Surely in 2019 equal access to travel for people living with a disability shouldn’t be this difficult. Yesterday I read two stories highlighting the extraordinary challenges faced by two people living with a disability trying to do what most of us take for granted. As a society we can and should be doing better!

Legally blind woman Rachael Leahcar denied Uber ride in Adelaide because of her guide dog

Flying to Canberra, Qantas made this disability advocate leave her wheelchair behind

1 in 5 Australians identify as living with a disability. Many have challenges with mobility related to either their disability or the impact of aging. With the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) encouraging people with a disability to take control of their lives and participate and engage where and when they choose, the desire to travel will only increase. Similarly the much anticipated aging population is now a reality and many businesses will no doubt be starting to feel the impact of the changing needs of their customers.

Surely it makes good business sense to prepare for these changing needs and adapt systems, processes and facilities to cater for these members of our society and not ignore the growing demand and potential revenue associated with this cohort.

A comprehensive study on accessible tourism in Victoria, Queensland and Australia was released in 2018, completed by Tourism Research Australia, in partnership with Tourism, Events and Visitor Economy branch of the Victorian Government, and Tourism and Events Queensland.

The research provided an update on the estimate of the size of the accessible market in Australia and, for the first time, for Victoria:

  • The estimated size of the current accessible tourism sector for overnight and/or day trip travel within Australia is around 1.3 million individuals.
  • The estimated annual expenditure by Australian travellers with a disability (both overnight and day trip) is approximately $3.2 billion annually.
  • Many people with a disability need to travel with a carer, therefore a multiplier of 2.45 (overnight) or 2.62 (day trips) needs to be applied. By this measure, 14 per cent of the Australian population (an estimated 3.4 million people) has need of accessible tourism experiences and services for an overnight and/or day trip. The multiplier of those travelling with a person with a disability means the true value of the sector could be as high as $8.0 billion.
  • Travellers with a disability who have taken a domestic trip (overnight and/or day trip) represent seven per cent (349,000) of the Victorian adult population. When considering the average travel party size was 2.24 for a Victorian resident with a disability (including adults caring for a child with a disability), this represented 12 per cent (784,000) of the total Victorian population.
  • Estimated spend for travellers with a disability was $680.1 million (approximately 4 per cent of total domestic spend in Victoria), of which 80 per cent was overnight spend. Estimated spend for travel party (including the person with a disability) was $1.7 billion (approximately 10 per cent of total domestic spend in Victoria), of which 79 per cent was overnight spend.
  • Approximately 75 per cent of people with a disability have travelled however 25 per cent do not travel (other than for medical necessity) for a range of reasons (including happy to stay at home/having no desire to travel). If the some of the reasons are addressed, such as prohibitive costs, technologies not available for their needs, experiences, accommodation or transport options not being suitable, the extra travel that could result would be approximately $735 million (an additional 1% in spend) and with the travel party included this could reach $1.8 billion.

Given these findings, can the sector continue to ignore the need to provide people living with a disability with equal access to their service? Having staff that are poorly trained or not train at all in disability awareness will continue to result in second rate solutions as being passed off as an attempt at good customer service. There are many disability awareness training providers and advocates out there willing to support these major organisations work through these real challenges. Travellers Aid and William Angliss Institute have developed an interactive online Disability Awareness Training module designed with front line service delivery in mind. Checkout

We can do better.