Accessibility Guide Example

Hartleys Crocodile Adventures – Cairns

Hartleys Crocodile Adventures is located 40 minutes north of Cairns on the Captain Cook Highway. It occupies over 25 acres including the large man-made lagoon.

There are two designated disabled parking bays directly adjacent to the park entry. The car park is asphalt with level entry into the main building and ticket office. There is a small 19mm lip from the car park to the entry path.

Inside the entry is the main visitor centre with a cafe overlooking the lagoon, gift shop and accessible toilet facilities. The cafe has two levels. Access to the lower level, which overlooks the lagoon is via a ramp at the left-hand end. The servery is open with a full length counter. The food displays are easily viewable by visitors using wheelchairs. Trays are provided to allow food to be carried to the tables.

Boat Tour

The highlight of a visit to Hartleys is the boat tour to experience crocodiles being feed in the lagoon in a close encounter experience. The park operates three boats all of which have a large area at the front that can be used by wheelchair users. The row immediately behind the chair is reserved for family and friends. Wheelchair users and friends are boarded before the general public. The position offers the best view on the boat of the crocodile action. Boarding is via a gently sloping wide ramp onto the level floor at the front of the boat.

There are no toilets on board the boat and the cruise takes 25 minutes.

Feeding Displays

There are two feeding display areas in the park, Croc Feeding Arena and the Wildlife Amphitheatre. Access to the arena is via a wooden boardwalk of a moderate slope past the Croc Feeding Pen. Wheelchair access is along the entire front row of the arena. 

The second display area, the Amphitheatre, has wheelchair access to the top of the stand only giving an excellence view of the performance.

Hartleys is one of only two parks in Australia where you are able to cuddle a Koala and it is one of the parks most popular optional animal encounters. The experience is fully wheelchair accessible accessed off a concrete path a short distance from the main visitors’ centre. Visitors with a disability have an express queuing lane.

The map below has been marked up to show the steep ramp sections (Red) and the sandy unpaved section (Yellow)

Using Disability Inclusive Imagery Effectively

The Market
The disability sector represents more than 20% of the population and is growing in strength. Like all of us, when people with a disability shop, travel or engage in leisure pursuits, they rarely do it on their own. The multiplier is almost a factor of 3 once family, friends or business associates are all taken into account. 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 in your imagery conveys a clear message that you care about genuine representation and creates real employment opportunities for these models.

What Makes a Good Image
Before we explore the technicalities, we need to look at people with a disability as ordinary subjects and customers. Too often images of a person with a disability have a medical theme or are “look at me” inspirational images. In marketing to this audience, as with any other, the aim is to create a connection with the audience that says “I can see myself there”. Imagery of people with a disability should, therefore, reflect the normal customer types and groups that would normally be your customers.

The key elements of a good image are:

  • Has emotional appeal
  • Is well composed
  • Has spontaneity
  • Lighting
  • Environment/ location Color
  • Talent
  • Emotional appeal Engaging subject matter Spontaneity Composition & scale
    emotional appeal

Emotional Appeal

A good image engages the viewer and stimulates them to want to know more. It immerses them into your story and motivates them to buy your product or service. Most importantly, when its comes to people with a disability, it breaks through the stereotypes and preconceptions by placing them into your environment.

Good Lighting

Effective lighting adds drama to the scene and creates a mood that your clients will want to experience. The “golden hour” is the hour before sunset and the hour after sunrise. It can create the most dramatic lighting. It is important, however, to match the lighting with the experience that your visitors or customers will experience.

A Good Location

A good location inspires your audience and engages with their sense of adventure. It motivates them to plan a visit or trip or to book that special night out.

Use of Colour

Colour is the essence of imagery. It gives a picture energy and life. It creates the mood that will encourage your potential customers to make the effort to book.


Images should feature real people – they should be authentic, welcoming, engaging, and inviting. Shots should never be over posed or set up, but should reflect the types of activities and responses your guests or customers would make.
They should speak to audience and say: “I can do that” or even better “WOW – can I really do that”.

Engaging Subject Matter

Sometimes, a picture that you have to look a little bit harder for, is the one you cannot ignore!
Images that are a bit unusual or have a story hidden in their detail, can invoke the imagination, and, if they are just a little bit unusual, can cut through and leave a lasting impression on your audience.

Creating an Accessibility Guide

An Accessibility Guide is designed to provide potential visitors with important accessibility information. It is important that the guide is comprehensive, but also written in the same style as the rest of your web site. It is your key document to welcome people with a disability and encourage them to visit. No disability is the same so it is important to provide quality information that allows everyone to make their informed decision as to whether your venue is suitable for their individual needs.

The guide should be presented in the following format:

At A Glance

This should be the front page of your Accessibility Guide. It gives an overview of the types of disability you cater for with a brief description of what you offer guests in each disability category. This section should also include information on discounts, booking options and acceptance of the Companion Card.

The At a Glance section should include a photo of your business and its setting.

Getting There

This section is to provide all of the options available to get to your venue. It is a good idea to provide a Google map that allows “directions” to be obtained and printed.

by Car 

Clearly describe where there are drop off points and where they are in relation to the main entrance. It is important to state the parking time allowed at the drop off point and whether the car can be left unattended for a brief period of time. If parking is available at the venue describe whether the accessible parking bays are, the distance to the entrance and the surface of the car park. If no parking is available, state where the nearest accessible parking is, both street and commercial if applicable.

by Public Transport

If your business is accessible by public transport the following information should be provided.

Train – Details of the nearest station and the distance from your venue. If not all entrances are accessible describe how to find the accessible entrance at the station.

Bus – If your business is serviced by bus, what are the bus route numbers and which bus services are accessible with low floor buses. If pre-notification is required supply the phone or booking number.

by Taxi 

Establish which local taxi services provide wheelchair accessible transport and supply their contact details as part of your accessibility guide.


It is important that visitors with a disability know where to go when they arrive at your venue.

Paths of Access

The guide should clearly indicate where the accessible entrance is, made it is made off and whether it is level or sloped. If the accessible entrance is not the main entrance to the venue, the guide should clearly indicate where it is and how it is accessed. If portable ramps are required the guide should provide contact details.

Photos of the entrance in relation to the street and/or car park should be provided.

Main Entrance

Describe the main entrance door and whether it is manual or automatic. If there is a ramp around an entrance with stairs describe the location  of the ramp. The width of the door should be provided, especially if it less than 850mm. Provide information on after-hours access and a mobile contact number if guests are not able to use an intercom.

Photos of the main entrance should be provided including the location of the ramp.

Reception/Ticket Office

Provide information of where the reception/ticket desk is in relation to the main entrance. If there is a priority queue for people with a disability provide information on where the queue is. If one or more of the counters have a hearing loop provide information on which line to use. For reception areas provide information on whether seating is provided and if there is a lower counter available and its location.

For hotels, provide information if luggage services are available and whether in-room check-in is available.

Photos of the reception/ticket office should be provided.

Inside Spaces


Where public toilets are available provide information on their location throughout the venue. Where more than one accessible toilet is available provide information on whether it is right or left hand transfer. Provide information and measurements of the door width into the cubicle, the space available beside the toilet, the height of the toilet seat from the floor, and the clear space available within the toilet cubicle. Describe what sort of taps are used with the hand basin.

If available, provide information on the nearest adult change facility.

Photos of each toilet facility should be provided.


Where lifts are provided the following information should be available in the Accessibility Guide:

  • Width of the doors into the lift
  • Depth of lift
  • Width of the lift
  • Position of the lift buttons and whether they are raised and include tactile markings
  • Whether the lift has visual and audible floor indicators

Bars and Lounges

For each bar and lounge space describe the room layout including the servery, seating arrangements and furniture type. This is important where there is a mixture of high top, standard tables and chairs and low coffee table arrangements. State whether the chairs are movable to allow for the seating of wheelchair users. Describe the lighting in each area and whether or night there is background music playing in each space.

Photos of each area should be provided.


As with bars and lounges provide a description of each dining venue including the table type, whether chairs are movable, the clear space through the space to allow people to navigate through it and lighting and background noise. Information on the nearest accessible toilet should be provided. Detail the menu choices and the dietary requirements that are provided. For each venue provide information on whether ordering, food delivery and bill payment is at a counter or at the table. Advise whether menus are available in braille, large print, and simple English.


Provide information on where the accessible seating is located, and whether closed caption devices are available. Provide information on whether the following is available:

Open Caption

Open captioning displays subtitled dialogue, sound effects and music descriptions on the screen. The

soundtrack still plays with the film, regardless of a persons ability to hear it.

Sensory Friendly

Lights up sound down – Sensory Friendly Films, to accommodate families affected by Autism Spectrum

Disorders. These sessions allow families to enjoy a trip to the movies in a safe and accepting environment.

Cry Baby

Cry Baby sessions give parents with newborn babies a chance to enjoy the movies. These sessions are run

with the lights up and the sound turned down.

Outdoor Spaces

Provide as much information as possible on the following within your grounds/gardens

  • Slopes and widths of garden paths
  • Surface material that paths are made of
  • Identified step free routes through the gardens or grounds
  • Provision of seats for people who cannot walk long distances
  • If BBQs and picnic facilities are provided what are the heights of the benches and cook tops. Provide details of any picnic tables that provide a roll-under area for wheelchair users
  • If there are observation decks, fishing platforms, bird hides and boardwalks provide information about whether they are level with the ground or provide ramped access. State the door widths if applicable.
  • For lawn areas describe the slopes and thickness of the grass
  • Provide any information of where accessible toilets are located within the garden or grounds

Provide photographs of the garden areas including the paths, picnic tables BBQs and other facilities

Pools and Spars

Describe the method of entry into the pool/(s)

  • Level entry (ie: sloping beach type)
  • Ramped
  • Stepped (with or without handrail)
  • Pool lift

Provide information on the equipment that is available (beach/pool wheelchair, noodles, other flotation devices, hoist, unisex change room with adult bench)

Provide information about shaded areas that are available and whether blocks are available to raised deck chairs.

Provide photographs of the pool, in particular, the entry points, beach wheelchairs and the deck furniture

Accommodation Providers


Information on bedrooms should contain the following:

  • Number of accessible bedrooms available and whether any have adjoining rooms
  • The door width into the room from the hallway or from outside
  • Within each room the bed configuration and whether a king can be separated into singles
  • The height of the bed above the floor (If blocks are available to raise the bed add that information)
  • The clear space underneath the bed (to accommodate the feet of a hoist if required)
  • The space beside and at the end of bed
  • Provide information on whether furniture can be moved, additional bedding provided and whether you can move bedding to install a hospital bed if required.
  • Information on whether televisions provide closed captioning
  • Describe the wardrobe space and provide measurements of the heights of the hanging rails
  • Other equipment that may be onsite or can be hired locally if required (commode, hoist, shower chair)
  • If a desk is available in the room provide information on the clear space under it for knee clearance.
  • Provide photographs of the room. Ensure the images cover the whole room

Ensuite Bathrooms

  • Provide the following information:
  • Width of the door from the bedroom
  • Clear space available next to the toilet
  • The position of grab bars
  • Whether the toilet has a backrest
  • Whether the vanity unit has a roll-under space for wheelchair users and if so the height above the floor level
  • The type of tap fitted to the vanity
  • Whether the shower has level entry with the bathroom floor. If there is a lip or hob what is its height
  • Describe the position of the shower controls, whether the shower has seat (fixed, fold-down or portable) and whether the shower has a detachable shower rose. Also describe the position of the handrails within the shower.
  • Provide information on the mirrors with the bathroom, their position length and whether they are on an angle for wheelchair users.
  • Provide images of the bathroom showing the toilet and the space beside it including the handrails, the shower with the shower seat folded down or with the portable shower chair in the shower, and the handbasin.

Self Contained Kitchens

Describe the kitchen layout and the clear space between the work areas, island benches or kitchen tables. Describe the location and height above the floor of the oven, dishwasher, microwave, cooktops and work surfaces.

Are all storage areas for cutlery, crockery and utensils below 1.2 metres from the floor. Describe any “roll-under facilities in the kitchen ie: bench space, sink etc.

Accessible Tourism Identified As Game Changer for Destinations

Ensuring accessibility for tourists with specific access requirements can be a ‘game changer’ for destinations around the world as they look to bounce back from the impacts of the pandemic. A new set of  Inclusive Recovery Guides from the World Tourism Organization, produced in partnership with the European Network for Accessible Tourism (ENAT), the ONCE Foundation of Spain and Travability from Australia, makes clear the importance of placing inclusivity at the centre of recovery plans and provides key recommendations for achieving this.

Launched on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, the UNWTO Inclusive Recovery Guide – Socio-Cultural Impacts of COVID-19: Issue I Persons with Disabilities, draws on the expertise of UNWTO’s Ethics Culture and Social Responsibility Department and its partners. While much progress has been made, the publication makes clear that persons with disabilities and seniors encounter barriers preventing them from fully enjoying tourism experiences, even more so during the pandemic. Now, as UNWTO leads the restart of tourism globally, this guide outlines steps that governments, destinations and companies should take to build back better, becoming more inclusive and competitive.

Accessibility as a priority

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said: “Tourism environments and services are often designed without considering the different access requirements that visitors and locals may have. The tourism sector must prioritize accessibility. This can be a real game changer for destinations and businesses, helping them recover from the crisis and grow back in a more inclusive and resilient way.”

This can be a real game changer for destinations and businesses, helping them recover from the crisis and grow back in a more inclusive and resilient way

Highlighting the potential benefits for more accessible destinations, the publication notes that, by 2050, one in six people worldwide will be aged 65 or over, rising to one in four in Europe and North America. Furthermore, data shows that the average spend of tourists with disabilities in Spain, for example is in excess of 800 euros, compared with just over 600 euros for tourists without disabilities.

Recommendations for inclusive recovery

The recommendations advocating for accessibility during the recovery of tourism insist on six main action areas:

Assistance in a crisis: Including accessibility during every stage of repatriation, which requires the backing of destinations and disabled peoples’ organizations (DPOs)

Adaptation of protocols: Follow UNWTO guidance on adapting general health and safety protocols, considering that customers may have different abilities and requirements

Inclusivity in post-pandemic tourism: Including the effective use of data to guide decisions on accessible tourism planning and adjusting accessibility policies and strategies to reflect post-COVID realities

Accessibility in business planning: Treating accessibility as a competitive advantage, improving customer service, and the application of harmonized international standards to enhance quality of life for all

Staff training and inclusion: Extending professional training to better cater for tourists with different abilities, and ensuring equal opportunities in the tourism workforce

Innovation and digital transformation: Embracing innovation to make travel and tourism safer, smarter and easier for all

The guidelines reflect UNWTO’s ongoing commitment to inclusive tourism, enshrined within The UNWTO Framework Convention on Tourism Ethics, calling on signatories to facilitate tourism for persons with disabilities. This publication is also the first one in a planned series of thematic briefs from UNWTO’s Ethics, Culture and Social Responsibility Department, in its intent to provide guidance to our sector.

UNWTO and partners are asking administrations, destinations and companies, which have successfully incorporated accessibility in their mitigation measures, to share their stories through the questionnaire “Accessible Tourism Champions”, also launched today.

Wheelchair on a jetty in Cairns

Accessible Tourism – A critical part of a staged tourism restart

As the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps across the globe we have seen the world’s tourism and hospitality industries decimated. Efforts to control the virus have seen worldwide lockdowns, international and domestic border restrictions, and the virtual shutdown of world aviation routes.

Recently, there have been significant second wave outbreaks in the US, Australia, New Zealand the UK and Europe, which may be exacerbated with the onset of the northern hemisphere winter.

COVID-19 is a highly infectious disease without an effective cure or vaccine. The industry is faced with the fact that neither are likely to be developed in the near term.

As a result, tourism restarts are likely to be slow and staged with social distancing becoming a normal part of doing business. International borders, with the exception of “airbridges” or inter-country “bubbles”, will be the last to open so for the tourism industry domestic and local tourism will be the lifeblood of the industry for the foreseeable future. We must also recognize that the restart process will be fluid. Relaxation of restrictions is likely to be followed up with the reimposition of lockdowns or reduced numbers in response to second and third waves of infections. International borders may be subject to sudden closure making travel planning difficult if not impossible. Future bookings are likely to be extremely weak in light of the uncertainty.

Why is the Accessible Tourism sector important to the tourism recovery?
Wheelchair on an airboat in the Florida Everglades
Tying down the wheelchair with rachet straps

Since 2014 several pieces of research around the world have placed the value of the market at between 14% and 20% of the total tourism spend. The growth rate is tracking at three times the rate of tourism as a whole. It is being fuelled by the aging and retiring baby boomer generation. Most western countries have a very similar age distribution. Research by McKinsey & Company in the US found that the Baby Boomer generation controls 60% of total wealth and 40% of total expenditure and in areas such as hospitality and leisure the spend was 50%. When looking at that population segment, at age 65, 40% of the group has an age-related disability and by age 75 that climbs to 60%. Extrapolating the spending power and the disability statistics the market is worth 25% of the total tourism spend. The retiree market has also changed with the Baby Boomer generation. This generation is very different from the generations that came before it. It was born into optimism and was also adventurous. It was the Baby Boomers who first backpacked their way around the world, first invented adventure tourism and trekking, and lived by their Lonely Planet guides. The sheer size of the generation meant that they always had the market power to demand products that suited their needs, after all, it was this generation that caused Levis Strauss to alter the cut of their jeans to cater for a middle-aged spread when they turned 40. As retirees, that adventurous spirit remains as does the expectation that the tourism industry will develop a range of inspiring products and experiences that suit their expectations and their aging needs.

Over the last ten years, we have also seen major developments in adaptive equipment. Everything from off-road wheelchairs, sit skis, advanced hearing augmentation, visual wayfinding, etc that are opening up new opportunities for people with a disability.

This generation has also been risk takers and are, therefore, the likely generation to resume travel when COVID-19 has subsided to “manageable” levels and are also the most likely to take up a vaccine option when it becomes available. Again, this generation was brought up in an era when vaccines for international travel were the norm.

Tourism Product is changing
A elderly couple in Skagway Alaska with a mobility walker

Tourism is evolving as world attitudes change. The mass coach tour and set itineraries are giving way to more individualized itineraries and small group touring. The world is far more environmentally and culturally aware and expects tourism to embrace cultural diversity, environmental sensitivity, and be responsible. The old adage of take only photographs and leave only footprints has now developed into a total responsibility approach that preserves and nurtures both local environments and cultures. The tourism industry is adept at change and adept at providing small group, highly interactive experiences.

In addition to the changing nature of the expectation to create unique experiences, the industry has the benefit of over 30 years of disability discrimination legislation around the world and accessible building codes and construction. Facilities exist all over the world that can be packaged into accessible tourism experiences. While there is still work to be done, the opportunity is to develop information systems that can tell prospective travellers with a disability what is available on a destination wide basis and to develop accessible tourism experiences and itineraries.

How does Accessible Tourism aid with the tourism restart
Ramps to a cathedral in Prague

As stated earlier, the tourism industry will restart slowly with reduced numbers and in many cases with a reduced catchment area. Initially, the market will also be more spontaneous with short term bookings. Long lead time detailed itineraries will be hard to sell during recovery. To be profitable, operators will need to concentrate on high-value small group tourism that provides quality and meaningful experiences. Tailorisation gives operators a real chance to look at their offerings and the opportunities to incorporate accessibility as part of their core products and services. Regions have a chance to cooperate and build accessible itineraries to maximize the time spent in a region by a smaller number of people. Social distancing requirements will make it easier to plan accessible routes and create the spaces needed to cater to a wide range of disability groups including those of the autism spectrum. One of the greatest barriers to accessible tourism has always been air travel. In the recovery phase, most tourism is going to be local or domestic making the accessible tourism market a key opportunity. Travellers with a disability tend to stay longer and spend more than the general traveling population which is a key incentive for tourism operators to actively market their accessibility.

For many tourism operators, catering to the accessible tourism market is extremely cost effective. Many will already have the physical assets to cater for the market, the missing link is often the detailed information required to allow a potential visitor to make their own informed decisions as to whether a facility or experience is suitable for their needs. The downtime period many operators are facing at the moment is the perfect chance to evaluate what facilities they have and what disability groups they can cater for. It should be remembered that of the total disability market only 8% are full-time wheelchair users. Those with hearing impairments, reduced vision, and autism all require different facilities. It isn’t all about ramps and accessible toilets. Tourism operators cater for a variety of needs currently and some specialize in certain interest groups. There is no reason why an operator can’t develop specialized products catering for any one particular disability group. Nature, in particular, has major opportunities for the blind or vision impaired with the sensory experiences it offers. Co-designing experiences for travellers with a disability is no different from designing cultural experiences with indigenous groups.

Adding information to an individual operator or destination website is not a difficult or costly thing to do, especially in the current environment where websites need to be continually updated with COVID-19 information and social distancing requirements.

The market for Accessible Tourism is significant. It is potentially 25% of the total tourism spend, especially for local and domestic tourism. The market is extremely loyal and will return on a regular basis if it is comfortable with the experiences. The social network of Accessible Tourism is extremely strong. Great experiences will lead to great referrals. The strength of the offering, like all tourism, depends greatly on co-operation to create a range of experiences within a destination region. One great motel with an accessible bedroom doesn’t create a good holiday experience.

The key steps to making Accessible Tourism part of your COVID-19 restart process
  1. Use the downtime to review the current facilities on offer that are accessible, both at individual operator and destination wide. That includes accommodation, dining, parks and gardens, attractions, and tour operators.
  2. Prepared detailed accessibility guides both at operator and destination wide levels and publish them on both operator and destination websites. Don’t fall into the trap of saying something is fully accessible. Every person with a disability has a different set of needs and capabilities. What is not accessible for some may be an adventure for others. Say what is actually there and provide good photographs and let a potential visitor make up their own mind. The important thing is if people don’t know what is there they won’t come.
  3. Co-design experiences with local disability groups. Often operators and destination managers forget adventure activities and limit the opportunities that travellers with a disability may want to experience even if they don’t appear to be “accessible”
  4. Look closely at community infrastructure, things like beach matting or beach wheelchairs can open a market for the whole region.
  5. Look at marketing opportunities and include people with a disability in mainstream marketing material. Use existing marketing channels that already have a following, but include accessible terms in the copy to improve Google reach. Ensure that accessibility data on regional websites is included on individual tourism operator web sites to increase the overall ratings of your region. As marketing for accessible tourism is no different to marketing for any other form of tourism, be wary of “specialist” sites charging for accessible tourism listings. Many do not have a good market penetration amongst potential visitors. As for any form of marketing the cost per thousand is critical as is monitoring and evaluating referrals. If you wouldn’t trust your general marketing to charities or social enterprises don’t do it for accessible tourism without applying the same economic rigours to its value as you would any other new marketing channel.
  6. Seek professional advice from organisations recognised as accessible tourism specialists.
  7. Most importantly don’t be scared to play in the accessible tourism market, co-design, and seek and learn from feedback. As with all tourism activities the greatest joy comes from seeing visitors enjoying their experiences and leaving changed in some way.

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


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 Customer Product Development Perspective
Travability’s planary presentation to the Destinations for All World Summit – Brussels 2018.

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.

Age disability graph

2014 research from VisitEngland confirms the Darcy research and the McKinsey predictions.

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

2017/18 Australian Research

In the first piece of new research into the Australian domestic Accessible Tourism market in nearly 10 years, MyTravelResearch were commissioned to do both a qualitative and qualitative study with the aim of determining the current value of the market, the latent demand and the key barriers preventing travel for people with a disability.

The research has placed a total value of the domestic market at $8 billion.

The research looking at Australian domestic tourism only. Early work by Simon Darcy looked at both domestic and inbound and if the same parameters are applied to current NVS data the current estimate for inbound accessible tourism is $2.8 billion.

If domestic and inbound are added together the total accessible tourism market for Australia is 10.8 billion, which is larger than the Chinese inbound market for the same period ($10.4 billion)

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.

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.

Tourism 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.

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.

In reality the arbitrary line is more like the image above. New equipment, better information and changing perceptions are allowing many people with a disability to engage in active activities that many able bodied people wouldn’t dream of engaging in.

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.

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!

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.

Accessible Tourism Product needs to be Mainstreamed

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

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.

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.

nternational Best Practice


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.


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.
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.

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:

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.

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.

Melbourne Cable Park

Australian Tourism Data Warehouse Enhances Accessibility Criteria

Image: Melbourne Cable Park Accessible Wakeboarding. Photograher Bill Forrester.

The Australian Tourism Data Warehouse (ATDW) is Australia’s national platform for digital tourism information on Australia. Incorporated in 2001, it is jointly owned and managed by all Australian state/territory government tourism bodies.

The ATDW collects information via its partners then stores and distributes this information.  Data includes product and destination information from all Australian States and Territories, with more than 40,000 listings. This content is compiled in a nationally agreed format and is electronically accessible by tourism business owners (operators), wholesalers, retailers and distributors for use in their websites and booking systems.

.ATDW is collaborating with Local Government NSW (LGNSW) and DNSW to enable Australian tourist destinations, products and services to accurately highlight their accessible facilities to the Inclusive Tourism market.
It will soon become a mandatory component for all operators registered with the ATDW to respond to the additional accessibility questions in the revised data set .

Becoming a feature of the ATDW database in the near future, the new accessibility data will encourage operators to become more aware of the inclusive tourism market and will provide additional info for online distributors to share across their consumer facing websites.

The system will also have the provision to link a detailed Accessibility Guide to the ATDW listing.

The new criteria should be available by the middle of this year now now is the time to start thinking about your accessibility and creating your Accessibility Guide to take full advantage of your ATDW listing.

What is an Accessibility Guide?

An Accessibility Guide is produced by tourism operators to provide potential visitors with important accessibility information about a venue, property or service. The guide enables individuals with accessibility requirements, their family and friends to make informed decisions as to where to stay and visit in view of their requirements. This includes not just wheelchair users but people with hearing loss, visual or mental impairment, older people, families with young children and more.

Why should you produce one?

  • It can help you to appraise your venue’s accessibility
  • It provides essential information for people with accessibility requirements.
  • It’s a marketing opportunity to broaden the appeal of your business.
  • Unless accessibility information is clearly available, visitors may choose to go elsewhere.

How to write an Accessibility Guide

It is important, in wring an accessibility guide to avoid statements such as “we are fully accessible” or “meet accessibility standards”

Every disability is different so it is important to give as much information as possible to allow potential clients to decide for themselves whether your establishment is suitable for their needs. Details should address where the parking is, whether the entry is level, details on door widths, method of opening and paths to reception, rooms, cafes, gardens and other facilities. The information should be accompanied by good quality images shot without people to show the full details. If your camera or phone is equipped with a high dynamic range facility (HDR) switch it on as it will help to bring out the detail in the shadows.

We have detailed measurement and photographic guides that will help you put together the detailed information that should appear in an Accessibility Guide.

Finally the most important thing to remember is that an Accessibility Guide is your marketing tool to the large and growing Accessible Tourism market. It should have the same look and feel and writing style as the rest of your website.

It is not an audit checklist!!!

New Accessibility Questions

Offer multiple options for booking – web, email, phone

Offer a range of contact methods for receiving complaints

Accept the Companion Card

Employ people with disability

Train your staff in disability awareness

Have accessibility information and photos, including of a bathroom, room and/or floor plan on your website (can be emailed on request)

Ask all visitors if there are any specific needs to be met

Website meets WCAG 2.0 accessibility standards

Advise tour guides of the access needs of guests at the time of booking (includes pick up and drop off requirements)

Provide assistance with booking arrangements (includes providing clear  itineraries with written instructions  on what to do at various destinations)

Train your staff in communicating with people with learning or behavioural challenges

Use Plain English / easy read signage and information (includes menus and emergency information)

A quiet space is available at the venue/ facility

Have  Braille and tactile signage on all information and paths of travel

Provide information in large print

Provide information in audio format (includes an audio described map of your venue, audio descriptions of performances and/ or displays)

Provide digital communication materials (hard copy information is also available on line)

Use easy read fonts in your signage and communication materials (Helvetica and Arial)

Train your staff  in customer service for people with vision loss (training would incorporate way finding and communicating with people with vision loss)

Have an appropriate area for toileting an assistance dog

Have audio enabled lifts

Have raised tactile buttons in your lifts

Have handrails on all your stairways

Have Exit signs which are visible at a ground level (high level signs are difficult to see in a fire)

Have a hearing loop

Train your staff in communicating with people who are deaf or have hearing loss

Staff are trained in Auslan

Have telephones which are compatible with hearing aids

Caption all entertainment (TVs, live shows, performances)

Have TVs with captioning option

Have volume controlled phones

Have visual alerts for emergencies (Include flashing light)

Have transmitter receivers for hearing aids on tours

Have a low noise reception areas with hearing loss friendly acoustics and adequate lighting for viewing facial expressions (includes common areas which are free of background noise, background music)

Use floors/ coverings which are slip resistant, firm and smooth

Use non-slip tiles in the bathroom or slip resistant matting

Have grab rails in the bathroom

Provide seating in common areas including reception area

Have step free outdoor pathways (includes picnic areas, barbecues and shelters)

Have a doorbell or intercom at an accessible height and display a contact number (accessible height is 900mm-1100 mm)

Have a step free main entrance to the building and/or reception area (includes ramps or slopes with a maximum gradient of 1:14, otherwise are too steep for wheelchairs)

Have step free access to restaurant, lounge and bar

Have step free access to the conference or function room

Have accessible seating areas in theatrette

Have lifts with enough space for people using a mobility aid to enter and turn around to use the lift buttons. Buttons are at accessible height.

Have doorways which are easy to open and have lever handles (doorways 850mm or wider when open and not heavy)

Have an accessible public toilet which is unlocked

Have a wheelchair accessible toilet / shower and change room

Provide wheelchair access to spa/gym

Have wheelchair accessible picnic tables (picnic tables require 720mm knee clearance and 800mm maximum height)

Have wheelchair access to amusements and activities including boats and bush trails (includes tour rides, skyways, trolley cars, flying fox, amusement rides and boating)

Have a wheelchair/scooter charging station (power point) in an accessible location

Provide beach matting and beach wheelchairs for people to access the water

Provide portable hoist

Provide portable commode chairs

Provide portable ramps

Have at least one wheelchair accessible parking space with wheelchair accessible signage clearly displayed (International standards are 3200mm wide x 2500 mm high)

Provide valet parking

Have wheelchair accessible transport options available in the general vicinity (provide information on name of the operator, phone and website link to individual providers for private vehicles, community transport train, mini vans, hire cars, buses, taxis, ferry, tram, light rail etc in your access statement)

Provide a choice of wheelchair accessible accommodation rooms (Guest may wish to know if you have a choice of wheelchair accessible rooms, such as  single room / studio apartment / apartment / cottage / quality / views, etc. Wheelchairs require a 1600mm x 2200mm width area to turn around and require step free access.)

Have step free access to room  (Entrance to the room wheelchair accessible with step free greater than 5mm or has a doorway threshold ramp not exceeding 1:8 for 450mm length)

Have a lever handle on the door (easier to use)

Have enough space for a wheelchair to move around three sides of a double king sized bed (A pathway of 1200mm minimum width is required for wheelchair access)

Provide a bed with adjustable height

Have a kitchen area and desk which is accessible for a person at seated height or is height adjustable

Have a wheelchair accessible bathroom (Entrance to bathroom must have step free greater than 5mm or a doorway threshold ramp not exceeding 1:8 for 450mm. Bathrooms dimensions must be no less than 2000mm X 2500mm. Have a hobless (step free) shower recess. Shower recess must have at least 1100 x 1100mm clear area for wheelchair access (no door). Have a slip resistant fold down seat or fixed seat in shower .Seat must be at least 900mm long.)

Have a lever handle on bathroom door

Have a shower curtain (no door)

Have grabrails in shower recess (can be removable and height adjustable)

Have a handheld shower hose (should be at least 1500mm long)

Allow space around toilet for a wheelchair (A space of at least 900mm width beside the toilet pan and 1200mm clearance in front of the toilet pan is required)

Provide grabrails provided adjacent to the toilet

Have a bathroom which is fully accessible and equipped with ceiling hoist and adult change table

Have twin beds available on request

Have rooms which are interconnecting

Have a Changing Places or Lift & Change toilet with a hoist and adult change table

Provide room for hoist under the bed (minimum 100mm required to store a hoist)

Train staff to use a DeafBlind Communicator (a portable device consisting of a DB-Phone and DB-Braille with QWERTY or Perkins keyboard)

Have options available for easier communication for people with dual sensory loss (Includes adapted telephones, adapted mobile telephones and Telephone Typewriters (TTY’s).  For some people the fax machine is useful for sending messages in large print)

Have a place to store medical equipment (eg oxygen)

Modify your cooking and cleaning practices to cater for people with food allergies or chemical intolerances (could include menus with meals free from: nuts, dairy, seafood, eggs, gluten etc)

Train your staff to respond to allergic reactions

Adhere to The Food Authority requirements for allergy management in food preparation

Have equipment to respond to anaphylactic shock such as epi–pens and defibrillator

Provide toiletries which are chemical and fragrance free (if requested)

Provide linen that is chemical and fragrance free (if requested)

Use organic (chemical and fragrance free) cleaning products

Use organic (chemical and fragrance free) deodorisers in public areas and rooms

Provide the URL link to your access and inclusion statement on your website

Moonlit sanctuary

Understanding the opportunity for Australia in Accessible Tourism


In the first piece of new research into the Australian domestic Accessible Tourism market in nearly 10 years, MyTravelResearch were commissioned to do both a qualitative and qualitative study with the aim of determining the current value of the market, the latent demand and the key barriers preventing travel for people with a disability.

The research has placed a total value of the domestic market at $8 billion, when added to the estimated inbound market for accessible tourism of $2.8 billion (not part of the research) the contribution of Accessible Tourism to the Australian Visitor Economy is $10.8 billion. That is greater than the $10.4 billion spend by Chinese tourists inbound to Australia.

Research Report Executive Summary


Tourism Research Australia, in partnership with Tourism, Events and Visitor Economy branch of the Victorian Government, and Tourism and Events Queensland, commissioned a study into accessible tourism in Victoria, Queensland and Australia. The research was conducted between April and August 2017. This document is a summary of the research undertaken by If you require more detail on the methodology and sources used, please contact for the full research report.

With an estimated 20% of Australian adults having a disability or long-term health condition, and an ageing population, the disability sector is set to grow. By 2050, it is estimated that nearly one-quarter of the population will be aged 65 or over. In 2015, five million people had long-term health conditions in Australia and this is also predicted to grow. Although the Australian Bureau of Statistics Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers suggests that people over 54 are healthier than previous generational cohorts, the overall growth in the ageing population in both volume and longer life expectancy is expected to lead to greater numbers of travellers who may need extra assistance.

This report provides an understanding of the current situation and potential of Australia’s domestic tourism market for accessible travel, including the:

  • current size and future potential of the market for accessible tourism, especially for Victoria and Queensland
  • drivers of, and barriers to, accessible tourism
  • needs of travellers with a disability and those who travel with them
  • experience delivered – including during the planning phase – both as a measure of satisfaction, and to identify new areas for experience and product development or supporting infrastructure
  • most effective communication channels to reach this audience including the role of advocacy in travel for this segment
  • best ways to support businesses to become (more) accessible
  • opportunities to grow the market.

Wilsons Prom

The study used the following definition for ‘disability’:

An on-going condition, requiring special care, that substantially inhibits a person’s ability to participate effectively in activities, or perform tasks or actions unless they have aids or support.

This would include a condition which is permanent but may vary in intensity (e.g. multiple sclerosis) or a long-term temporary disability (lasting more than 6 months).

A person with a disability might face special needs when travelling, in accommodation, and in using other tourism services.

Value and size of the sector 

There is a sizeable, growing and diverse range of travellers with accessible needs. For simplicity in this report they are referred to as a sector. For simplicity, in this report they are referred to as a sector. Eighty-four per cent of travellers with a disability or their carers have taken an overnight trip as defined in Tourism Research Australia’s National Visitor Survey (NVS), that is, an overnight trip least 40 kilometres from home. Around one-quarter have also taken overnight trips closer to home. Approximately three-quarters of those with a disability travel, with more people stating they would like to if the products or technologies existed to enable/support their travel. The following estimates are based on the domestic market only, therefore do not include estimates of international travellers and spend.


An estimate of the size of the current accessible tourism sector for overnight and/or day trip travel is around 1.3 million individuals, or 7% of the total Australian adult population. However, as many people with a disability travel with others, especially when they need to travel with a carer, a multiplier of 2.45 (overnight) or 2.62 (day trips) needs to be applied. By this measure, 14% of the Australian population (an estimated 3.4 million people) has need of accessible tourism experiences and services for an overnight and/or day trip.

An estimate of annual expenditure by tourists with a disability (both overnight and day) based on NVS data would be around $3.2 billion annually (of which $2.7 billion is overnight spend and $546 million is day trip spend). Again, the multiplier of those travelling with a person with a disability means the true value of the sector could be as high as $8.0 billion.


Travellers with a disability who had taken at least one domestic trip (overnight and/or day trip) represented 7% (349,000) of the Victorian adult population.

When considering the average travel party size was 2.24 for a Victorian resident with a disability (including adults caring for a child with a disability), this represented 12% (784,000) of Victoria’s total population.

Estimated spend for travellers with a disability was $680.1 million (approximately 4% of total domestic spend in Victoria), of which 80% was overnight spend.

Estimated spend for the travel party (including the person with a disability) was $1.7 billion (approximately 10% of total domestic spend in Victoria), of which 79% was overnight spend.


Travellers with a disability who had taken at least one domestic trip (overnight and/or day trip) represented 8% (289,000) of the Queensland adult population.

When considering an average travel party size was 2.28 for a Queensland resident with a disability (including adults caring for a child with a disability), this represented 13% (657,000) of Queensland’s total population.

Estimated spend for travellers with a disability was $781.0 million (approximately 4% of total domestic spend in Queensland), of which 84% was overnight spend.

Estimated spend for the travel party (including the person with a disability) was $1.9 billion (approximately 10% of total domestic spend in Queensland), 84% of which was overnight spend.

There are a number of Australians with a disability (including adults caring for a child with a disability) who are not currently travelling, but who would likely travel with certain industry improvements (in accommodation, transport, current technologies). The potential of this sector is approximately $735 million (an additional 1% in spend). When travel party is factored in, this comes to $1.8 billion, or an additional 2% in spend for the travel party (including the person with a disability).

Although people with a disability generally have lower incomes than the average for the population as a whole, not all need to be considered as low income. More than one-quarter of those who identified as having a disability were in the top two income categories (disposable income above $900 per week).

Sydney Australia


The research looking at Australian domestic tourism only. Early work by Simon Darcy looked at both domestic and inbound and if the same parameters are applied to current NVS data the current estimate for inbound accessible tourism is $2.8 billion.

If domestic and inbound are added together the total accessible tourism market for Australia is 10.8 billion, which is larger than the Chinese inbound market for the same period ($10.4 billion)

Understanding the accessible tourism market 

The research highlighted that the profile of travellers with a disability is diverse:

Many people with a disability may face multiple challenges with a high overlap between mental, cognitive and physical conditions. For example, 24% of people with a mobility issue requiring a wheelchair or scooter also had difficulty with memory, learning or understanding, while 13% had difficulty hearing.

Conditions range from requiring very high levels of support to ‘hidden disabilities’ that require support in less obvious ways.

Mobility issues were the most common type of disability identified in this study, with 55% reporting difficulty with mobility in some way.

There is substantial opportunity to better utilise existing assets to meet the needs of those with mobility issues (e.g. hotel rooms could have more categories beyond the standard ’fully accessible’). Within this diverse sector, there are also many opportunities to meet the needs of specific groups. For example, Wi-Fi is vital to those travelling with children with Autism Spectrum Disorder to an even greater extent than for most travellers, as interacting with phones and tablets is an important tool to help manage a changing in environment, using entertainment.

Short (single night trips or day trips) and/or local trips (within 40 kilometres of home) are major growth opportunities, potentially because it’s easier to get there, less planning is required, and/or more is known about the area (and therefore less information searching is needed). This could also be an opportunity for those who find travel ‘so stressful it’s not worth it’ or ‘just too hard’ (23% and 22% respectively).

  • Intrastate travel forms a significant part of the accessible tourism market and provides a cost effective local option that might be easier to navigate, given the level of organisation that some disabilities require prior to a trip.
  • Day trips to iconic locations close to home would be particularly engaging for those with very high support needs.
  • In common with Australians in the general population, most travel by people with disabilities and their carers is for leisure (travel for holiday, and to visit friends and relatives (VFR) combined), with holiday being the largest motivator. However, VFR is also important and VFR hosts are a key conduit for information about what to do in the destination.
  • Importantly, respondents noted that knowing the layout of the VFR accommodation helped with planning the travel, and resulted in a less stressful trip. This highlights that accommodation providers could be offering more information on their website that shows layout and helps the traveller determine if this is suitable for them and/or the best accommodation options for their needs.

Travellers with a disability share many characteristics with the broader traveller population:

  • Many of the key tools they used in the travel decision-making were the same. Internet search was the number one tool used by travellers with and without a disability when purchasing travel services, with word-of-mouth second. Building trust and reputation in this sector could use the same approaches, if not exactly the same content, as any other sector.
  • Reconnection and unwinding are core needs for all Australian travellers, and this was just as true for travellers with a disability. Approximately 40% of travellers with a disability sought to meet those needs through either more active, or more emotionally and/or intellectually stimulating experiences.
  • Although travellers with a disability did slightly fewer activities, many of the experiences they participated in matched those of the broader traveller population: eating out, visits to the beach, and nature and cultural experiences.
  • Overall, they tended to stay in the same types of accommodation and visit the same destinations as the broader population.

Specific needs of the market

Despite the similarities to the general population, there were some important differences and specific needs. Travellers with disabilities had a strong tendency to manage the stresses and uncertainties of travel by returning to destinations they knew well. Consequently, they appeared to have a higher incidence of repeat visitation and were loyal customers.


Travellers with a disability need more support in planning their experiences if they are to travel as much as they wish to, and for it to be an enjoyable experience, rather than a stressful one. Overall, more detail in the information that is currently provided was the highest priority for travellers with a disability, particularly for those with limited mobility. While this primarily related to digital sources such as websites and review sites, it could also refer to information anywhere travellers look including in destination (e.g. on tours).

They need information that is: 

  • related to their disability
  • easy to find and absorb – this specifically relates to accessible tourism information which is often not prominently displayed an is often very complex
  • well structured
  • relatable – when choosing accommodation, attractions or experiences, including a range of images that covers a breadth of disabilities would help the potential traveller feel they were choosing an option that they can be a part of.


  • 18% of respondents said that they thought information provision was the number one priority to drive accessible tourism – the highest number of overall mentions
  • 41% wanted information contained on review sites like TripAdvisor that were relevant to travellers with specific needs
  • 36% said that it would be great to have accreditation that shows businesses that have made the commitment to accessible travel
  • 23% wanted specialised review sites for their needs
  • 19% would like case studies that ‘encourage’ them by showing what is possible.

In addition, priorities for improvement included: 

  • more practical information (e.g. location of toilets), with 86% rating this as important
  • more prominent information on tourism and transport websites (83% for both).


Forty per cent of respondents stated that ‘not knowing what to expect’ was a barrier to travel, highlighting the benefit of more and/or more detailed information being available for trip planning.

They need more expert advice at the planning stage if they are to convert to visitation. Disability forums, peak bodies for their disability, specialist travel agents and even National Disability Insurance Scheme co-ordinators are all used at the active planning stage.

There was a preference for personal contact to answer specific queries (although this could increasingly be handled via BOTs – computer programs designed to stimulate conversation with human users, especially over the internet). Specifically, the research highlighted a strong preference to connect with a business or destination personally, either by phone or email.

Traditional travel agents with a strong service ethic could also be important in driving conversion, particularly for older travellers and those who have lower support needs. Many clients had low expectations, so this advice could expand their interest and create demand for new products. Travellers with a disability find it hard to be inspired when they don’t know what is possible.


There were still many challenges with regard to the attitudes and understanding from both tourism and hospitality staff and those of the public towards travellers with a disability. This was especially a challenge for younger travellers with a disability, and for those with ‘hidden disabilities’ who required support in less obvious ways. Conversely, quality of service by staff was a key driver for recommendation across all travel categories.

Cost was very important for many travellers with a disability, as many need to travel with a carer which makes costs higher. Assistance with these costs (including potentially via the National Disability Insurance Scheme) or via special deals for those with a carer, would assist with removing barriers to more travel.

Facilities and transport

Respondents rated some of the following priorities for improvement as important9:

Figure 4: Top 10 priorities by improvements 

Growing and enhancing the market

Building on the opportunity for accessible tourism is a multi-faceted task, categorised below by stage. All key stakeholders have a role to play in the process:

Consult – this should be the foundation of driving accessible  tourism. It should ensure that what is offered is built on a rich  understanding of what travellers with disabilities want and  need. This is a responsibility for all parties, but government and  destination management offices can take a lead, as they have  the resources and skills to undertake projects or guide others.

Inspire and educate – ensure that the industry has an  understanding of the potential of this sector and is  provided support on how to start targeting it.  Government, destinations and peak bodies should all  have a role in driving this. Further, many travellers with a  disability have low expectations of what is available, while their aspiration  for travel is high. The task here is to encourage them to explore and test  their boundaries. Peak bodies and service providers can play a strong role here, as can individual operators.

Collate – bringing the experiences together to provide a holistic offering in  some key destinations will help the traveller plan and navigate their trip.  Government, peak bodies in both the tourism and disability sectors, and  service providers can all potentially play a role to help identify new areas of  experience and product development or supporting infrastructure.  Governments can work with the sector in a number of ways, including improving accessibility standards in the industry and developing infrastructure that considers the complete user experience.

Promote – many travellers are not aware of what is on offer, therefore promoting what is available to generate demand is important. The information needs to be easy to find, well-structured and provide the opportunity to delve further for planning and to build confidence in the experience/trip. This is the responsibility of individual businesses and destinations.

Build – while not the highest priority for now, new infrastructure needs to be the subject of ongoing focus. Ensuring that any new infrastructure employs universal design principles will make widening this opportunity more cost effective in the future. This is a cross-industry responsibility.


This research is based on a combination of desk research, qualitative and quantitative research conducted between April and August 2017, and National Visitor Survey data (quarter and year ending March 2017, from Tourism Research Australia). The qualitative research covered both key stakeholders (including service providers, disability specialists, key destinations and airports) and consumers (face-to-face and online). In order to make the research as inclusive as possible, both people with a disability and carers were included. A small proportion of the study included non-travellers with a disability to understand whether a larger potential market existed beyond current travellers. The quantitative research covered n = 1,001 travellers with a disability, and n = 405 carers of travellers with a disability.

Travability Pty Ltd, Tourism Events and Visitor Economy branch of the Victorian Government and Tourism and Events Queensland, provided expert advice on design, contacts, analysis and reporting.

Download the full report