Disabled Tourism

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At Ulm in Germany a 70-meter cathedral has been equipped with a lift to the highest level primarily to take tourists with reduced mobility right up to the top, step, by step. This amply illustrates the tourism industry’s growing global recognition of the disabled as an important consumer group.


Why should I be aware of this?

But a lot more needs to be done.

As on one side a generation of permanently disabled people is getting increased opportunities of equal employment, education and leisure, the needs for disabled tourists are also being taken notice of.

There is already an established tourism market for senior citizens. People with disabilities have the same motivation to travel but face many barriers which need to be attended to and removed.

So far the need for Accessible tourism for the disabled is recognized mainly by the economically developed countries such as the USA, Canada, United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, Hong Kong, China, Singapore; Australia and New Zealand.

Worldwide there are 650 million people with disabilities who face travel barriers such as transport difficulties, inadequate services, inaccessible destinations and shortage of people willing to help. Other problems include boarding airplanes, finding buses, taxis, hotel rooms and restaurants.

All about disabled tourism

A Growing market segment

Disabled tourists make up an important market segment which the industry cannot ignore. And similar to all market segments this also has its sets of needs, the most important among them being the need for information, addressing social problems, problems of additional cost, easy accessibility to the destinations and finally the right to have a good time.

Social issues

One common deterrent to disabled tourism is the social and cultural constraints, like attitudinal problems, especially from people in the host countries. This is a major problem confronting the disabled tourist and calls for special attention by the tourism industry. This would not only ease things for the tourists but would go a long way in promoting the concerned country's social relations.

Support needs

Support needs of many disabled tourists, like wheelchairs, crutches, orthopedic shoes etc make travel costly. It has been estimated that tourism for the disabled are 30 to 200 percent more costly than that of the physically fit people.

Poor information dissemination

There is still poor information dissemination to this target group. It is felt that lack of adequate information is a major reason why disabled tourism has not developed to its potential. People with disability need much more information to plan their travel. Traditionally word-of-mouth from friends or relatives had been the main source of information. The advent of the Internet has made things somewhat easier. Information and communication barriers, because of language differences in foreign countries, are more compounded for disabled tourists.

It should be mandatory for tourism sites to clearly mention the facilities made available for disabled tourists. Even if certain facilities are not provided, such information too should be available to help in planning the travel.

Tailored transportation

On account of anti-discrimination legislations, developed countries have taken several measures to provide improved transportation facilities to the disabled. However, this facility is lacking in the less developed nations. Major problem remains in the area of air transport.

Disability Rights Legislation

Disability Acts in various countries such as the Tourism and the Disability Discrimination Act in the UK and Americans with Disabilities Act, have helped remove many barriers to travel. Any service provider, including holiday accommodation, tourist attractions, restaurants and transport providers, has duties under these Acts to make reasonable adjustments to enable disabled persons to avail of their services.

Under the Act, the service providers have the scope of changing layouts, improving signage and providing appropriate staff training to accommodate disabled tourists, all within their resources. Service providers are not required to make changes beyond their means.

Reasonable changes

Following are some examples of reasonable changes the providers can make:

  • Announcement registration and guest information in large prints
  • Providing Braille version of at least one copy of the fixed menu
  • Providing phones with large buttons
  • Providing portable vibrating fire alarms for those hard of hearing
  • Providing alternative low reception desk for wheelchair users
  • Providing disability-awareness training to staff members

According to research reports, disabled people are known to be loyal customers who repeatedly use services they are satisfied with.

Countries promoting disabled tourism

Today important tourist sites and public places in major countries of the world are accessible to wheelchair users and increasing numbers of hotels and restaurants have tailored their services to accommodate people with disabilities.

  • The United Kingdom offers several benefits to handicapped tourists. Several organizations and charities have come up with special facilities for disabled people. Visit Travel and holiday contacts UK Directory for a range of organizations and charities that offer advice and information to disabled people about travel and holidays.
  • Visit Disabled Tours & Vacation Packages DisabledTours & Vacation Packages in USA

  • New Zealand offers various facilities for mobility restricted travel. See Ability 2 Travel, Accessible Kiwi Tours and Adventure New Zealand New Zealand Holiday heaven for details.

However, a recent report found many faults with access tourism for people with disabilities in New Zealand [1] and another discusses why New Zealand should be sitting up and taking notice of access tourism [2]

  • Tourism for the disabled got a boost in South Africa with the introduction of Universal Accessibility Grading Scheme by the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa (TGCSA) to encourage the hospitality sector to address the challenges faced by all disabled persons. See Tourism Grading Council Tourism Grading Council
  • For making travel plans Africa, refer to Disability Tourism in Africa
  • The Israeli Government has made special efforts to provide all possible facilities to disabled tourists. A number of tourist sites throughout the country have been made accessible and disabled tourists are encouraged to visit them. Special facilities have been made to reach disabled people to the top level of Massada (Metsada) fortress near the Dead Sea. A special zone has been created where visually handicapped people can touch and feel the surroundings. Halls of the Knights in Acre (Akko) the esplanade and amphitheater in Caesarea (Keysariya) are some of the other sites made accessible for disabled persons.
  • Hong Kong provides many facilities for barrier-free travel. A special bus is provided by the Government for tourists in need of wheelchairs. Refer to

Public Transport for People with Disablities and Hong Kong Access Guide for Disabled Visitors

  • Steps are being taken since 1997 to provide enhanced facilities to handicapped tourists in Paris. In 2001, an official label was designated for wheelchair accessible sights, and wheelchair accessibility is available at the lower levels of the Eiffel Tower. Centre Pompidou and the Louvre are also wheelchair accessible.

Adventure tourism

Recent war veterans have opened the doors to adventure travel for the disabled. A number of adventure tourism centers for the disabled have opened up in Australia, USA and Canada. It is also an important and growing element of the domestic tourism market in the UK, particularly in Scotland and Wales.

Internet Resources

You can avail the following Internet resources to help make your trip much easier.

For information on access in the area of recreation, parks and tourism visit the National Center on Accessibility Visit Disability Information and Resources which specializes in accessible tours throughout the world.

See Also


  • Barrier Free Travel
  • Holidays for the Disabled
  • Disabled Tourism
  • Accessable Travel
  • Adventure Tourism
  • Travelling Made Easy
  • Facilities for the Disabled