As many businesses across the travel industry continue to prioritise accessible tourism, there remains a common problem that many are unaware of how to better cater towards travellers with disabilities.
In fact, the wide scope of accessible travel can be quite overwhelming as it’s not a one-size-fits-all undertaking that can be quickly catered to. This is what Peta Hooke, a disability advocate who speaks openly about her life with cerebal palsy on her show The I Can’t Stand Podcast, said is quite understandable for members of the industry.
“I would say that I understand the overwhelm because when it comes to disability, we have so many varied needs and desires when it comes to travel,” Hooke told Travel Weekly.
“It’s really important for them to not feel like they should have the answers and to at least employ a disability consultant that can help them through the process. I can’t overstate the value of employing a disabled person.”
Hooke went on to say that she understands employing a disabled person is obviously not always an option, but that people within the tourism space should listen to disabled people’s voices.
“If people do feel overwhelmed, there [are] so many avenues to educate yourself. And do please remember that we’re one in five people in the population. We’re a big market that’s not being properly serviced by the industry.”
A sector where the travel industry has quite some way to go regarding accessible travel is aviation, Hooke told Travel Weekly. The bathrooms in planes are not accessible for her and this is something that has hindered her ability to travel.
She has to ask herself how long she will be able to hold on for when considering a tourism destination. Hooke also highlighted that damage to her wheelchair is a major worry.
“Speaking from my perspective, the anxiety that my wheelchair is going to get damaged in transit is a really big issue.”
On organising her own travel, Hooke said that she hasn’t used a travel agent for her personal travel for some time, which is also a reflection of the wider industry and its progress towards making tourism more accessible.
“Based on my own experience, I wouldn’t feel safe enough to know that I would be able to give all control to the travel agent, I would still feel like I would need to do most of it myself because so many things kind of get missed,” she said.
“There are so many things in the industry that aren’t properly set up or thinking about disabled customers engaging with the tourism industry.”
But where the industry has catered well towards travellers with disabilities is facilitating travellers in wheelchair go to the beach.
“I think probably the new accessible mats that they put on the beach is really fantastic,” Hooke said.
“I know that there’s one in Noosa that’s recently been placed there and that allows so many people to be able to actually get onto the sand.
“As you might appreciate, looking at a beach is lovely, but actually being able to sit on it is another thing.”
Going forward, Hooke has asked that companies within the tourism space start to employ people with disabilities.
“I’m sitting here talking to you with a master’s degree of tourism. I did my thesis in accessible tourism and when wheeled out of university, nobody would employ me for my expertise, so I had to pivot.”
Hooke said that her dream job was to work for Melbourne Airport, or any airport around Australia.
Learn more about Peta Hooke here.
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