Martin Heng, Accessible Travel Manager & Editorial Adviser, Lonely Planet (Australia):
“It is important to remember that people with mobility issues are the most visible sector of the disability community but by far not the only members of that community. The main categories are mobility, sight, hearing and cognitive, such as acquired brain injuries or autism. But then you can take it a step further and talk about people who suffer from allergies, and food allergies in particular, are also on the disability spectrum. So the categories within the disability sector are huge.
“The idea of what is accessible is a very broad term, and what is accessible for one person may not be for another, even though their injuries or diagnoses are the same. I am a very good example of that. My brother and I are both C4 quadriplegics, but my brother has no movement below his neck, whereas I can ambulate indoors with a pair of crutches or a walking frame. That means our needs are completely different, even though our condition can be described as pretty much the same. So, you can’t rely on someone saying ‘oh yes, we have accessible rooms’. It means almost nothing actually”.
Julià Montero Ortega, founder of our supplier, Barcelona Zero Limits:
“When we started our company, we wanted to not just talk about accessibility, but about being inclusive in tourism. Because accessibility is a concept that is about buildings. About putting ramps, extra handles and so on. However, I prefer the term ‘inclusive’ in tourism. So, if a hotel or activity is inclusive, this means that it can be enjoyed by everyone. It is not only for people with disabilities. Because when you seek out an ‘accessible’ activity, it isn’t always the best option. Because it is just been created for people with disabilities, doesn’t mean that it is the best activity or hotel. They are two different concepts – we need to move from accessibility to inclusivity”.
“If you use the concept of ‘disability’ in a product, it is blind marketing really. Because it is a negative concept. Disability activities, cultural visits and so on. No, this is wrong. It is not necessary to use ‘disability’ or ‘handicap’ or any other word, but the most important thing to understand is that I am just a customer. I would choose a hotel because it is beautiful rather than because it has a ramp instead of steps. I can work out a way of handling the steps, or the hotel can help me, but really I would really prefer to enjoy the building”.
Fiona Smart co-founder of our supplier Mas Pelegri, a superb sports hotel in Girona Spain:
“So many businesses don’t really understand disabilities, or elderly people, who need very different things than other guests. So, you can’t take a customised approach, like on booking websites such as booking.com. I hate those, because you can’t chat with the guest. If they go through a generic booking website, then we don’t get their details until they have paid, and even then we often don’t get all their needs. So, it is really important to have direct contact with the guest, so that you can understand all their access issues, before they book.”
Brian Seaman, accessible tourism expert, who worked at leading charity, Tourism for All UK for 19 years:
“Tourism businesses need to remember that accessibility isn’t all about wheelchairs, but also about sensory disabilities, learning disabilities and particular needs such as medical conditions – and try and cater for all these needs as much as they can, given their resources.”