Significant advances on the road to easy access for all
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 visitvictoria.com (look for accessible Victoria and accessible Melbourne), southaustralia.com/ accessibletravel.aspx (where to stay and lists of specialist disability travel agents), queenslandholidays.com.au (with specific information for all 13 tourism regions) and sydneyforall.com (an awardwinning Destination NSWsite).
Sites such as disabledholiday.info and travelguides.org 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.