Universal Design Conference: TravAbility

Bill Forrester speaking about accessible tourism at the Universal Design ConferenceTe Ao Tangata – Inclusive by Design was New Zealand’s 3rd annual Universal Design Conference, and sponsored by Be. Accessible, LifeMark and CCS Disability Action. The conference focused on housing, neighbourhood, transport and tourism.

Speaking on accessible tourism was Bill Forrester. Born and raised in Melbourne, Australia, Bill founded TravAbility in 2007 with the mission to “be agents of change; to inspire people who have never travelled before to do so, and to inspire others to do more. To encourage all cultures of the world to see disability as an integral part of life, and to provide the motivation and tools to the tourism industry to allow them to create accessible environments that enable inclusion in an economically sustainable way”.

In Bill’s keynote speech, he spoke about the economic opportunities and practical benefits of enabling accessible tourism. He mentioned that people with disabilities travel at a slightly higher percentage than the general population. It is also not homogenous - "the only minority group that anyone can join in an instant". There are "perceptions that people with disabilities live below the poverty line. It's not true". The baby boomer generation in particular have a spending power of $8.4 trillion in USA and control 50% of tourism expenditure. This generation is retiring, and don't take no for an answer!

Part of the issue however, is that it is difficult to find marketing material on accessible tourism, and a lack of information on what is accessible to allow the traveller to plan the full journey. "Travel is all about systems. The journey has to be integrated". For example, adaptive saddles and accessible harnessed can only be distributed and work effectively if the whole tourism industry is involved.

"People with disabilities will not venture into the unknown because the risks are too high". And with the opportunities for tourism operators being so far, it's about time accessible tourism was mainstreamed! Lonely Planet has recognised this, and developed an accessible phrasebook for tourists to communicate their needs in the local language.

There is a growing global community of accessible tourism operators who have recognised this need. Be. Accessible has been working with tourism operators, visitor attractions and hotels across New Zealand to become as accessible as possible. Wellington’s Te Papa Museum for example, is Gold rated and constantly seeking ways to improve accessibility. Oyster Travel operates as an accessible travel agency in New Zealand and Making Trax provides adaptive equipment to adventure tourism operators. Be.'s Marketing Assistant travelled to India in early 2018, which was organised by New Delhi based accessible travel agency Planet Abled, who organised accessible accommodation, transport, tour guides, and providing information on accessible attractions.