The world is your oyster with accessible travel

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Accessible tourism means that people with disability are able to participate in and enjoy travel both inside Australia and abroad.

Key points:

  • Accessible tourism means that people with disability are able to participate in and enjoy travel
  • People with disability may need to overcome additional barriers when travelling
  • Preparation is key, make sure you are prepared for anything unexpected

​What is accessible tourism/travel?

According to the United Nations, it is estimated that globally there are over one billion people living with disability. And people with disability enjoy holidaying and travelling too. However they often face additional barriers.

At its heart, accessible tourism aims to make sure that tourist destinations, services and products are accessible to everyone, including those who live with a disability.

Accessible tourism is always evolving with the needs of people with disability, it can also have different meanings for each person and organisation.

To make sure people with disability are able to enjoy an accessible holiday the barriers they face need to be considered. Reducing these barriers may involve finding new ways to do things, preparing for the unexpected or for travel operators to be aware of what they can do to be more accessible for travellers with disability.

Barriers to travel and tourism

Barriers that need to be considered when planning travel or while travelling can include:

  • Inaccessible websites, booking services, information or related websites. Online and paper resources may not be accessible for a person with vision impairment or may not include information about accessible services, while a service offered over the phone may not be accessible to people who are Deaf or those who need more time to process information and prefer it in a written format
  • Lack of accessible airports or transfer services. These days, most transit locations, like airports, will generally have some kind of service that helps someone with disability transfer through the airport, collect luggage or navigate. However, this may not be available everywhere and may leave someone with disability in a situation where transit becomes more difficult
  • A lack of staff training. In some locations, some staff may not be trained in or aware of the accessibility needs of someone with disability, which can make it more difficult for a traveller and even lead to a negative experience of discrimination
  • Accessible hotel rooms, restaurants, shops, toilets and public places may not always be available. While other locations, like beaches, may simply be too hard to access for someone with disability, particularly someone who uses mobility aids or a wheelchair
  • Not being able to access the same medical care or having to travel with sensitive equipment

These barriers may come about due to a lack of local knowledge about disability, different definitions of the term ‘accessible’ or simply because of different attitudes towards disability.

Overcoming barriers as a traveller

There are a number of ways that someone with disability can prepare themselves in order to limit the barriers faced when travelling:

  • Make sure you are prepared for anything unexpected. This could include making sure you have enough medication in your hand luggage, having your wheelchair serviced before you go away or knowing who to contact if you need assistance with supplies or repairs at your holiday destination
  • Make sure you have checked that where you’re visiting is accessible for your needs. The term ‘accessible’ may mean different things depending on where you are in the world so be sure to clarify, for example, if your accommodation has a ramp and level access or the cruise liner has safety and evacuation procedures that don’t rely on you hearing a warning, if you have a hearing impairment
  • Make sure any travel insurance covers any unexpected medical expenses or any equipment that you bring with you. It’s better to have it and not need it than to not have it and need it
  • Provide feedback to tour operators, hotels, airlines, cruise operators or other organisations that you engage with as this can help them understand accessibility better

Read more about travelling with disability or planning an accessible holiday on our topic page.

Addressing barriers as an organisation

Accessible tourism and travel also benefit organisations and businesses, here are some things that you can do to make your organisation or tourist destination more accessible for travellers with disability:

  • Make sure your general information is provided in a way that is accessible for people with disability. This could include having it available online, in large print, braille or easy read
  • When updating things like fixtures and technology make sure they are accessible for people with disability. For example, if you are upgrading televisions in accommodation make sure they have closed captions so that people who are Deaf or hard of hearing can use them
  • Provide different booking methods. This could include options such as using interpreter services like the National Relay Service for people with a hearing impairment or taking bookings over the phone for people who need some extra assistance or who are not confident using online services
  • Make small changes to the way you provide a service. For example, if you are a restaurant you could make the menu more accessible by having braille copies available. You could also create an audio file that can be played on a phone, tablet or other devices
  • Make sure that you get feedback from guests with disability, their carers and families. By taking their feedback on board you can make sure that your services are accessible and find any changes you might need to make
  • Provide clear information about the accessibility of your business or organisation and be prepared to answer questions from potential travellers
  • Have photos available to supply to travellers of things like bedrooms, bathrooms, ramps, and car parks. A traveller may request these to confirm what you’re telling them, just to be sure your business or accommodation will meet their needs

What would make a holiday accessible for you? Tell us in the comments below. 

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