The West

Travel challenges the disabled
Travel challenges the disabled

Disabled travellers go on safari in Kenya, explore the mountain ruins of Machu Picchu and bungee jump in New Zealand.

But while roaming the world has become easier, hurdles still remain for those with a disability, a tourism expert says.

Bill Forrester, who co-runs Travability, a travel resource for people with a disability, says the biggest issue those with a disability face is a lack of information about accessible destinations, accommodation and transport.

"Research is absolutely critical for those with a disability, but finding the right information is often difficult," he says.

Forrester became involved in the inclusive tourism sector in 2007 when his mainstream travel agency was asked to organise a tour for a group of disabled travellers to attend a regatta in Toronto, Canada.

He was so frustrated with the lack of support from the general travel industry in regards to accessible travel arrangements that later that year, together with Deborah Davis, he decided to do something about it and form Travability.

The pair now help arrange trips for travellers with all sorts of disabilities - from those suffering from diabetes or hearing loss to travellers with mobility devices that use wheelchairs, canes, walkers or guide dogs.

"Someone who's had a hip replacement, for example, doesn't want to go to a place that has a thousand steps. They want to know they can get on and off ferries and buses and don't have to drag their case around for miles."

Forrester believes creating accessible tourist destinations, cruise ships, ground transportation and accommodation is not charity but makes good business sense.

The inclusive tourism sector is a major group in the tourism market, representing over 11 per cent of the total tourism spend, he says.

Plus the impact of the retiring baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) on the inclusive travel sector is significant.

Over 40 per cent of baby boomers will be retiring with some form of disability, raising the total value of the inclusive tourism sector to over 25 per cent of the market by 2020, Forrester says.

A 2011 report prepared by the World Health Organization and the World Bank states that about 15 per cent of the world's population suffers from some type of substantial physical or mental disability.

The West Australian

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