Sig­nif­i­cant ad­vances on the road to easy ac­cess for all

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - MERRY KIRK­WOOD

THE chal­lenges con­fronting dis­abled and el­derly trav­ellers are a concern for na­tions with rapidly age­ing pop­u­la­tions.

Al­most four mil­lion Aus­tralians have a dis­abil­ity, ac­cord­ing to the Aus­tralian Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion, which pre­dicts that by 2050, half the peo­ple older than 55 will have dif­fi­culty with mo­bil­ity, hear­ing or vi­sion. Some sec­tors of the tourism in­dus­try are al­ready seek­ing to cater for such hol­i­day­mak­ers un­der an um­brella of re­search, in­for­ma­tion and ser­vices called Ac­ces­si­ble Travel.

Des­ti­na­tion NSW, for ex­am­ple, fo­cuses on the needs of the ‘‘easy ac­cess’’ group, which cov­ers se­niors (who may pre­fer ramps to stairs), those with a phys­i­cal or sen­sory dis­abil­ity (in­clud­ing the wheelchair­bound, blind and deaf), and fam­i­lies us­ing prams.

Leg­is­la­tion re­gard­ing pro­vi­sion of suit­able ac­cess for all has been ad hoc, vary­ing across re­gions and coun­tries, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult for trav­ellers with spe­cial re­quire­ments to as­sess the suitabil­ity of des­ti­na­tions.

Ear­lier this year the fed­eral gov­ern­ment in­tro­duced min­i­mum ac­cess re­quire­ments for build­ings and fa­cil­i­ties, which will make a sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence for trav­ellers with a range of needs. State tourism web­sites of­fer de­tailed ad­vice; these in­clude vis­itvic­to­ (look for ac­ces­si­ble Vic­to­ria and ac­ces­si­ble Mel­bourne), southaus­ ac­ces­si­ble­travel.aspx (where to stay and lists of spe­cial­ist dis­abil­ity travel agents), queens­land­hol­i­ (with spe­cific in­for­ma­tion for all 13 tourism re­gions) and syd­ney­ (an award­win­ning Des­ti­na­tion NSWsite).

Sites such as dis­abled­hol­i­ and trav­el­ also of­fer valu­able prac­ti­cal tips for trav­ellers with spe­cial needs. On an in­ter­na­tional level, the UN World Tourism Or­gan­i­sa­tion’s 2005 res­o­lu­tion Ac­ces­si­ble Tourism for All serves as a com­mon, but un­for­tu­nately not yet fully achieved, goal.

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