.

Travel, recreation and leisure are all about the “experience” which ideally should be seamless from planning, to arrival back home. Enjoyment comes from those experiences and the way they are shared with others. The experience lingers in the memories of those who participated. A truly remarkable travel experience leaves the visitor changed in some way.
The reason it is so difficult for people with a disability to participate freely is that industry as a whole has not yet recognized that fundamentally a person with a disability is no different from any other person in their aspirations for a remarkable experience.
Industry and organisations still think about access and not the experience. There is a fundamental difference and it stems from a misunderstanding that Universal Design means design for the disabled and not human centered design.

Universal Design is NOT Design for the Disabled

 

While the business case is strong, it is not tangible to individual business owners and operators or small not for profit service providers. Too often presentations concentrate on big numbers, percentages and 20 page checklists and access statements. What a business owner needs to know is what to do about it, not how big the market is. The size of the market arguments need to be directed at the strategic influencers who’s job it is to translate those trends into tangible action plans based on customer needs. 

What is Needed is A Systems Approach

“The essential difference between the frog and the bicycle, viewed as systems, lies in the relationship of the parts to the whole. You can take a bicycle completely to pieces on your garage floor, clean and oil every single part, and reassemble the lot, confident the the whole thing will work perfectly, as a bike, as before. The frog is different. Once you remove a single part, the entire system is affected instantaneously and unpredictably for the worse. What’s more, if you go on removing bits the frog will make a series of subtle, but still unpredictable, adjustments in order to survive. This sort of system, at the level beneath consciousness, wants to survive and will continue for an astonishing length of time to achieve a rough equilibrium as bits are excised - until it can do so no longer. At that point, again quite unpredictably, the whole system will tip over into collapse. The frog is dead and it won’t help to sew the parts back on.”

Intelligent Leadership - Alistair Mant - Allen & Unwin, 1999

 

Conversely, when there is a well established and sophisticated system, simply bolting on new pieces doesn’t change the fundamentals. Those additional pieces are never nourished and never form part of the overall system. They simply exist on the edge until, through lack of maintenance, they fade away into oblivion. 

frogTourism and Leisure are examples of well established and very intricate systems aimed at delivering a multitude of different experiences to the customer. The complexity exists both within the destination management structure and within the industry that brings together an array of components to deliver its overall service. A successful tourism/leisure product incorporates, transport, accommodation, attractions, booking systems, information systems and customer service. Those products are bundled and further require the integration of service providers, consolidators, tour operators and an extensive retail network whether online or offline. 

Over time the system evolves as products change and the tastes of the market changes. New products and experiences become available and get incorporated into the overall offering. 
Bicycle thinking, where a new product is bolted onto the system invariable fails if it doesn’t fit into the overall management plan or isn’t powerful enough to change the plan. 

The approach to accessible tourism and leisure, has to date, largely been Bicycle thinking. Adding accessibility requirements doesn’t fundamentally change a product offering or affect cultural change. The concept of systems thinking in relation to the tourism industry was explored in our paper Accessible Tourism is the Tourism Industry’s Bicycle.

Defining the Customer with a Disability.

An arbitrary line drawn to differentiate a segment of the population whose ability 
the majority don’t understand.

 

While that definition may be tongue in cheek, it goes a long to explain why Accessible Tourism/Leisure has not become mainstream product. Tourism/Leisure is all about creating an experience and a memory. It is about engaging people and taking them into a new realm. The ability to transport someone to a new sensory level requires an understanding of the person for whom that experience is designed and a knowledge of their capabilities to enjoy and appreciate what is going on around them.

People with a disability are present in all sectors in roughly the same proportion as the general population. They are not like the backpackers, adventure tourists, or luxury travelers that can be conveniently put into unique product boxes with targeted marketing campaigns. The common misconception is that the needs of all people with a disability are the same. In one sense that misconception has been reinforced by the social model of disability which, in defining the social barriers, has concentrated on a narrow sub set of physical access requirements largely limited to car parks, toilets, building access and hotel rooms. By concentrating on the narrow access requirements the industry has effectively created an artificial sector of people with a disability that ignored their actual aspirations. 

A disability, in reality is just a different level of ability. Physical ability is just one element in the total capability set of the human being.

Disability is the only minority group anyone can join in an instant

 

Disability is often regarded as a homogeneous concept. The opposite is true. As with the general population ability is on a continuum.

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The arbitrary line defining disability is exactly that, an arbitrary line. The advent of modern alloys and design has opened up a vast range of activities including some at the extreme adventure end of the spectrum. People with a disability can be found across the full range of sporting and leisure activities. Their tastes and budgets, likewise, spread from economy to five star and include the conference and meetings market. The key to developing tourism/leisure product is to look at the aspirations of potential customers, the opportunities that exist within a destination and the technology available to allow participation by people of all abilities. Customer expectations should drive the product development.

New technology is opening adventure to all - Images available from Photoability.net

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Universal Design has to Underpin Program Development not just Physical Infrastructure.

What if the first question we asked was, “What is so unique about this situation that it justifies exclusion?” instead of, “How much does it cost to make it accessible?”

Dr. Scott Rains

 

Universal Design is at the very core of an inclusive society. In the context of tourism UD must be able to produce an experience that meets and exceeds the expectations of all people. Further, as we have said, tourism experiences are SHARED experiences hence the design of tourism products is about bringing together people of all abilities, not designing specific activities for people with a disability.

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The key element in developing tourism/leisure product is the incorporation of Universal Design from the first inception of the product concept.

Knowing what the customer, not only wants, but is capable of doing is the foundation for the capacity review. The capacity review must look at all of the existing infrastructure and what needs to be altered to accommodate the proposed new product. Too often the path of travel is ignored or the simple and inexpensive alterations overlooked because a helicopter view is not taken out the outset.

Product design must be all-encompassing and actively seek out new product innovations. Today venues have a great range of new equipment at their disposal from the freewheel wheelchair extension, off road handcycles, road handcycles, all abilities sailboats, adaptive fishing equipment, paddle boards designed for wheelchairs, adaptive canoes and canoe launchers, in addition to the tradition hearing loops, tactile markers etc.

In creating built infrastructure it is important to look to the future and the impact the aging population will have on anything built today. The Baby Boomer generation will dominate the travel market over the next 20 years. That is a big enough tome horizon to justify any capital expenditure. The vision and application should be broad. Why fit a toilet seat with a 30% luminosity contrast to just the accessible toilet. The contrast is needed by anyone with low vision whether or not they have any mobility issues requiring and accessible toilet. The small things like maximizing the accessible paths of travel through garden and bar areas should be part of any infrastructure upgrade.

In creating a tourism/leisure offering the Soft Infrastructure is just as important as the built environment. Accessibility information should be plentiful, easily found within the main context of the attraction/venue/activity/destination description and written in the same style as any other information. Booking systems should reflect the experience a visitor wants or expects to have. If there is space for only one companion, then the booking information and system needs to talk about where the rest of the party is located, or better still reserve the row in front of the accessible seating to accommodate family and friends. Create interactive maps and signage to allow easy wayfinding through a venue without the need to search for a step route. Create large print registration forms or mobile apps to simplify the process for people of all abilities. In other words every action should be enhancing the customer experience and it should blend in with existing forms and presentations and systems. Customers want an inviting experience, not one that makes them feel different or puts under pressure.

Finally there is the marketing. Imagery plays a critical role in saying to a customer from the outset that we want your business. It is about positioning potential clients as valued and welcome guests and nothing says that more strongly than people with a disability enjoying a venue or activity on offer. That imagery should not just encompass the particular product but more generally reflect the destination as whole. 

Universal design is not design for the disabled. It is an all encompassing philosophy to create a culture of inclusion. Get the vision right and all else follows with creative and innovative solutions that will attract one of the fastest growing markets of any industry.

Everyone Belongs Outside - Vision Statement of Parks Alberta

 

If a Traveller with a Disability is a Customer, then Marketing and Imagery must reflect their Importance to the Industry

“Customers who have specific access needs are part of every tourism ‘segment’. Their interests are as wide as any other group of people. They may be looking for mountain adventures, concert performances or a honeymoon hotel. In business terms, they are simply ‘customers’ but they need good access – otherwise, they will choose to go elsewhere. They also travel with family and friends so you could not just be losing one customer but potentially many more. It is about gaining market share.” 
Bill Forrester, Co-Founder, PhotoAbility.

 

“Inclusive tourism should be treated the same as any other destination marketing. Accessible facilities are one thing, but the right imagery sends a powerful message that ‘we want your business’.” 
Deborah Davis, Co-Founder, PhotoAbility.

 

 

Travelers with disabilities and their families represent a strong and growing market that can be captured by travel properties, destination marketers, wholesalers, tour operators and the retail tourism sector.

Customers who have specific access needs are part of every tourism ‘segment’. Their interests are as wide as any other group of people. They may be looking for mountain adventures, concert performances or a honeymoon hotel. In business terms, they are simply ‘customers’ but they need good access – otherwise, they will choose to go elsewhere. They also travel with family and friends. Through not marketing to travellers with a disability, tourism organisations risk not one customer but potentially many more whether it be family groups, groups of friends, wedding functions or corporate conferences. It is about recognising people with a disability as an inclusive part of the traveling society.
Incorporating imagery featuring people with disabilities enjoying travel all around the world with their families and friends will give those potential customers with disabilities the inspiration and confidence that they too can enjoy the opportunity to experience new destinations that can accommodate their accessibility needs

Inclusive tourism should be treated the same as any other destination marketing. Accessible facilities are one thing, but the right imagery sends a powerful message that ‘we want your business’.

Money spent in structural modification of a property, but not followed up with Inclusive imagery that demonstrates this accessibility, is a missed opportunity. It is also a relatively economical way of increasing market share.

When potential customers with a disability log onto a page for a resort, or see an advertisement in a magazine or brochure, and see an image that represents them, they will more than likely want to patronize that provider, and if the experience is positive, return again. Loyalty is an important aspect of this market as well, as a good experience and will be shared among various disability oriented social networks.

Magnus Berlund - Scandic Hotels One day I am a client the next I am disabled! 

 

The reality is that people with a disability are active and involved travellers.
Take a journey around the world to get a true picture. 

When we talk about mainstreaming Accessible Tourism, it is important that advertising and marketing reflect just that. Accessible Tourism is not a separate market segment but crosses all existing tourism markets. It is important to reflect people with a disability as just part of the scene of any destination or product marketing campaign.

However when framing advertisments it is important to remember that people with disabilities are a discerning loyal market who want to feel that they belong and are valued as customers or clients. When an able-bodied model is put into a wheelchair that is obviously not their own and the image is then used in a website, publication, or advertisement, it is seen as fake and disingenuous and gives a poor impression to the audience. Using models with an actual disability conveys a clear message about genuine representation and creates real employment opportunities for people with a disability.

South African Tourism is currently running a campaign that sends an extremely powerful message of inclusion.

Reconsider South Africa

 

Accessible Tourism Product needs to be Mainstreamed

The following diagram illustrates the contrast between Accessible Tourism product and mainstream offerings.

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An Industry Level Structured Approach is required that concentrates on Education not just Regulation

Private sector industry players do not act alone, but are part of a greater destination management plan that stems from a national brand value proposition. The brand proposition and national branding is a strategic decision that comes from a National Tourism Authority. It is filtered down to State/Provincial Authorities. Underlaying those bodies there is normally a layer of Regional and then Local Tourism Authorities that develop their own identities, branding and destination management plans. The nexus with the national branding is broken at this point unless the particular region is a national icon and part of the international marketing plan, e.g. America’s Grand Canyon or Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. At a regional and local level the emphasis is on developing the key attributes of the destination for a more local market. The influence of the National and State Tourism Authorities becomes more advisory and a source of information on global tourism trends.

The various elements of the Universe can be depicted in the following diagram.

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The Parable of Imo

“Imo the monkey has become famous over the years, originally as a result of Robert Ardrey’s wonderful work of science popularisation, The Social Contract, first published in 1970. Ardrey had learned of the trail-blazing work of Japanese scientists in studying the behaviour in the wild of large, self-contained and highly structured monkey
societies. The scientists had established the practice of ‘provisioning’- providing some of the monkey population’s food needs but without distorting the natural pattern of foraging in their island habitat. This allowed the observers to study at first hand, and continuously, the patterns of social interaction amongst the monkeys and, above all, their learning-the way that intelligence diffused in the social systems. Imo excited their attention from the start. When sweet potatoes,which monkeys love, were placed on the beach of the tiny islet of Koshima, all the monkeys laboriously picked the grains of sand from the food in order to eat it. It was Imo, just 18 months old, who made the mental connection with the little stream that crossed the beach not far way. Imo carried the sweet potatoes to the stream and allowed its fresh waters quickly to wash away the sand. After a while another youngster copied this method of food preparation and then, after a further period, Imo’s mother did so. Very slowly the innovation diffused amongst the band, mainly amongst the young, and within families. The normal pattern was for the young to make the breakthrough, followed by their mothers, and then for new infants to copy their own mothers.

The point of the story, for observers of human behaviour in organisations, is that the clever new ideas never penetrated to the powerful males at the top of the social hierarchy. They never came into contact with the young. When caramels were introduced to another band, the pattern was repeated-it took a year and a half for the innovation to spread from the juniors to half the entire troop. But, in a parallel experiment, the ‘alpha’ (boss) monkey was induced to try another new and delicious food-wheat. The alpha female promptly copied him and the entire band of 700 monkeys took to the new food in just four hours. Why? Because everybody watches the leader. Nobody much attends to an Imo. By now a mature four-year old, Imo devised a method for ‘placer-mining’ the wheat too. Interestingly, the youngest monkeys had figured out that it made sense to get downstream of Imo, so as to catch any floating grains that escaped the panning process. Something similar occurs near the smartest operators in big corporations.”

Intelligent Leadership - Alistair Mant - Allen & Unwin, 1999

 

The story of Imo is used a lot in corporate management and leadership training to keep organizations continually fresh and new by encouraging a “think tank” process to capture the new and innovative ideas coming out of the youngest minds. The best organizations do that successfully and keep innovating and changing. The key to that change is to recognize, however, that to get organization wide adoption rapidly to take advantage of the associated competitive advantage, the idea has to be owned from the top down. Without that ownership most ideas will be slow to evolve or die all together.

Without the national structure embracing Accessible Tourism the emerging trends and business case is never translated into regional, local and individual plans that can be effectively implemented. It becomes a Black Hole with some isolated and disconnected bright stars. Like Imo, they will each be getting their own satisfaction both financially and socially, but the impact on the overall destination will be small and slow.

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International Best Practice

VisitEngland

VisitEngland, as England’s National Tourism Authority, has identified Accessible Tourism as a key strategy for maintaining its competitive advantage in the European tourism market.
It has adopted a mainstream approach in line with its strategies for other tourism products.

Vision

To harness the growing, high value accessible tourism market to become internationally recognised as a leading destination for people with access needs. This will contribute to 5% growth, year on year, in the England tourism market by 2020.
Objectives
1. To motivate tourism businesses across all sectors to improve accessibility.
2. To improve and develop tourism products across all sectors to meet the requirements of people with access needs by:
a. Ensuring staff are access aware and have the key skills and knowledge to meet the requirements of people with access needs.
b. Providing information on the accessibility of facilities and services that is detailed, accurate and readily available to enable people with access needs to make an informed choice.
c. Improving facilities and making reasonable adjustments as per the Equality Act 2010 for people with access needs.
3. To increase consumer awareness of accessibility initiatives and the accessibility of tourism products.

 

To achieve those goals it recently ran a mainstream advertising campaign with 3 objectives:

A framework for destinations to engage businesses in accessible tourism
A means for destinations to target the accessible tourism market
Campaign to act as an incentive for businesses to improve product

The marketing was unique and different.

 

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The campaign changed perceptions of both the travelling public and the tourism industry to wards Accessible Tourism as a mainstream market.

The campaign has been backed up with a Tourism Awards system that rewards excellence in Accessible Tourism.

The awards are now in their third year and reward accommodation, attractions and destinations on excellence in creating a visitor experience.

 

Destination Germany

Destination Germany has also seen the strategic need to invest in Barrier Free Tourism with an ageing demographic.

It has invested heavily in developing a nation wide system of certification that concentrates on both the individual operators and and destination as a whole.

Destination information is available in all Tourist Information Offices and supported by well trained staff.

The Destination Germany web site features Barrier Free tourism on its homepage as one of its core product offerings. It is interesting that it chose to launch its Barrier Free web site in the Tower of London, a clear indication that it sees Barrier Free Tourism as key attractor.

Destination Germany’s homepage:

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The Barrier Free page is integrated into the mainstream site and provides detailed tourist information on destinations, attractions and accommodation.
It is rich in inclusive imagery.

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Visit Flanders – Heading for an accessible destination

In Flanders (the northern region of Belgium), implementation of the tourist accessibility policy is in the hands of Visit Flanders. Visit Flanders is a government institution, whose key task is to promote and market Flanders as a tourist destination at home and abroad. Another important task is to develop tourism products
in Flanders. Quality control, product innovation by means of direct investment, co-funding and grants are important instruments.
One of the four overall objectives of Visit Flanders1 is to enable every Flemish citizen to participate in tourism. In this context, ‘Tourism for All’ is now the ambitious goal of the organisation. The tourist attractions of Flanders will be emphatically aimed at everyone – including young people, low income families, young families with children, older people, disabled people – in short, anyone who presently finds it difficult to experience a carefree holiday.

Accessible Catalonia

Last year the Catalonia region of Spain was recognised at London’s World Travel Market for its work advocating accessible tourism and has garnered First Prize in Europe’s CHARTS awards for its work fostering cultural and sustainable tourism. “The Way of Saint James for All” initiative was chosen from amongst 27 candidates from all over Europe as a benchmark of excellence and good practices in the field of cultural and sustainable tourism.

About TravAbility

TravAbility was founded in 2007 by Bill Forrester.

Our mission is to be agents of change; to inspire people who have never traveled before to do so, and to inspire others to do more. To encourage all cultures of the world to see disability as an integral part of life, and to provide the motivation and tools to the tourism industry to allow them to create accessible environments that enable inclusion in an economically sustainable way.

We offer a range of services to tourism operators and Destination Marketing Boards to enable them to take advantage of the growing Accessible Tourism market. Our core approach is program oriented focusing on the product and service needs of people with a disability an developing a culture of innovation to attract this highly profitable and rapidly growing market:

  • Development of Access Statements
  • Product, service and program development
  • Development of 'Soft Infrastructure' policies and procedures
  • Staff and Management Training
  • Marketing Services and Toolkits
  • Access information kits
  • Industry Presentations and Conference Keynotes and Capacity Building Workshops
  • Property Audits and Universal Design planning
  • Self Audit Tools
  • National/State/Regional Park Guides and Trail Maps
  • Diversity and Inclusion Strategy development
  • Disability Action Plans
  • New Project planning and Development
  • Stock Imagery through PhotoAbility
  • Accommodation listings through TravAbility Properties
Contact

For more information on how you can make your business more attractive to the traveler with a disability contact Bill.

 

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Bill Forrester

Founder

Bill was born and raised in Melbourne, Australia. As a child he was fortunate to travel to many parts of the world and to learn and appreciate cultures other than his own. That passion for learning and understanding has never left him. Bill spent most of his working life in the corporate field in both financial and operation roles. He specialised in corporate and cultural change. He has extensive experience in facility management, major project delivery, stakeholder relations and corporate training programs. He has worked in the private, mutual, and government sectors. Five years ago he left the corporate world and bought three retail travel agencies in Melbourne to pursue his love of travel.

Contact Bill

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Park Accessibility Evaluation Manual


We see National Parks as a key pillar in the developing market of Accessible Tourism and as a critical element of the health and wellbeing of the world's population regardless of an individual's ability. 70% of tourists visit a National Park as part of their vacation.

We have worked with Parks Victoria to develop the Park Accessibility Evaluation Manual. It is our aim to create a network of park accessibility specialists to champion creating a range of inclusive outdoor experiences to cater for people of all abilities and also embrace the growing range of outdoor accessibility equipment.

Our mission is to be agents of change; to inspire people who have never traveled before to do so, and to inspire others to do more. To encourage all cultures of the world to see disability as an integral part of life, and to provide the motivation and tools to the tourism industry to allow them to create accessible environments that enable inclusion in an economically sustainable way.

Park Manual Download
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About TravAbility

TravAbility was founded in 2007 by Bill Forrester.

Our mission is to be agents of change; to inspire people who have never traveled before to do so, and to inspire others to do more. To encourage all cultures of the world to see disability as an integral part of life, and to provide the motivation and tools to the tourism industry to allow them to create accessible environments that enable inclusion in an economically sustainable way.

We offer a range of services to tourism operators and Destination Marketing Boards to enable them to take advantage of the growing Accessible Tourism market. Our core approach is program oriented focusing on the product and service needs of people with a disability an developing a culture of innovation to attract this highly profitable and rapidly growing market:

  • Development of Access Statements
  • Product, service and program development
  • Development of 'Soft Infrastructure' policies and procedures
  • Staff and Management Training
  • Marketing Services and Toolkits
  • Access information kits
  • Industry Presentations and Conference Keynotes and Capacity Building Workshops
  • Property Audits and Universal Design planning
  • Self Audit Tools
  • National/State/Regional Park Guides and Trail Maps
  • Diversity and Inclusion Strategy development
  • Disability Action Plans
  • New Project planning and Development
  • Stock Imagery through PhotoAbility
  • Accommodation listings through TravAbility Properties
Contact

For more information on how you can make your business more attractive to the traveler with a disability contact Bill.

 

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Destinations for All


A World for Everyone

Declaration from the World Summit Destinations for All Montreal, 2014

Having met in Montreal, Canada at the World Summit Destinations for All, from October 19 to 22, 2014, we, as women and men from various countries and regions around the world, including professionals, representatives of NGOs and various sectors of civil society, universities, international and multilateral agencies, and employees of government institutions, we hereby agree to the following Declaration: 

Recognizing the important contributions made to the development and promotion of Tourism and Destinations for All, (including for persons with disabilities, seniors, families and other visitors), and understanding that local citizens are the first to benefit from such efforts, including the following key initiatives:

  • The Declaration on the Rights of Disabled Persons (UN, 1975)
  • The Principles of Universal Design, Version 2.0. Raleigh, NC: North Carolina State University, The Center for Universal Design (1997) The Global Code of Ethics for Tourism (UNWTO, 1999);
  • The Takayama Declaration on the Development of Communities-for-All in Asia and the Pacific (UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP, 2009);
  • The ISO Standard 21542:2011, Building construction - Accessibility and usability of the built environment providing a global reference for the design of buildings including tourism infrastructure (2011);
  • The Italian Manifesto for the Promotion of Accessible Tourism (2011);
  • The World Report on Disability concluding that more than 1 billion people worldwide live with a disability (World Health Organization 2011)
  • The 5th International Conference on Responsible Tourism in Destinations addressing Access to All (ICRT, Canada, 2011);
  • The relevant Standards and Recommended Practices of Annex 9 - Facilitation to the Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago Convention, 1944) and the Manual on Access to Air Transport by Persons with Disabilities (International Civil Aviation Organization, 2013);
  • The UNWTO Recommendations on Accessible Tourism, developed with the support of the ONCE Foundation and the European Network for Accessible Tourism (ENAT) (UNWTO, 2013);
  • The series of International Congresses on Tourism for All, organised and hosted in Spain by ONCE Foundation in 2004, 2007, 2010 and 2013;
  • The Catalunya 2020 Vision for Responsible Tourism: the Barcelona Declaration (2013);
  • The series of International Congresses on Accessible Tourism held in South-East Asia in 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011 and December 2014;
  • The report and call for action Access to Culture 2012, by the European Blind Union;
  • The Vision and Action Plan 2011-2015, “Way Forward” of the World Federation of the Deaf;
  • The Proposed Model Regulations for Accessible Taxicabs and For-Hire Vehicles (International Association of Transportation Regulators, 2014);
  • The Proposal of The Open Working Group for Sustainable Development Goals produced at the 13th session of the UN General Assembly which contains the goal to « Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable » (OWG, August 2014);
  • The international cooperation effort undertaken by UNWTO, ENAT, ISTO, the ONCE Foundation, the World Centre of Excellence for Destinations (CED), Kéroul, and the numerous participants of the World Summit Destinations for All, being committed to pooling their expertise for the benefit of the international community;

 

We, the participants of the Montreal Summit, hereby declare our intention to maintain our cooperation at the international level and in our respective regions and countries to support and monitor the implementation of the UNWTO Recommendations on Accessible Tourism.
To this end, we recommend and support the following measures:

For tourism, travel and transportation operators and intermediaries:

  1. Seize the business opportunity to widen the market base by developing products and services that provide inclusive experiences for ALL visitors. In this context, ALL visitors means people with disabilities and those with specific access requirements, as well as, seniors with age-related impairments and access requirements and families with small children.
  2. Apply the principles of Universal Design and follow accessibility guidelines in the design of visitor information and marketing (including Websites), transportation, facilities and services.
  3. Build the capacity of managers and staff by providing training opportunities in accessibility and disability awareness.
  4. Observe the voluntary ENAT Code of Good Conduct as a business development and visitor relationship management tool for ensuring high quality accessible tourism services and appropriate care and responsibility towards ALL visitors.
  5. Engage with consumer organisations including disabled persons organizations, senior citizens, youth and families with small children, to identify gaps in tourism service provisions and to improve the quality of tourism products and services.
  6. Participate in local and national business and multi-stakeholder networks to share know-how and improve performance in accessible, inclusive tourism, while making a positive contribution to the sustainability of the host community.

 

For the local authorities:

  1. Ensure that in any new construction or renovation of a building or public space, or in introducing a public service developments are designed, according to the principles of Universal Design and sustainable development.
  2. Provide pedestrian pathways without obstacle to facilitate crossings of streets and in all public spaces, retail areas and parks.
  3. Ensure supply of public transport suitable for citizens and visitors with disabilities.
  4. Require that taxi and limousine dispatch companies to provide transportation services for persons with disabilities equivalent to those enjoyed by the general public.
  5. Develop a policy including enforcement provisions regarding the parking spaces for persons with reduced mobility. 
  6. Adopt a support policy for individuals accompanying persons with disabilities in their recreational and cultural activities, and in transport services.
  7. Support efforts to raise awareness and educate business owners, managers and staff on the advantages of providing accessible facilities and services and encourage the introduction of staff training programmes on catering to ALL visitors with different types of disabilities and access requirements.
  8. Provide resources to the business community for the development and dissemination of knowledge about accessible, inclusive tourism and tools for the design and improvement of tourism products and services for ALL.
  9. Establish destination-level monitoring of visitor satisfaction, including accessibility parameters, as a learning and development tool for the tourism and retail sectors.
  10. Create "Destinations for ALL" enabling all visitors to enjoy travel, whether for business, educational, medical treatment, volunteering or leisure purposes, without hindrance.
  11. Establish a Destination Management function within the structure of the local municipal / regional authority with a budget allocation and a mandate to coordinate and support efforts to develop and promote sustainable, accessible and inclusive tourism in the corresponding territories, working in cooperation with businesses and public sector stakeholders.

 

For the governments and national authorities:

  1. Make accessible, inclusive tourism policy a priority of national tourist boards.
  2. Encourage educational institutions to incorporate training on the welcome and service to ALL visitors, and on the accessibility of the built environment and facilities.
  3. Promote the training of frontline staff in the travel and tourism sectors on the reception and delivery of services to ALL visitors.
  4. Urge institutions providing public goods or services, including transportation providers, to conduct a review of their accessibility and their service delivery to visitors with disabilities and others with specific access requirements, in order to eliminate barriers and facilitate the provision of services to this clientele.
  5. Adopt fiscal measures to encourage the owners of existing institutions and private transport companies to do the work required to make their facilities and services accessible.
  6. Adopt the ISO Standard 21542 Building construction - Accessibility and usability of the built environment as the minimum requirement for new buildings (where no stricter national standard exists) – and go beyond this standard whenever possible.
  7. Adopt the minimum requirements established by the international community for certification of the accessibility of tourist or cultural institutions and buildings.
  8. Promote guidelines for the universal design of information for tourism services.
  9. Adopt the international Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG – ideally version 2.0) for all public websites and encourage their use by all tourism operators and intermediaries, so as to ensure access to online information for ALL visitors, including those with physical and sensory disabilities.
  10. Promote the introduction of accessibility requirements in public procurement of goods, services, transport and infrastructure works.
  11. Establish effective monitoring and compliance mechanisms to ensure the effective implementation of accessibility requirements by tourism service providers to the local, national and international levels.
  12. Promote employment opportunities and entrepreneurship for persons with disabilities in the tourism sector.

 

For international stakeholders:

  1. Urge the competent regional and international organizations with standardization mandates to mainstream accessibility standards in all tourism products and services, working with the tourism industry and stakeholders, including the organizations of persons with disabilities and others with specific access requirements.
  2. Encourage the implementation of ISO Standard 21542 in the tourism sector ensuring the minimum accessibility of tourism facilities.
  3. Pursue an international certification mechanism overseen by a competent international body with a clear certification mandate, in consultation with the tourism industry, DPOs and other related bodies, to certify the accessibility of tourism facilities.
  4. Accredit national or local organizations to assess and certify the accessibility of tourism related establishments on the basis of the criteria of the international certification mechanism.
  5. Encourage the International Standards Organization to make the ISO Standard 21542 freely available on the Web to facilitate its wider dissemination and use, given the importance of these standards for the social inclusion of persons with disabilities and other with specific access requirements in all aspects of life, including travel and tourism.
  6. Encourage Member States of the Facilitation Panel from the Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago Convention) to adopt the ICAO recommendations on access for persons with disabilities in air transport, especially with regard to the design of aircraft cabins and the availability of accessible on-board toilets.
  7. Make information on good practices and relevant documents concerning accessible tourism available on the Web.
  8. Invite UNWTO to receive the present recommendations and to transmit them to the World Committee on Tourism Ethics, the independent body in charge of monitoring the implementation of the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism, for consideration and potential submission to the UNWTO General Assembly.

 

Lastly, for the participants of the Montreal Summit :

  1. Urge enterprises, local authorities, national bodies and international associations to publish their policies and strategies regarding their provision of services to persons with disabilities and other with specific access requirements to create an environment within which change can happen.
  2. Urge ENAT to coordinate and prepare a proposal for a global section or a World Association for Accessible Tourism, in which all interested parties could join and take part, in order to pursue the objectives outlined in this Declaration.
    The world association should:
    • Seek to foster innovation in tourism services and environments for all with the aim of achieving high quality standards to ensure accessibility, safety and comfort of visitors;
    • Reflect the scope of its members’ interests;
    • Pursue the goal of a positive business and regulatory environment and
    • Act as a global focal point for the promotion of Accessible, Inclusive Tourism and Destinations for All.
  3. Recognize that a lot of progress has been made in accessibility but that more needs to be done, and to be done together, to create a World for everyone.

 

 

References:

Download a PDF version of the Declaration

About TravAbility

TravAbility was founded in 2007 by Bill Forrester.

Our mission is to be agents of change; to inspire people who have never traveled before to do so, and to inspire others to do more. To encourage all cultures of the world to see disability as an integral part of life, and to provide the motivation and tools to the tourism industry to allow them to create accessible environments that enable inclusion in an economically sustainable way.

We offer a range of services to tourism operators and Destination Marketing Boards to enable them to take advantage of the growing Accessible Tourism market. Our core approach is program oriented focusing on the product and service needs of people with a disability an developing a culture of innovation to attract this highly profitable and rapidly growing market:

  • Development of Access Statements
  • Product, service and program development
  • Development of 'Soft Infrastructure' policies and procedures
  • Staff and Management Training
  • Marketing Services and Toolkits
  • Access information kits
  • Industry Presentations and Conference Keynotes and Capacity Building Workshops
  • Property Audits and Universal Design planning
  • Self Audit Tools
  • National/State/Regional Park Guides and Trail Maps
  • Diversity and Inclusion Strategy development
  • Disability Action Plans
  • New Project planning and Development
  • Stock Imagery through PhotoAbility
  • Accommodation listings through TravAbility Properties
Contact

For more information on how you can make your business more attractive to the traveler with a disability contact Bill.

 

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The Disabled Travelers Guide to the Galaxy


Frogs, Bicycles, Imo, UD = MC2 and the
Restaurant at the end of the Universe

Well not really but at least I have your attention!

It would be nice to think that travelers with a disability were free to travel the Universe with nothing more than their trusty towel. In reality, travel even to a local attraction, is far more difficult than it needs to be. Travel, recreation and leisure are all about about the "experience" which ideally should be seamless from planning, to arrival back home. Enjoyment comes from those experiences and the way they are shared with others. The experience lingers in the memories of those who participated. A truly remarkable travel experience leaves the visitor changed in some way.

The reason it is so difficult for people with a disability to travel freely is that industry as a whole has not yet recognized that fundamentally a traveler with a disability is no different from any other traveler in their aspirations for a remarkable experience.

Universal Design is NOT Design for the Disabled.

To the travel industry Accessible Travel is still about access and not the experience. There is a fundamental difference and it stems from a misunderstanding that Universal Design means design for the disabled and not human centered design.

Chapter One - The Universe in Chaos

Lets look at the Universe 

To understand the slow evolution of the adoption of Accessible Tourism, we must first look at the evolution and structure of the tourism universe. 

In a Previous article, Accessibility does not equal Inclusive Tourism, we examined the structure of the industry from an operator point of view and explored the disconnect that existed between venue owners/operators, wholesalers and the retail network (both online and offline).

In defining a tourism experience, however, the universe gets more complex. The private sector industry players do not act alone, but are part of a greater destination management plan that stems from a national brand value proposition. The brand proposition and national branding is a strategic decision that comes from a National Tourism Authority. It is filtered down to State/Provincial Authorities. Underlaying those bodies there is normally a layer of Regional and then Local Tourism Authorities that develop their own identities, branding and destination management plans. The nexus with the national branding is broken at this point unless the particular region is a national icon and part of the international marketing plan, e.g. America's Grand Canyon or Australia's Great Barrier Reef. At a regional and local level the emphasis is on developing the key attributes of the destination for a more local market. The influence of the National and State Tourism Authorities becomes more advisory and a source of information on global tourism trends.

The various elements of the Universe can be depicted in the following diagram.

Framework diagram

The pyramid of influence is important as it represents by color the ease with which cultural change can be affected depending on the level a strategy change is implemented. Tourism is structured in multiple layers and unless all embrace Accessible Tourism as a core pillar of their respective tourism strategies an "Inclusive Experience" will never result.

Who is Imo and what has he got to do with the Universe?

"Imo the monkey has become famous over the years, originally as a result of Robert Ardrey's wonderful work of science popularisation, The Social Contract, first published in 1970. Ardrey had learned of the trail-blazing work of Japanese scientists in studying the behaviour in the wild of large, self-contained and highly structured monkey
societies. The scientists had established the practice of 'provisioning'- providing some of the monkey population's food needs but without distorting the natural pattern of foraging in their island habitat. This allowed the observers to study at first hand, and continuously, the patterns of social interaction amongst the monkeys and, above all, their learning-the way that intelligence diffused in the social systems. Imo excited their attention from the start. When sweet potatoes,which monkeys love, were placed on the beach of the tiny islet of Koshima, all the monkeys laboriously picked the grains of sand from the food in order to eat it. It was Imo, just 18 months old, who made the mental connection with the little stream that crossed the beach not far way. Imo carried the sweet potatoes to the stream and allowed its fresh waters quickly to wash away the sand. After a while another youngster copied this method of food preparation and then, after a further period, Imo's mother did so. Very slowly the innovation diffused amongst the band, mainly amongst the young, and within families. The normal pattern was for the young to make the breakthrough, followed by their mothers, and then for new infants to copy their own mothers.

The point of the story, for observers of human behaviour in organisations, is that the clever new ideas never penetrated to the powerful males at the top of the social hierarchy. They never came into contact with the young. When caramels were introduced to another band, the pattern was repeated-it took a year and a half for the innovation to spread from the juniors to half the entire troop. But, in a parallel experiment, the 'alpha' (boss) monkey was induced to try another new and delicious food-wheat. The alpha female promptly copied him and the entire band of 700 monkeys took to the new food in just four hours. Why? Because everybody watches the leader. Nobody much attends to an Imo. By now a mature four-year old, Imo devised a method for 'placer-mining' the wheat too. Interestingly, the youngest monkeys had figured out that it made sense to get downstream of Imo, so as to catch any floating grains that escaped the panning process. Something similar occurs near the smartest operators in big corporations."

Intelligent Leadership - Alistair Mant - Allen & Unwin, 1999

The story of Imo is used a lot in corporate management and leadership training to keep organizations continually fresh and new by encouraging a "think tank" process to capture the new and innovative ideas coming out of the youngest minds. The best organizations do that successfully and keep innovating and changing. The key to that change is to recognize, however, that to get organization wide adoption rapidly to take advantage of the associated competitive advantage, the idea has to be owned from the top down. Without that ownership most ideas will be slow to evolve or die all together.

The Social Model of Disability and its effect on the Universe

The Social model of Disability recognized that society had a responsibility to not exclude people with a disability. Around the world the Social Model spawned anti-discrimination acts which were ultimately codified into access requirements. The compliance approach to accessible tourism is aimed at the individual tourism businesses and specifically at physical infrastructure. It is the least influential part of the pyramid and an infrastructure approach is associated with cost with no relation to business, destinational, or product development. Some businesses may see the potential of the market or the social implications but often it is limited to those with a personal experience or association. It is a model of accommodation - not customer. Codification provides a safe haven and a minimum no risk solution to accessibility. 

The Business Case - A Really Big and Expanding Universe, but too big to comprehend at a local level.

In recent years the economics of the Accessible Tourism sector have started to come to the fore. The ground breaking research of Dr. Simon Darcy in 2008 put a value on the market of 11% of the total tourism spend. Further work by McKinsey on the impact of the Baby Boomers put their proportion of the tourism market at 50% by 2020. When the extrapolation of the number of people in the Baby Boomer group who will have an age related disability is applied to their purchasing power then the percentage of the total tourism, market that will relate to people with a disability climbs to a staggering 25% by 2020. Our article, Inclusive Tourism - An Economic Imperative driven by the Baby Boomer Generation, explored in detail the purchasing power of this generation.

While the business case is strong, it is not tangible to individual business owners and operators. Too often presentations concentrate on big numbers, percentages and 20 page checklists and access statements. What a business owner needs to know is what to do about it, not how big the Universe is. The size of the Universe arguments need to be directed at the strategic influencers who's job it is to translate those trends into tangible action plans.

Without the national structure embracing Accessible Tourism the emerging trends and business case is never translated into regional, local and individual plans that can be effectively implemented. It becomes a Black Hole with some isolated and disconnected bright stars. Like Imo, they will each be getting their own satisfaction both financially and socially, but the impact on the overall destination will be small and slow.

Black Hole of Accessible Tourism

 

You can't shoot for the stars without a systems approach

"The essential difference between the frog and the bicycle, viewed as systems, lies in the relationship of the parts to the whole. You can take a bicycle completely to pieces on your garage floor, clean and oil every single part, and reassemble the lot, confident the the whole thing will work perfectly, as a bike, as before. The frog is different. Once you remove a single part, the entire system is affected instantaneously and unpredictably for the worse. What's more, if you go on removing bits the frog will make a series of subtle, but still unpredictable, adjustments in order to survive. This sort of system, at the level beneath consciousness, wants to survive and will continue for an astonishing length of time to achieve a rough equilibrium as bits are excised - until it can do so no longer. At that point, again quite unpredictably, the whole system will tip over into collapse. The frog is dead and it won't help to sew the parts back on."

Intelligent Leadership - Alistair Mant - Allen & Unwin, 1999

 

Conversely, when there is a well established and sophisticated system, simply bolting on new pieces doesn't change the fundamentals. Those additional pieces are never nourished and never form part of the overall system. They simply exist on the edge until, through lack of maintenance, they fade away into oblivion. 

frogTourism is an example of a well established and very intricate system aimed at delivering a multitude of different experiences to the traveler. Those experiences blend together to retain a feel for the destination and brand management. The complexity exists both within the destination management structure and within the industry that brings together an array of components to deliver its overall service. A successful tourism product incorporates, transport, accommodation, attractions, sightseeing, booking systems, information systems and customer service. Those products are bundled and further require the integration of service providers, consolidators, tour operators and an extensive retail network whether online or offline. 

Over time the system evolves as products change and the tastes of the market changes. New products and experiences become available and get incorporated into the local and then destination wide management. In some cases the destination plan and value proposition evolve over time as a destination sees a competitive advantage in a line travel type. Adventure and sustainable tourism are two recent examples.

Bicycle thinking, where a new product is bolted onto the system invariable fails if it doesn't fit into the destination management plan or isn't powerful enough to change the plan. 

The approach to Accessible Tourism, has to date, largely been Bicycle thinking. Adding accessibility requirements doesn't fundamentally change a product offering or affect cultural change within a destination. The concept of systems thinking in relation to the tourism industry was explored in our paper Accessible Tourism is the Tourism Industry's Bicycle.

Defining the Disabled Traveler.

The Encyclopedia Galactica defines disability as:

An arbitrary line drawn to differentiate a segment of the population whose ability the majority don't understand.

 

While that definition may be tongue in cheek, it goes a long to explain why Accessible Tourism has not become a mainstream part of the tourism product. As we have said earlier tourism is all about creating an experience and a memory of a place. It is about engaging people and taking them into a new realm. The ability to transport someone to a new sensory level requires an understanding of the person for whom that experience is designed and a knowledge of their capabilities to enjoy and appreciate what is going on around them.

People with a disability are present in all sectors in roughly the same proportion as the general population. They are not like the backpackers, adventure tourists, or luxury travelers that can be conveniently put into unique product boxes with targeted marketing campaigns. The common misconception is that the needs of all people with a disability are the same. In one sense that misconception has been reinforced by the social model of disability which, in defining the social barriers, has concentrated on a narrow sub set of physical access requirements largely limited to car parks, toilets, building access and hotel rooms. By concentrating on the narrow access requirements the industry has effectively created an artificial sector of people with a disability that ignored their actual aspirations. 

A disability, in reality is just a different level of ability. We are not all equal in a number of ways. Physical ability is just one element in the total capability set of the human being. 

Disability is the only minority group anyone can join in an instant

If we do take physical ability as the cornerstone of the push for greater accessibility then we need to put it into context. Looking at the travel industry as a case in point. Travelers vary enormously in their physical capabilities and their holiday patterns reflect that diversity. Whether that holiday is climbing a Himalayan peak, walking New Zealand’s, Milford Track, visiting the wine region of the Napa Valley or relaxing on a Caribbean Island that is a personal choice. The tourism industry is adept at discerning and catering for those wide ranges of choices, however, we have categorized a disability, through the medical and now social models as something different and around that built a set of preconceptions that shields it from a market view.
Disability is often regarded as a homogeneous concept. The opposite is true. As with the general population ability is on a continuum.

Continuum of ability

The arbitrary line defining disability is exactly that, an arbitrary line. The advent of modern alloys and design has opened up a vast range of activities including some at the extreme adventure end of the spectrum. People with a disability can be found across the full range of sporting and leisure activities. Their tastes and budgets, likewise, spread from economy to five star and include the conference and meetings market. The key to developing tourism product is to look at the aspirations of potential visitors, the opportunities that exist within a destination and the technology available to allow participation by people of all abilities. Customer expectations should drive the product development.

From a tourism industry point of view, higher levels of assistance and support are common in the higher adventure type tourism activities and in the group tour segments. The industry has a proven capacity to support people to achieve stretch goals and aspirations. Accessible Tourism needs to capatalise on that pre-existing skill set by clearly defining the customer needs.

New technology is opening adventure to all

New technology

Chapter Two - Bringing Order to the Universe with the Force of Universal Design

UD = MC2

The Encyclopedia Galactica defines Universal Design as:

Universal Design is the design of products, services and environments to be USABLE by ALL people

Universal Design is at the very core of an inclusive society. In the context of tourism UD must be able to produce an experience that meets and exceeds the expectations of all people. Further, as we have said, tourism experiences are SHARED experiences hence the design of tourism products is about bringing together people of all abilities, not designing specific activities for people with a disability.

What if the first question we asked was, “What is so unique about this situation that it justifies exclusion?” instead of, “How much does it cost to make it accessible?"

Dr. Scott Rains

Accessible product development

The key element in developing tourism product is the incorporation of Universal Design from the first inception of the product concept.

Knowing what the customer, not only wants, but is capable of doing is the foundation for the capacity review. The capacity review must look at all of the existing infrastructure and what needs to be altered to accommodate the proposed new product. Too often the path of travel is ignored or the simple and inexpensive alterations overlooked because a helicopter view is not taken out the outset.

Product design must be all-encompassing and actively seek out new product innovations. Today venues have a great range of new equipment at their disposal from the freewheel wheelchair extension, off road handcycles, road handcycles, all abilities sailboats, adaptive fishing equipment, paddle boards designed for wheelchairs, adaptive canoes and canoe launchers, in addition to the tradition hearing loops, tactile markers etc.

In creating built infrastructure it is important to look to the future and the impact the aging population will have on anything built today. The Baby Boomer generation will dominate the travel market over the next 20 years. That is a big enough tome horizon to justify any capital expenditure. The vision and application should be broad. Why fit a toilet seat with a 30% luminosity contrast to just the accessible toilet. The contrast is needed by anyone with low vision whether or not they have any mobility issues requiring and accessible toilet. The small things like maximizing the accessible paths of travel through garden and bar areas should be part of any infrastructure upgrade.

In creating a tourism offering the Soft Infrastructure is just as important as the built environment. Accessibility information should be plentiful, easily found within the main context of the attraction description and written in the same style as any other information. It is, after all, a sales document, not an audit report. Booking systems should reflect the experience a visitor wants or expects to have. If there is space for only one companion, then the booking information and system needs to talk about where the rest of the party is located, or better still reserve the row in front of the accessible seating to accommodate family and friends. Create interactive maps and signage to allow easy wayfinding through a venue without the need to search for a step route. Create large print registration forms or mobile apps to simplify the process for people of all abilities. In other words every action should be enhancing the customer experience and it should blend in with existing forms and presentations and systems. Customers want an inviting experience, not one that makes them feel different or puts under pressure.

In implementing any Accessible Tourism product, it has to be made seamless to the overall visitor experience. Transport, arrivals, check-in, dining, drinking, city transfers, sightseeing tours, local accessibility maps all should reflect the same level of inclusiveness as the particular product being developed. Rarely does a tourism offering exist in isolation to the destination. Partnerships and packaging are critical is staff training, not just in the particular product, but all other things a traveler with a disability may want to do.

Finally there is the marketing. Imagery plays a critical role in saying to a customer from the outset that we want your business. It is about positioning potential clients as valued and welcome guests and nothing says that more strongly than people with a disability enjoying a venue or activity on offer. That imagery should not just encompass the particular product but more generally reflect the destination as whole. 

Universal design is not design for the disabled. It is an all encompassing philosophy to create a culture of inclusion. Get the vision right and all else follows with creative and innovative solutions that will attract one of the fastest growing markets of any industry.

Everyone Belongs Outside - Vision Statement of Parks Alberta

 

The Galactic Road Map to the Accessible Restaurant at the End of the Universe.

Tourism is complex from its management structure, industry structure and destination and product development. It is a system designed and intertwined to create an "experience" for the traveler.

The industry, and disability advocates have been slow to adopt Accessible Tourism as a valid tourism market mainly because the industry as a whole does not understand people with a disability as travelers.

The Social Model of disability created a community recognition that society as a whole has a collective responsibility for people with a disability. The UN CRPD, and in relation to tourism Article 30, goes further with a doctrine of equality. The emphasis for the past 25 years has been on physical access and while a great many of those barriers have been removed the cultural divide and misunderstandings still prevail.

The Final Frontier is all about cultural change that will be largely driven by an aging population and increasing economics around Accessible Tourism.

The Business Case alone will not change those attitudes without a rethink by Accessible Tourism advocates on how that message is translated to every level of the Tourism Industry. The focus has to now shift to one of education about a "new" customer and redefining the misconceptions held by the industry about people with a disability. The arbitrary line has to be removed from the continuum to allow for the development of truly inclusive experiences to be enjoyed and shared by everyone.

Someday soon the restaurant at the end of the universe will be accessible to all

 

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An Economic Model of Disability


Occasional paper No. 4.

Changing the demand drivers for the provision of products and services in Inclusive Tourism. The Why and How.

All sorts of terms have been used to describe this growing market from Barrier Free Tourism in the United Kingdom, Accessible Tourism in Australia, Access Tourism in New Zealand. All of those terms have their foundations based on the physical term of “access” More often than not those expressions also have a narrow interpretation as people think of them applying only to travelers with a mobility related disability. The danger in using those terms is that the mind set is not lifted beyond physical access and does not find its way into an organisation’s culture.
More correctly what we are describing in talking about basic cultural change within the Tourism industry is an “Inclusive” environment where people of all abilities are felt welcome and wanted as customers and guests.

We are defining Inclusive Tourism as:

“Inclusive Tourism” - “the application of the seven principles of Universal Design to the products, services, and policies of the tourism industry at all stages of their lifecycle from conception to retirement and introduction of a replacement”

After 20 years of disability rights legislation there is a plethora of accessible infrastructure around the world but a sad lack of information available to the traveler with a disability. This paper explores why the legislative and compliance models have failed to create, in the eyes of the Tourism Industry, a viable Inclusive Tourism sector.

Introduction

In a number of previous articles we have examined why the variety of equal opportunity and anti discrimination pieces of legislation around the world have not created an inclusive society. Most of that legislation has been in place for over 20 years and while there is no denying that it forced built infrastructure to become more accessible by setting standards for minimum compliance, it has generally failed to change overall community culture towards people with a disability. Industries, particularly the tourism sector, regards access as a compliance issue managed by sets of rules and procedures designed to reduce exposure and risk. We must remember, however, that those standards were based on the principles of Universal Design, which at their heart were conceived to be innovative and set the standards to develop infrastructure that would be usable by people of all abilities.

Today the number of people who potentially benefit from enhanced accessibility exceed 31% of the population, a significant purchasing group. Despite the size of the potential sector, business attitudes remain unchanged. The commercial sector has failed to see the market significance. It has further failed to comprehend how the disability sector will grow over the next 15 years with the aging population and the retirement of the Baby Boomers. Peter Brook once wrote “In Mexico, before the wheel was invented, gangs of slaves had to carry giant stones through the jungle and up the mountains, while their children pulled their toys on tiny rollers. The slaves made the toys, but for centuries failed to make the connection.”
The disability sector faces a major issue today. Generally the private service sectors, as the slaves in Mexico did centuries ago, have not made the connection between accessible infrastructure and the growing market demand. Access is enshrined as a compliance issue, not a market issue. People with a disability are regarded as problems and part of a risk management solution, not as a valued customer. Like the slaves’ children’s toys, the accessible infrastructure is in place but it is seen as a cost not a competitive advantage.

“In Mexico, before the wheel was invented, gangs of slaves had to carry giant stones through the jungle and up the mountains, while their children pulled their toys on tiny rollers. The slaves made the toys, but for centuries failed to make the connection.”

Peter Brook

History

The Medical to Social Model of Disability.
In order to understand the current context, the evolution of thinking towards disability needs to be understood. The first model of disability was the Medical Model. Here disability was defined as an individual problem and it was that individuals problem to adapt to their circumstance. It was very much based on medical care, individual treatment, professional help and individual adjustment and adaptation.
The social model took the model of disability from the concept of an individual problem to one of social context. Disability was defined as a function of the environmental and social constraints. A disability would not be a disability if the barriers of the society in which we live did not exist. The paradigm however relied on a social conscious to implement the necessary structural changes to remove the barriers. The shortcomings of the social model is that the change has been driven as a rights issue and one of compliance that has been seen as a cost that society demands of a business. The implications are that it is all about access and not the person. It is driven by social expectations and translated by rule makers. At that point it ceases to be inclusive and just becomes another problem for organisations to deal with and is handed across to their risk management departments. What started as a model to change the issue of disability away from the individual has only succeeded in transferring into a problem to be dealt with for a group of individuals.

Corporate Social Responsibility and the Triple Bottom Line
CSR is often sited as a major driver of social inclusion. CSR is perhaps more misunderstood than environmental sustainability was 10 years ago. CSR does generate significant amounts of funds for social activities but does not always result in fundamental cultural change. Philanthropy does not equate to CSR. True social inclusion only comes from acting in a totally inclusive way to an organization’s customers and employees. Giving or supporting a local community group or running a charitable foundation is not the same. It may look good on the annual report or make the directors feel good about their organization but if it is being discriminatory in the way it treats it’s customers or employees then the motives do not lead to a change in corporate behaviour.
The fundamental question is why. CSR perpetuates the social model and the basic rights issues surrounding it. When change is driven by rights, government legislation and compliance then the outcome will always be procedures to ensure those obligations are met. Seldom is the associated expenditure on infrastructure, manuals and training seen as an asset that will lead to an economic return or a competitive advantage. When it comes to accessible infrastructure we see time and time again great infrastructure with little or no marketing to inform people of it’s existence. The disabled community complain about the lack of infrastructure and industry bemoan the poor utilization and over regulation.

Disability vs Ability
People with a disability are present in all sectors in roughly the same proportion as the general population. They are not like the backpackers, adventure tourists, luxury travelers or the Gay and Lesbian sector. The common misconception is that the needs of all people with a disability are the same. In one sense that conception has been reinforced by the social model of disability which, in defining the social barriers, has concentrated on a narrow sub set of physical access requirements largely limited to car parks, toilets building access and hotel rooms. The broader aspects of outdoor and activity spaces were ignored by most codes as were the needs for interconnecting barrier free paths of travel. By concentrating on the narrow access requirements the social model of disability effectively created an artificial sector of people with a disability that ignored their actual aspirations. It didn’t change the culture away from looking at a person through their disability, it reinforced it.
A disability, in reality is just a different level of ability. We are not all equal in a number if ways. Physical ability is just one set in the total capability set of the human being. If we do take physical ability as the cornerstone of the push for greater accessibility then we need to put it into context. Looking at the travel industry as a case in point. Travellers vary enormously in their physical capabilities and their holiday patterns reflect that diversity. Whether that holiday is climbing a Himalayan peak, walking New Zealand’s, Milford Track, visiting the wine region of the Napa Valley or relaxing on a Caribbean Island that is a personal choice. The tourism industry is adept at discerning and catering for those wide ranges of choices, however, we have categorized a disability, through the medical and now social models as something different and around that built a set of preconceptions that shields it from a market view.
Disability is often regarded as a homogenous concept. The opposite is true. As with the general population ability is on a continuum.

Alt

How Significant is the Disability Sector.

In June of this year the World Health Organisation and the World Bank released the results of the first ever global study on disability. The report estimates that more than one billion people experience some form of disability. Most studies and reports on disability stop there, however, from an economic point of view the raw data on disability numbers is not the true figure. Research done in Australia by Simon Darcy puts the multiplier effect at three when those directly associated with a person with a disability is taken into account. Those directly affected are family, friends and work colleges. If a person with a disability cannot access a business’s services, like a restaurant, resort or transport then the entire group cannot access those services. In economic terms over 4 billion people worldwide are directly affected by disability which is over one third of the world’s population. 

There was significant Australian research done as part of the CRC on sustainable tourism the significant findings were:

  • Some 88% of people with disability take a holiday each year that accounted for some 8.2 million overnight trips.
  • The average travel group size for people with a disability is 2.8 people for a domestic overnight trip and 3.4 for a day trip.
  • There is a myth that the inclusive tourism market does not spend because of economic circumstance. That is false as it is a significant proportion of each travel market segment.
  • They travel on a level comparable with the general population for domestic overnight and day trips.
  • The total tourism expenditure attributable to the group is $8bn per year or 11% of overall tourism expenditure.


There is one key point to the above statistic in that the $8 billion is expenditure by people with a disability only. If expenditure by people travelling in the group is factored in, it is $24 billion or 30% of the total tourism market.

Alt

Of more significance is the ageing population and the effect of the retiring Baby Boomer generation.
US research by McKinsey & Company predicts that by 2015, the baby boomer generation will command almost 60 percent of net U.S. wealth and 40 percent of spending. In many categories, like travel, boomers will represent over 50 percent of consumption. The impact on the Inclusive Travel sector is significant as over 40% of them will be retiring with some form of disability, raising the total value of direct expenditure to the Inclusive Tourism sector to over 25% of the market by 2020.

“American adults with disabilities or reduced mobility currently spend an average of $13. 6 billion a year on travel. Creating accessible cruise ships, accessible ship terminals, accessible ground transportation, and accessible tourist destinations is not charity. It is just good business.”

Dr Scott Rains. a US expert on disability issues

The Economic Model of Disability.

Evolution from the medical to social model of disability saw a major shift in attitude from one that concentrated on teaching an individual how to cope with a disability in an otherwise hostile environment to changing social attitudes to manipulate the environment to be more accessible to a person with a disability. It was a rights issue and based on the premise that society had an obligation to assist those with a disability. The final evolution is to stop concentrating on the “disability” but rather the needs and abilities in a customer focused environment. An economic model of disability changes the basic driver from a rights and compliance issue to a market demand driver. The economic model will change that focus by changing how access is looked upon. Once any industry appreciates that the disabled and their friends are a large market they will start to research their interests.


The economic model is suggesting that the market already exists and is growing rapidly with the retiring baby boomers. The real issue is attracting them by providing the facilities and services that they need. This group will not identify with the disability sector but will simply want to keep doing those things that they have always done and even relive their youth in their retirement. Their abilities will not be what they were in their 20’s but they will still expect be able to fulfil their aspirations. This impetus of new demand for more accessible facilities and service will change the paradigm for the disability sector. The business case is about making the industry aware of the market size and redefining disability away from the concept that it is an homogenous group to regarding it as significant group of people with differing levels of ability desires and needs.

Medical Social Economic
PERSONAL Problem SOCIAL issue DEMAND Issue
Medical care Social integration Economic Integration
Individual Treatment Social action Product development
Professional help Individual and collective responsibility Innovation in design and function
Personal adjustment Environmental manipulation Universal design
Behaviour Attitude Culture
Care Human rights Competitive advantage
Health care policy Politics Market forces
Individual Adaptation Social change Inclusion

Case Studies

Improved accessibility – a commercial success for Scandic

Man in wheelchair with service dog, Scandic HotelsScandic is intensifying its successful focus on improved accessibility. This year, over 100 new rooms for disabled will be added to the portfolio and 2012 there will be even more to meet the large and growing demand. More and more companies and organisations seek rooms and conference facilities that are accessible to all. At the same time the numbers of older, active private travellers who are attracted by improved accessibility are increasing. Improving accessibility has proven to be a commercial success for Scandic, the Nordic region’s leading hotel chain.

Design for All is a key concept in Scandic’s accessibility work. The aim is for the rooms for disabled to be just as well designed as any other room, with practical solutions that go almost unnoticed, except by those who really need them. Hooks, mirrors and keyholes at two heights are appreciated by children, short adults and those who use a wheelchair. Height-adjustable beds and extra spacious bathrooms are popular with all guests. Scandic’s comprehensive 110-point accessibility programme covers everything from team member training to adapted rooms and extensive, detailed accessibility information on every hotel’s website.

“When we take over a hotel, we implement our accessibility programme within three months and, after just one year, we tend to notice more bookings from private guests and from companies and organisations, thanks to our accessibility work. This gives us a clear competitive advantage and, as well as showing our commitment to social responsibility, we see major commercial benefits in being accessible to all,” relates Anders Ehrling, President and CEO of Scandic.

New hotels require smart new solutions
A lowered reception desk for wheelchair users, a guest computer in the lobby at a comfortable height for a wheelchair and an ordinary chair, a hearing loop in conference facilities and reception, and vibrating alarm clocks that also hear the fire alarms are just some examples of smart solutions that ensure a high level of accessibility. Scandic’s accessibility work remains a core focus in its new and refurbished hotels, with numerous examples of best practice:
With Scandic Victoria Tower, the new spectacular 34-floor hotel in Kista, Stockholm, Scandic shows that it is perfectly possible to offer rooms for disabled with fantastic views high up in the building, with the help of fire-safe elevators that allow wheelchair users to evacuate the building easily.
The flagship Scandic Grand Central opening soon in central Stockholm (Oct 2011) proves that it is also possible to incorporate accessibility into a 130-year-old property.
This year Scandic Sydhavnen in Copenhagen will become Scandic’s most accessible hotel in Denmark, offering 11 new rooms for disabled and reception, restaurant and conference area all on the entrance level, with easy access from the car park.

“We have worked hard on accessibility for eight years and learned a great deal about these complex issues, but there is of course plenty still to do,” states Magnus Berglund, Disability Ambassador at Scandic. “We have entered an exciting phase, where interest and bookings show our accessibility work is appreciated by many more people than just the guests with a disability.”

The Spirit of Inclusive Travel

The wind in Deb's hair in the evergladesI travel because I want my mind and my heart and my soul to overcome the boundaries that my body now feels. I travel in spite of the fact that it is “inconvenient” in that I am unable to walk onto the plane or to simply stand up and use the bathroom when needed, or that I have to spend innumerable hours planning and seeking out where I may be able to go in a wheelchair; what I will be able to see and where will accommodate me once I reach my chosen destination. I travel because to do so puts me in the realm of saying “HA! Look at me now!” I can do and be and see and experience this wonderful world. I CAN taste, smell, delight in the people and remarkable sights and win in the battle of my body over my spirit.

I was a dancer and I was 18 when I crashed my car in front of the Mormon Chapel on the Maryland beltway. I broke my neck and was told I will never move from the neck down again. Yet, I heard a voice as I lay alone in the night..-

Deb on the COHO Ferry to Victoria BC”you will not be able to move your legs...but it will not be permanent and there is a purpose”

I accepted this, moved on and regained the use of my arms and hands…just like the voice said.

So I go..and I relish in the next trip..the next challenge that I WILL over come. I am not a wheelchair sports jock-never raced in my chair or played tennis or rugby or wheelchair basketball. Travel and love is how I survive. I take my love and my will with me and I look strangers in strange lands in the eye as I roll by and I am saying to myself and to everyone who sees me that WE are not pathetic, sad, miserable cripples…

WE are here and we want to share the world with you….it is up to me to show you I will come...it is up to you to show me I am welcome.

Deborah Davis
As published in the New York Times.

 

The Path to Inclusion in Tourism.

Universal Design is also called Inclusive Design, Design-for-All and Lifespan Design. It is not a design style but an orientation to any design process that starts with a responsibility to the experience of the user. It has a parallel in the green design movement that also offers a framework for design problem solving based on the core value of environmental responsibility. Universal Design and green design are comfortably two sides of the same coin but at different evolutionary stages. Green design focuses on environmental sustainability, Universal Design on social sustainability.
Institute for Human Centred Design

Bridge the Disconnect

Inclusive not Special Facilities
The clear fundamental intent of Universal Design was to create experiences that could be enjoyed by entire families or groups of friends together as an inclusive experience. The true joy of life is sharing experiences with family and friends, aspirations that don’t change with differing levels of ability. Accessibility, in the way it has been incorporated into standards, has more often than not, resulted in design solutions that have segregated people with a Disabled picnic pavilliondisability by building “special” facilities. On the left is an example from the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in the Florida Keys. They have created an excellent picnic facility incorporating BBQ’s at a usable height and picnic tables with long overhangs at one end to facilitate a wheelchair. The facility is concrete paved and has a disabled car park just behind where the photo is taken which has provision for side ramp vans. From an accessibility point of view the facility is excellent and certainly meets all of the requirements of the ADA (American Disability Act)
On closer inspection however, it doesn’t meet the spirit of Universal Design or the concept of inclusion. The picnic facility is one of five similar facilities along the same stretch of car park. The one pictured is emblazoned with blue signs clearly highlighting to the world that it is a facility for the disabled. By definition it has segregated that section of the community as special or different. The only differentiation the pictured facility has to the others in the park is the overhang on one end of each table. A far better solution would to have simply incorporated the overhang into the tables at every picnic pavilion in the park. The addition of 18 inches of timber into all of the tables would have cost less than the blue signs and paint. If all of the tables incorporated the overhang then every facility is accessible but more importantly “inclusive”. The blue signs needn’t be there and the population is suddenly treated as equals. True inclusion should just blend in. 
The first principle of the seven principles of Universal Design states “Equitable Use - The design does not disadvantage or stigmatize any group of users.
The real disconnect here is that prescriptive legislation will lead to prescriptive outcomes. If the rules say 10% of picnic tables are to be accessible then 10% will be. The 10% is a minimum but there is no incentive to look outside the square and say lets make 100% accessible.

Turning Access Information into a Competitive Advantage, not an Audit Report
SunpeaksThe big gap in the current framework is the provision of information. Every piece of research on accessible tourism comes to the same conclusion. While there are many facilities with good to great accessibility the information about those facilities is hard to find if it exists at all. Where it does exist it is often hidden under “other information” or under “compliance”. Accessible Information is not seen as offering any value as a marketing tool, which means the Tourism Industry does not see Inclusive Tourism as a genuine market. The perception is that it is very small sector that has to be “accommodated”. 
The provision of information is driven by compliance and the perception that every disability is the same. Hence where accessibility information is provided it is done so in a compliance manner with simple statements as “This facility has disabled facilities” A detailed examination often reveals that the statement means that there is: car parking, accessible rooms, and toilet facilities, and there may be braille and or audio announcements in lifts. Accessible rooms are defined as those rooms with roll in showers etc. Seldom do the operators know the height of the bed, the knee clearance under a writing desk or indeed if their balconies have a sill. Even where they have a fully compliant room there is little understanding of the practical needs of a traveller with a disability and the information needed to drive a stay or not stay decision.
All disabilities are not the same, however, and while a full roll in shower may be required by some people it is not required or wanted by others. Often people with poor circulation, wheelchair user or not, may prefer a bath or spa bath. Many hotel rooms that are not “compliant” are suitable especially if the traveller with a disability has someone with them. Even more flexibility is offered by seasoned travellers who have with them their own bathroSunpeaksom aids whether that is a toilet riser or shower/bath chair. In these cases the critical information is door width, manoeuvring room, and bed height. The right information would allow an individual traveller to make their own informed decision. Further if a tourism venue understood the actual needs of a disabled traveller the purchase of additional mobility aids would open up a greater product range to the sector rather than just the “disabled room” which, in most cases, is the standard and lowest yielding room.
In many cases there is just no information at all. A case in point is the Village of Sun Peaks in British Columbia, Canada. Walking through the village one can’t help but be impressed by the standard of accessibility with ramps, lifts and level access paths throughout. The walking paths close to the village are also fully accessible being barrier free and gentle grades. The village runs a comprehensive adaptive ski program during the winter season. Sun Peak’s web site, however, has no information about the village’s accessibility. Sun Peaks clearly see accessibility as a compliance issue and not an asset or competitive advantage.
The US has moved, under the ADA, to require information to be provided on accessible facilities as of the 1st of March 2012. While this is a step in the right direction and will see information being presented in the mainstream it is still likely to result in a compliance outcome. The information will be presented in accordance with the requirements of the ADA and is more likely to resemble an audit document than a brochure encouraging people with a disability to visit or stay.

Incorporating Infrastructure and Equipment into the Touring Offering
Escot tour coach with wheelchair liftThe final disconnect that needs bridging is between the owners of infrastructure and equipment and the major tour operators and wholesalers. As has already been discussed, 20+ years of accessibility legislation has resulted in some very good accessible infrastructure and equipment. A recent tour of Florida with Comos, however, highlighted that the infrastructure has not translated into a touring product offering. The tour took in Kennedy Space Centre, Fort Lauderdale, Miami and South Beach, Key West, Naples, St Pertersburg and St Pete Beach. Throughout the tour accessibility was excellent with accessible accommodation available, every attraction was fully accessible as were all of the dining options. In addition, the coach used for the tour was one of Escot’s that was equipped with a wheelchair lift. Despite the fact that the tour was fully accessible to people with a disability it is not marketed as such. In fact no tour is marketed as an inclusive tour and there is no facility to schedule accessible coaches to a particular tour. Again there is the glaring disconnect between infrastructure required under compliance ie rooms and coaches and its translation into a marketable product.
The wholesale and retail sectors of the tourism industry have not yet seen a market connection.

The Little Things can make a Huge Difference
pool liftThe large items of accessible infrastructure, car parks, access ramps, accessible rooms and toilet facilities are laid down in the building codes and, as has been stated, are compliance issues. In any facility, however, there are numerous small items that with small amounts of additional expenditure can turn it into a fully inclusive environment. Inclusive thought needs to be incorporated into the initial design phase and then maintained throughout the life of the facility. Some examples follow:

  • Resorts today have million dollar pool complexes, but few have a sloping entry ramp into the water or provide a pool lift. The marginal cost of either is negligible.
  • Many resorts have numerous beach equipment activities from paddle boats, catamarans and jetskis. The addition of beach wheelchairs opens up another inclusive experience for little marginal cost.
  • Outdoor picnic tables can be made accessible by choosing a design that allows wheelchairs to roll under one end.
  • Paths of travel is one of the most simple and most overlooked. Removing barriers from those interconnecting paths opens up a facility to both the mobility and visual impaired.
  • Play is critical to an enjoyable lifestyle. The incorporation of inclusive design elements into a playground is marginal expenditure.
  • Providing pool side deck chairs of a height providing easy transfer from a wheelchair is inclusive and marginal cost.
  • Providing lower counter tops, especially at places like Cellar Doors, promotes an inclusive experience
  • Mood lighting in elevators may be trendy, but no one should have to fumble for their reading glasses with arms full of luggage to read the floor numbers in the dark. 

This list is clearly not exhaustive. It is limited only by imagination. The Tourism Industry will not come up with imaginative solutions while it cannot see the demand and hence the need.

Making the Connection

“Every act of imagination is the discovery of likenesses between two things which were thought unlike.”
Jacob Bronowski

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Despite published research on the size of the Inclusive Travel sector, the industry has not made the connection between accessible infrastructure and market demand. Accessibility has been dogged as a human rights and compliance issue and has been buried in risk management procedures. The attitude has been exacerbated by continual litigation over failures to meet access standards. Based on the Social Model of disability it is seen as a cost impost for a small minority.
Most disability advocacy organisations have concentrated on the rights issues and the only professional consultants operating in the industry are access auditors trained to only look at compliance to the requirements of the disability access acts. The structure of the industry is perpetuating the disconnect.

There are some key steps required to move Inclusive Tourism towards a demand driven model and to create the innovation that is at the heart of Universal design.

  • Deborah in KoreaStatistics must be presented consistently. When it comes to Inclusive Tourism spending directly relating to people with a disability is a meaningless number. Most people travel in a group and the multiplier is between 2.8 and 3.5 depending on the type of trip. It is the group number that is important as it is the total group expenditure that is affected if the destination is not accessible either physically or through lack of published information.
  • Inclusive Tourism must be raised to a professional standing. The only professional group operating in the Inclusive Tourism space is the access auditing profession. Inclusive Tourism has to be about creating competitive advantage by providing and marketing the best possible products and services to the disabled or ageing traveler and their friends. It is about creating inclusive environments and inclusive experiences to a large and growing market. The marketing in this “new” market has be backed up by a network world-wide that can help industry develop and market these products. Inclusive Tourism will need the support of a professional consulting network. Those services must be provided at commercial rates. Pro Bono activity perpetuates a disability rights concept and won’t be valued by the tourism sector.
  • Inclusive Tourism has to seek out and help some pioneer organisations to embrace Universal Design. To gain competitive advantage, organisations must provide a complete suite of best practice Inclusive products and then market them appropriately. Scandic has shown what happens when the concept is put into practice and how demand follows innovation. 
  • Inclusive Tourism will need standards. The marketing message and the presentation has to be in a consistent format so that the end consumer has confidence in the information provided. In the same way as every other profession has a governing body, Inclusive Tourism needs to establish its own.
  • Education is the key. Inclusive Tourism is not currently taught in any travel course, nor is it part of any travel related management training. There is some training available for Travel Agents which is of limited use given the lack of commercial Inclusive Tourism product.
  • Inclusive Tourism has to be elevated to the mainstream. In addition to specialist conferences it has to be put on the agenda of major mainstream events in much the same way as Eco, Adventure and Cultural tourism have been. It has to be recognised in national tourism awards.
  • Government has be lobbied to lead the way in the promotion of Inclusive Tourism through their national tourist boards and set the example with public transport and public infrastructure.
  • Tourism is all about the experience of traveling. It is about seeing new sights, new cultures, living history and natural wonders. Most importantly though it is about sharing those experiences with family and friends, old and new. Inclusive Tourism will never succeed while the emphasis is only on infrastructure both buildings and equipment. It needs to be incorporated into the touring product and wholesale markets

Inclusive Tourism is a viable market and needs to be promoted as such. The world is full of poorly utilized accessible assets while the disabled traveler struggles to find information on where they exist and what facilities they have. There is a major disconnect between the assets and the latent demand. The role of the Inclusive Tourism advocacy bodies is to lead the industry and government into the realisation that the rollers on the toys are not just toys or wasted capital, but are a valuable asset and a major competitive advantage to be built upon for an already large and rapidly growing market.

Alt

About TravAbility

TravAbility was founded in 2007 by Bill Forrester.

Our mission is to be agents of change; to inspire people who have never traveled before to do so, and to inspire others to do more. To encourage all cultures of the world to see disability as an integral part of life, and to provide the motivation and tools to the tourism industry to allow them to create accessible environments that enable inclusion in an economically sustainable way.

We offer a range of services to tourism operators and Destination Marketing Boards to enable them to take advantage of the growing Accessible Tourism market. Our core approach is program oriented focusing on the product and service needs of people with a disability an developing a culture of innovation to attract this highly profitable and rapidly growing market:

  • Development of Access Statements
  • Product, service and program development
  • Development of 'Soft Infrastructure' policies and procedures
  • Staff and Management Training
  • Marketing Services and Toolkits
  • Access information kits
  • Industry Presentations and Conference Keynotes and Capacity Building Workshops
  • Property Audits and Universal Design planning
  • Self Audit Tools
  • National/State/Regional Park Guides and Trail Maps
  • Diversity and Inclusion Strategy development
  • Disability Action Plans
  • New Project planning and Development
  • Stock Imagery through PhotoAbility
  • Accommodation listings through TravAbility Properties
Contact

For more information on how you can make your business more attractive to the traveler with a disability contact Bill.

 

Alt
Bill Forrester

Founder

Bill was born and raised in Melbourne, Australia. As a child he was fortunate to travel to many parts of the world and to learn and appreciate cultures other than his own. That passion for learning and understanding has never left him. Bill spent most of his working life in the corporate field in both financial and operation roles. He specialised in corporate and cultural change. He has extensive experience in facility management, major project delivery, stakeholder relations and corporate training programs. He has worked in the private, mutual, and government sectors. Five years ago he left the corporate world and bought three retail travel agencies in Melbourne to pursue his love of travel.

Contact Bill

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The Spirit of Inclusive Travel - a Personal Story by Deborah Davis


I travel because I want my mind and my heart and my soul to overcome the boundaries that my body now feels. I travel in spite of the fact that it is “inconvenient” in that I am unable to walk onto the plane or to simply stand up and use the bathroom when needed, or that I have to spend innumerable hours planning and seeking out where I may be able to go in a wheelchair; what I will be able to see and where will accommodate me once I reach my chosen destination. I travel because to do so puts me in the realm of saying “HA! Look at me now!” I can do and be and see and experience this wonderful world. I CAN taste, smell, delight in the people and remarkable sights and win in the battle of my body over my spirit. 

Deb in Stockholm

Deborah in Stockholm

I was a dancer and I was 18 when I crashed my car in front of the Mormon Chapel on the Maryland beltway. I broke my neck and was told I will never move from the neck down again. Yet, I heard a voice as I lay alone in the night..-

”you will not be able to move your legs..but it will not be permanent and there is a purpose” 

I accepted this, moved on and regained the use of my arms and hands…just like the voice said. 

So I go--and I relish in the next trip--the next challenge that I WILL over come. I am not a wheelchair sports jock-never raced in my chair or played tennis or rugby or wheelchair basketball. Travel and love is how I survive. I take my love and my will with me and I look strangers in strange lands in the eye as I roll by and I am saying to myself and to everyone who sees me that WE are not pathetic, sad, miserable cripples…

WE are here and we want to share the world with you….it is up to me to show you I will come--it is up to you to show me I am welcome. 

Deborah Davis

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Inaugural Access Tourism New Zealand Conference


I was privileged to be a presenter at the inaugural Access Tourism New Zealand Conference at the Auckland University of Technology on the 4th of October. The conference was opened by The Honourable Tariana Turia, Minister for Disabilities Issues and co-leader of the Maori Party. The key thing about her speech (see the full text below) is the recognition that Access Tourism is a valuable market sector and should no longer just be a matter of disability rights. True inclusion will only come when everyone is valued equally not simply accommodated because the law says so. Currently Access Tourism represents 11% of the total tourism market, and will grow to over 22% over the next 10 years as the Baby Boomers age. This conference represents a major cultural shift and the tourism industry needs to embrace travellers with disabilities as an inclusive part of the overall travel market. It is critical now for everyone to support and accelerate this cultural change away from "accommodating" a minority group to a position of fully inclusive travel.

As I said at the end of the presentation true inclusion should just blend in.

The Honourable Tariana Turia's Opening Address

I am absolutely delighted to be part of this inaugural Access Tourism New Zealand Conference; and I want to congratulate the New Zealand Tourism Research Institute and the Auckland University of Technology for your bold and proactive decision in identifying access tourism as a critical issue worthy of all our attention. 
Access tourism – the development of tourism opportunities for people with disabilities and for the elderly – is the fastest growing sector overseas. Indeed, it is a high growth industry, expanding and exploring the potential of a vast market of tourism products. Access tourism embraces tourism, travel and hospitality. It is also a lucrative market, which can do much to boost our future economic growth. And yet access tourism has been a neglected sector in New Zealand – to our distinct disadvantage. I celebrate, therefore, the initiative taken today – and I want to also recognise the amazing diversity of representatives here from across Government, non-government organisations, tourism operators, travel agencies, the Department of Conservation, regional tourism organisations, academics, industry training organisations, the New Zealand Automobile Association – and I am sure many more. That list is but a glimpse into the enormous potential that is available when we open the doors to disabled people and their families, enabling open access to whatever activities and events are available within.
The important thing is a start has been made, towards opening up the opportunity. There is a willingness to be open, to explore options. This is exactly what you are doing here today. The Vice-Chancellor of AUT, Derek McCormack, and each one of you here, are preparing to do the work; to create opportunities for all.
There are a couple of particularly brave participants that I want to welcome to this conference. It is especially exciting to welcome Diana Palmer, the Manager of the Information on Disability Education Awareness Services in New South Wales. Diana has travelled extensively across North America, Europe, the United Kingdom and parts of Asia and will be able to share the developments across the globe in Access tourism.
I want to acknowledge also

  • Bill Forrester, the founder of Travability Australia: a website which publicises inclusive destinations and accommodation; and
  • Kathy Olsen, the Director of Squiz New Zealand, an expert in web accessibility.

All of these speakers – and others –will help us to break through the barriers, and ensure that New Zealand will be prepared for the needs of an access tourism market.
Some of you might have heard Sandra Rhodda, last evening, on the programme One in Five. She talked about three very clear reasons why Access tourism is so important in creating an economic, social and sustainable tourist market for Aotearoa. Firstly, it is a demographic reality that the numbers of people with a disability will increase greatly in size, as the large Baby Boomer cohort – people born between 1946-1965 – ages; because disability increases with age. Secondly, the baby boomer population are internet savvy, they will demand appropriate services, and they will tell the world when they don’t get them. Conversely, if we do meet their needs, they will be loyal tourists, who will return, and who will spread the good news. Thirdly, people with disabilities tend to travel with more companions and so there is every reason in terms of current and future economic value, for New Zealand, to plan and cater for what might be described as the Silver and Access Tourism markets.
There is, of course, another factor that might just encourage Government to prepare for the needs of the access tourism – and it involves the national sport of rugby. And I am very pleased that Minnie Baragwanath from the Auckland City Council will be speaking to the forum. Minnie has been a very important source of information to the Ministerial Committee on Disability issues. Minnie has shared with us her passion for an accessible Auckland, and we have been heartened by the proactive way in which she has led the charge for an accessible Auckland around Rugby World Cup 2011 – given its opportunity for international exposure.
I want to pledge my personal support for improving the performance of government agencies in removing participation and access barriers experienced by disabled people. Accessibility is one of the three main themes of the Ministerial Committee on Disability issues. We believe there are key areas of improving access such as transport, travel, the built-up environment, the information highway, and attitudinal change. And I want to emphasise that the accumulated prejudices and fears promulgated about disability, can in fact be more handicapping than the perceived limitations that may flow from actual impairment. Whether it is indifference, apathy or ignorance – all act as restrictions on an inclusive society. And so during Budget 2010 I was pleased that we were able to achieve a three million dollar investment over the next three years for a social change programme to improve the lives of disabled people by changing the attitudes and behaviours that limit their opportunities.
The association between access tourism and an inclusive society is absolutely tight. In essence, better accessibility will mean that everyone benefits.

  • Everyone can get where they need to go more easily.
  • Disabled persons can be more independent and less reliant on others
  • It would be easier to find out about things, and take part in new experiences
  • The environment will be accessible for people of all abilities.


I am determined, as Minister for Disability Issues, that we should make accessibility a more visible goal for all. In fact we don’t have to wait to be told – we can do the audit on our marae, our classrooms, our supermarkets, our library to ensure that everything is accessible. At local and central government levels we can provide support with transport options such as low-floor buses, taxis and modified rental cars; upgraded signage; accessible venues, toilets, pathways, loan equipment and services; online guides to what is accessible. 
Finally, I want to ask all of us to consider the role of manaakitanga – our hospitality as hosts. 
How can we make all of our guests feel welcome in this beautiful land of ours? I believe that Access Tourism provides us with many solutions to do exactly that. Once again, thank you for the honour of opening this conference. I look forward to receiving your recommendations about the practical measures that will lead to an accessible tourist experience, and I can assure you all that I will do my best to take every recommendation to the appropriate Minister for their action. 
My best wishes to you all. Tena tatou katoa.

Travability's Presentation to the Conference

 

Presentation

About TravAbility

TravAbility was founded in 2007 by Bill Forrester.

Our mission is to be agents of change; to inspire people who have never traveled before to do so, and to inspire others to do more. To encourage all cultures of the world to see disability as an integral part of life, and to provide the motivation and tools to the tourism industry to allow them to create accessible environments that enable inclusion in an economically sustainable way.

We offer a range of services to tourism operators and Destination Marketing Boards to enable them to take advantage of the growing Accessible Tourism market. Our core approach is program oriented focusing on the product and service needs of people with a disability an developing a culture of innovation to attract this highly profitable and rapidly growing market:

  • Development of Access Statements
  • Product, service and program development
  • Development of 'Soft Infrastructure' policies and procedures
  • Staff and Management Training
  • Marketing Services and Toolkits
  • Access information kits
  • Industry Presentations and Conference Keynotes and Capacity Building Workshops
  • Property Audits and Universal Design planning
  • Self Audit Tools
  • National/State/Regional Park Guides and Trail Maps
  • Diversity and Inclusion Strategy development
  • Disability Action Plans
  • New Project planning and Development
  • Stock Imagery through PhotoAbility
  • Accommodation listings through TravAbility Properties
Contact

For more information on how you can make your business more attractive to the traveler with a disability contact Bill.

 

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