Disabled Travellers: Second Class Travellers?

By | Category: Travel rumblings

Dimitrios Buhalis, mentioned before in CD-Traveller as one of the modern thinkers about tourism, has just edited a book – “Accessible Tourism” – (he writes books like we have hot dinners!) in conjunction with Simon Darcy about the holidaymaker and traveller who is disabled. Were you aware that there are 650 million disabled people in the world? And over 80 million in the EU?
The authors claim that there are insufficient services and facilities for the disabled. Tourism and travel related businesses aren’t doing enough for them yet, as the population ages, the number will only increase. That they are still treated as second class comes from three stories, one of which appeared in the national press a couple of weeks ago. You might remember that Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson and other disabled athletes were returning from New Zealand got as far as Dubai and then many were left stranded because there were insufficient wheelchairs. According to a BBC Radio Wales report, there was just one wheelchair for the 35 athletes to use; all of theirs being in the hold of the Emirates flight. Needless to say both the airport and the airline blamed each other. Tanni said that using someone else’s chair was like being asked to wear someone else’s clothes.
Oddly enough exactly the same comment was made to me by another lady who travelled to and from Heathrow. On her first trip abroad from Washington where she is a disability rights advisor to numerous big companies and the US government, she was wheel chair lifted into the plane using the lifts and doors that are used to load the meal trolleys. This was in full sight of other passengers and in the open air. Not only was she upset about this treatment, she felt humiliated.
At present I am on a ferry in search of the northern lights. On board is a lady in a wheelchair whose husband is manfully pushing her up snowy inclines. No problem to them; they’re quite happy. But she has to enter the ferry by the cargo doors as the steep slope of the gangplank precludes using the wheelchair.
Buhalis was – and still maybe – involved in a project called Ossate, an attempt to harmonise websites so that they become more disabled-friendly. With this book he has publically voiced some of the problems he has encountered over the years in trying to get agreement on change.

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