AC­CESS ALL AR­EAS

Travel ex­pe­ri­ences ev­ery­one can en­joy are gain­ing trac­tion the world over

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Escape - - FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS | ACCESSIBLE TRAVEL - TIANA TEMPLEMAN

Ionce dated a guy who was hot­ter than Chris Hemsworth and fun­nier than Wil An­der­son. He also hap­pened to use a wheel­chair to get around. Like many young cou­ples who still live at home, we de­cided to go away for the week­end. Big mis­take. Get­ting our sexy on was the last thing on our minds when we dis­cov­ered our “ro­man­tic ac­com­mo­da­tion” looked more like a nurs­ing home than a love nest.

Fast for­ward 25 years and much has changed when it comes to travel op­tions for peo­ple with a dis­abil­ity. It’s a good thing too. Aus­tralian travel re­search firm My Travel Re­search has found about one sixth of the global pop­u­la­tion live with some kind of dis­abil­ity. Given the world pop­u­la­tion is age­ing and liv­ing longer, ac­ces­si­ble travel looks set to grow.

Aus­tralia’s ac­ces­si­ble tourism sec­tor is worth about $10 bil­lion. This is on par with the value of the in­bound Chi­nese tourism mar­ket. And around 20 per cent of peo­ple with a dis­abil­ity say they would go on hol­i­day even more if they were aware of travel prod­ucts that met their needs.

If you think ac­ces­si­ble travel doesn’t ap­ply to you, don’t be so sure. My Travel Re­search also found that once peo­ple are aged over 60 there is a 50 per cent chance they’ll ex­pe­ri­ence dis­abil­ity, which means this is­sue is im­por­tant to ev­ery­one, not just those who now travel with spe­cial needs.

WHAT DOES AC­CES­SI­BLE TRAVEL MEAN?

Ac­ces­si­ble tourism es­sen­tially comes down to de­sign­ing travel ex­pe­ri­ences, prod­ucts and ser­vices that are ap­pro­pri­ate for ev­ery­one, re­gard­less of their level of abil­ity.

It’s also about more than trav­el­ling with a wheel­chair. Par­ents with chil­dren in prams, se­niors with lim­ited mo­bil­ity, peo­ple with hear­ing, vi­sion, and sen­sory pro­cess­ing is­sues and those with in­tel­lec­tual dis­abil­i­ties also need ac­cess to in­clu­sive tourism ex­pe­ri­ences.

Carolyn Childs, My Travel Re­search CEO, says it is not enough for tourism providers to sim­ply say they are ac­ces­si­ble. Or­gan­i­sa­tions need to put de­tailed ac­ces­si­ble tourism in­for­ma­tion on web­sites, ide­ally on the top bar, and tag it. Like other trav­ellers, peo­ple with a dis­abil­ity use the search func­tion when re­search­ing hol­i­days.

WHAT RE­SOURCES ARE AVAIL­ABLE?

If you’re won­der­ing what re­sources are avail­able for trav­ellers with spe­cial needs, there are cer­tainly more than there were 25 years ago. Travel ser­vice providers such as air­lines and air­ports are now re­quired by law to pro­vide ser­vices for peo­ple with a dis­abil­ity un­der the Dis­abil­ity Dis­crim­i­na­tion Act (1992). How­ever, in­stead of sim­ply com­ply­ing with le­gal re­quire­ments, many Aus­tralian tourism op­er­a­tors and or­gan­i­sa­tions are ac­tively driv­ing change.

Gold Coast Tourism has worked with ac­ces­si­ble travel ex­perts to de­velop a dis­abil­ity ac­cess state­ment and new in­clu­sive tourism ex­pe­ri­ences, while Des­ti­na­tion Mel­bourne has run an in­dus­try ac­ces­si­ble travel ed­u­ca­tion day.

In­clu­sive tourism is not just so­cially re­spon­si­ble, it is also a great busi­ness op­por­tu­nity for travel op­er­a­tors who are will­ing to give it a try, says Carolyn Childs. “Jervis Bay Wild lever­aged this op­por­tu­nity and it has turbo-charged its growth, mov­ing the com­pany from a sea­sonal few days a week busi­ness to one that is seven days a week.”

These and other pos­i­tive in­dus­try changes and in­clu­sive travel op­tions have been wel­comed by peo­ple with a dis­abil­ity and their fam­i­lies.

Julie Jones, the cre­ator of Have Wheel­chair Will Travel (have­wheelchair­will­travel.net), trav­els reg­u­larly with her fam­ily, in­clud­ing her son, Brae­den, who lives with cere­bral palsy, and her teenage daugh­ter, Amelia.

“Af­ter years of trav­el­ling, we’re thrilled to see many im­prove­ments in the tourism in­dus­try. That’s not to say there isn’t room for much greater change but over the years we’ve seen beach wheel­chairs, TrailRiders for bush walk­ing and other fa­cil­i­ties be­come widely avail­able.”

Ac­ces­si­bil­ity reg­u­la­tions and travel ex­per­tise vary through­out the world. How­ever, where there is a will there is al­most cer­tainly a way, al­though pa­tience can be re­quired on both sides. He­len Cordery, who works at EcoCamp Patagonia, has sound ad­vice for all trav­ellers with a dis­abil­ity, not just those trekking with Chimu Ad­ven­tures in Tor­res del Paine Na­tional Park.

“In­clu­sive travel is some­thing new in South Amer­ica and there may be times when staff or other guests need a hand in un­der­stand­ing your needs, so it is im­por­tant to speak up and make your voice heard. We are start­ing a con­ver­sa­tion but it goes two ways – we all need to take a mo­ment to lis­ten.”

HOL­I­DAYS FOR ALL

Ac­ces­si­ble ac­com­mo­da­tion is much eas­ier to find these days, with a choice of ho­tel rooms, apart­ments and even ad­ven­ture camps to suit every taste and bud­get. In­dus­try in­no­va­tion is also help­ing trav­ellers with a dis­abil­ity have a bet­ter hol­i­day.

Ac­corHo­tels is work­ing on “smart rooms” which use voice ac­ti­va­tion to con­trol lights, en­ter­tain­ment, cur­tains and other in-room tech­nol­ogy. Ac­com­mo­da­tion web­sites such as HomeAway now have a “wheel­chair friendly”’ search op­tion and Airbnb has more than 20 ac­ces­si­bil­ity fil­ters.

Spe­cial­ist travel agents and or­gan­i­sa­tions have also filled an im­por­tant gap in the mar­ket.

Travel With Spe­cial Needs (trav­el­with­spe­cial­needs.com.au) of­fers cus­tom pack­ages, deals and travel ser­vices, as well as ar­ti­cles about ev­ery­thing from con­ces­sions and carer rates to trav­el­ling with

WE ARE START­ING A CON­VER­SA­TION BUT IT GOES TWO WAYS – WE ALL NEED TO TAKE A MO­MENT TO LIS­TEN

epilepsy or a ser­vice dog. Plane travel has come a long way for wheel­chair users al­though there are still many pro­cesses which must be fol­lowed. In­for­ma­tion about these can be found on air­line web­sites.

Nav­i­gat­ing the process of fly­ing was one of Julie Jones’s big­gest learn­ing curves and her web­site is filled with help­ful ad­vice.

“It re­quires a lot of faith when you hand over a piece of equip­ment which is so es­sen­tial to your mo­bil­ity at your des­ti­na­tion. It is al­ways a re­lief to see Brae­den’s wheel­chair ar­rive in one piece when we land,” she says.

WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO GET STARTED?

If you are con­tem­plat­ing your first ac­ces­si­ble trip, book­ing a stay­ca­tion in your own city is a good way to find out what works for you. If you would like to ven­ture fur­ther afield, a driv­ing hol­i­day can be eas­ier than fly­ing as you can bring any nec­es­sary equip­ment with you. Wher­ever you de­cide to go, a well-lo­cated ho­tel which al­lows you to walk or wheel to restau­rants and at­trac­tions can help save money on trans­port and make your hol­i­day eas­ier.

If you are re­al­is­tic about what is and isn’t pos­si­ble and pro­vide de­tailed in­for­ma­tion about your needs, it will be eas­ier for peo­ple to meet them. If things don’t go per­fectly, look on the bright side: you’ll be just like every other trav­eller. Noth­ing ever goes ex­actly to plan on hol­i­day.

PATAGONIA

WHITSUNDAY IS­LANDS

VIC­TO­RIA PARKS

PIC­TURES: TI­MOTHY DHALLEINE, EMIL VEJLENS/CARDRONA ALPINE RE­SORT, JULIE JONES, PARKS VIC­TO­RIA

All-ter­rain wheel­chairs help trav­ellers con­quer ter­rain rang­ing from the arid steppes of Patagonia to Aus­tralian beach coun­try; zoom down the slopes with the Cardrona Adap­tive Snow Sports pro­gram near Queen­stown; Brae­den Jones ex­plores White­haven Beach.

NEW ZEALAND

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