Friday, 23 December 2011
Road to Nowhere: Holiday Travel for People with Disabilities
As Australians set off around the country to see family and loved ones, many people with disabilities are being left behind without accessible travel options.
Air travel is notoriously difficult for people with disabilities, and finding an accessible hotel or motel is near impossible. Road trips are out of the question when few of the public toilets along transport routes are accessible.
“Everyone knows the holiday season is a stressful time of year, but when you are a person with disabilities you practically need PhD-level research skills to find accessible travel options,” said Dignity for Disability MLC Kelly Vincent.
“At busy times of the year, travel becomes so difficult that many people with disabilities just can’t be bothered, and that means they miss out.”
Many Australian airlines have a policy of only carrying two people who use wheelchairs on each flight, leaving other wheelchair users behind. Disability Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes this year labelled the practice “airline apartheid”.
Other modes of transport are not much friendlier, with long haul buses and coaches usually furnished with a large set of steps and narrow aisles, and absolutely no provisions for hearing or vision impaired passengers.
“Australia’s tourism and travel industry is not prioritising people with disabilities,” said Ms Vincent.
“This not only affects the quality of life for Australians with disabilities, it also means the dollars that would be spent by this niche market remain in pockets.”
“Accessibility could be highlighted by including it in the standards for hotel and motel star ratings, and through consumers choosing to support businesses which make a point of being accessible.”
Ms Vincent also believes better Government regulation and education of the tourism and travel industry could be effective.
“I have written to the Federal Minister for Tourism, urging him to make travel for people with disabilities a priority in his portfolio. I also asked that he consider legislating for a minimum number of accessible rooms in larger hotel and motels,” said Ms Vincent.