In the Media

SA man Scott Crowley proves anyone can push themselves to feed their travel bug

By Matt Smith | Adelaide Advertiser

His passion for travel pushed him to a degree in tourism and business management at the University of South Australia. But an accident in 2002 changed the way he would travel for the rest of his life.

Wanting a break from his studies Mr Crowley headed to Whistler — a Canadian town hosting one of the largest ski resorts in North America — for a working holiday.

“I went over there and I had a literal break,” Mr Crowley told the Sunday Mail.

“I had snowboarded for about eight or nine years before I did it. I knew what I was doing but it was just one of those things — went too high, too far, off a jump and landed back first on a rock.”

Scott Crowley with his wife and two children on a walkway by the beach. Scott is in his wheelchair and has his arms around his family
Scott and Clair Crowley with their children Oliver and Maddy at Seacliff beach. Picture: Bianca De Marchi

 

Mr Crowley sustained a L1-L2 incomplete spinal injury, meaning he now uses a wheelchair. He knew his life would never be the same, but he also vowed it would not stop him from travelling.

Fast forward to 2008 and Mr Crowley had met his wife Clair and the pair embarked on a two-month trip to Europe, taking in London, Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague, Budapest and Zurich, where they “encountered just about every physical and attitudinal barrier a wheelchair user could imagine”.

This included being unable to find information about accessible transport, unaccommodating customer service staff and broken elevators.

“We went to a travel agent, we had it all teed up, we thought there would be no hiccups and no dramas. And there were hiccups first off the bat,” Mr Crowley said.

Scott Crowley in a wheelchair on a beach boardwalk, with vegetation around the outside of the walk and the rocks and sea behind him
Scott Crowley on holiday in Kangaroo Island

 

“The first hotel, in Paris, had a massive staircase and a tiny elevator with a cage, not big enough to fit a wheelchair in. It was a beautiful hotel but it was old and it just didn’t have the facilities.

“Through the rest of the trip there were just hurdles everywhere and we came back and thought there has just got to be an easier way to do this. The information (about things like access at the hotel) is just very difficult to find because people just don’t talk about it.”

The pair established an inclusive tourism consultancy firm called Push Adventures.

This month the company, with friend Linda Anderson, will launch a new website for travellers like themselves; The Good Scout Travel Co.

Mrs Crowley said they thought about organising group trips. “But ideally we want people to be independent and travel their own way,” she said.

“Just because we are a family that uses a wheelchair does not mean we want to holiday with other families that use wheelchairs. We want people to have their own independence.”

Mr Crowley said establishing an inclusive tourism offering was not complicated.

“A lot of people get bogged down in procedure, and government standards and regulations but, to be honest, we just want to participate,” he said.

“We don’t really care if your ramp is one point blah blah or so many centimetres high we just want to … participate.”

Mr Crowley, who has recently been named by Red Bull as an ambassador for the Wings for Life Adelaide fun run raising money for spinal cord injury, said as part of an active family there were no activities that were off limits in terms of what he wants to do.

Scott Crowley competing in a para- triathalon - he is in a speed wheelchair with a helmet on and a third wheel in front.
Scott Crowley participating in paratriathlon.

“We want to do whatever is on offer,” he said. “I haven’t bungee jumped but I have skydived, water skied, sit skied, ocean water swum, I’m even thinking about shark cage diving. To be honest the majority of service providers would be willing and happy to accommodate but there just does not seem to be much awareness or confidence in the industry to cater for the needs of people with mobility limitations.”

He said tourism operators were squandering a huge opportunity.

“When I travel, I have two kids and my wife, and we travel as a group. And a lot of times we travel with friends and family. So if it is not accessible for me the whole group is not coming,” he said. “If you make it easy for me, you make it easy for everyone.

“I went dolphin kayaking with work a few years ago. Nowhere on their website did it say that those with a physical disability could go, but when you call them up they say ‘we are happy to accommodate, no problem’ and it was a great day. We find this … all too often.

“I am pretty outgoing in how I go about things but there are other people that are not so confident. They still want to participate but they don’t have that confidence to try new things or they have had really bad experience in the past.”

Access all areas: Operators get smart

By Matt Smith

SAVVY tourism operators are starting to realise the benefits of offering top-class experiences for people with disabilities.

But as more businesses are embracing “inclusive tourism”, advocates argue more work needs to be done.

SA Tourism Industry Council Shaun de Bruyn told the Sunday Mailtourism businesses are repositioning themselves to enable a broader range of consumers to access their services.

“The trend in the tourism industry is that the best tourism businesses now see accessibility as a broad mainstream opportunity,” Mr de Bruyn said. “It is not just about physical access, but access for all customers.

“Businesses are seeing economic benefits with the marketplace ripe for growth.”

Mr de Bruyn said both hard and soft infrastructure are important when delivering tourism services.

Scott Crowley, in his wheelchair next to a canal in Venice Italy, there are buildings behind him and boats on the canal
Scott Crowley on holiday in Venice in 2011

“Traditionally we have focused on hard infrastructure and now more is being focused on the soft infrastructure that includes things like training so business and service staff can better understand and deliver on visitor needs and wants,” he said.

Dignity Party MP Kelly Vincent said while attitudes have shifted slightly, there’s still not enough across the board recognition of the benefits of making businesses accessible.

“Modifications or design for accessibility are still too often seen as cost burdens, rather than investments in making businesses usable by a much wider customer base,” Ms Vincent said.

“Simple, easy-to-navigate websites just make sense. For physically disabled people, having detailed illustrative photographs of hotel rooms on a website can help us spend our money on a room we know from the outset will meet our needs.”

SA’s Commissioner for Equal Opportunity Niki Vincent said complaints about the provision of goods and services to people with disability were on the rise.

“How a business treats people with a disability can have a clear impact on a business’s bottom line,” Dr Vincent said.

“A recent Human Rights Commission study found that around one in four people persuaded others from using a particular business or service because of that organisation’s poor reputation in dealing with people with a disability.

“While one in three were more inclined to use a business or service because they were supportive of people with a disability.”