Accessibility within tourism
A personal perspective by work placement student Amy Holloran
Despite legislation, there are still many people who face challenges due to a significant lack of awareness of the need for greater accessibility within destinations, attractions and other tourism facilities.
I have been fortunate to work within a Charity called Revitalise Respite Holidays, which specialises in providing respite holiday care for disabled people and their carers. Revitalise firmly believe that disabled people should have the same rights, freedoms, responsibilities and quality of life as those without disabilities. As a student currently studying International Tourism Management at the University of Chester, I found the experience I gained from my time here invaluable within my studies of tourism and destination management. It enabled me to gain an insight into a different aspect of tourism.
I was able to gain extensive experience at their centre in Southport, working in reception, excursions, entertainment, housekeeping and even catering. This experience enabled me to fully understand and begin to appreciate the growing need for increased accessibility within tourism in UK destinations. So often this is overlooked or misunderstood.
Of course, it is important to stress the need for a tourism destination to be fully wheelchair accessible, however there are also many other accessibility issues to consider. I had the opportunity to discuss some of these issues with one of the guests enjoying a stay at Revitalise, Toni-Marie, who is a wheelchair user herself, and shares her own insight in a monthly blog (https://revitalise.org.uk/blog/march-topic-month/).
Tourism destinations and businesses need to consider more ways in which they can make their facilities more accessible. Having spent some time on the excursions and day trips with the guests at Revitalise, I now appreciate the need for accessible changing facilities and space for care provision. There are many simple ways you can make visits more enjoyable for people with disabilities:
- Catering establishments need to understand and be ready to assist with more complex dietary requirements.
- Consider heights of tables and service counters when designing your facilities to make them more wheelchair friendly.
- Produce an accessibility guide so it’s easier for people with disabilities to asses for themselves whether a place is accessible for them
- Visitor attractions might consider running dedicated sessions or separate times specifically tailored towards people with disabilities
- Regularly train staff and remind them that many disabilities are hidden disabilities. Ensure they feel comfortable dealing with people with disabilities.
- People with visual impairments may need support to read labels, prices and menus. Try to offer visitor information in different formats such as large text, sign language, subtitles etc.
Fortunately, accessibility within tourism is now nationally recognised and organisations all across the country are doing their best to adapt their services to meet with the 2010 Equality Act, but there remains so much more to do.
The experience I have gained from working at Revitalise is something that I will carry forward with me in my future work, as I hope to work within the tourism industry someday in the near future. I strongly encourage anybody who has an interest in tourism to consider volunteering opportunities with this Charity as it provides a unique insight into the barriers that those with disabilities still face in tourist destinations, and if my experience is anything to go by, you will simply love it!
Amy Holloran https://revitalise.org.uk/volunteer/