Andy Wright, managing director of Accessible Travel and a wheelchair user, has seen an increase in demand for such travel. “A number of more intrepid travellers tend to be people who have had some life-changing experience, such as being injured in a car crash. People in that situation tend to react in two ways. Some feel as if their life has come to an end.
But others essentially say, ‘I want to do things I’d never have dreamed of doing when I was able-bodied.’ They want to see the pyramids or go to Machu Picchu and show they are not written off. We had a guide who uses a wheelchair and he went to Cambodia.
This meant he was going to get lifted up and down steps and pushed around, but so what?” One of the main sources of empowerment for people with disabilities looking to take more adventurous holidays is the rise of electronic media, according to Mr Latif. “We are putting Lonely Planet’s guides into electronic format,” he said.
“Blind people can use speaking computers to read up on a place and make their own decisions. Typically, disabled people would rely on their carer to decide what they will do on a holiday and you get comments such as ‘well Jack, this is what I think we’ll do today’. That doesn’t have to be the case now.”
While the 1995 Disability and Discrimination Act has also provided an impetus, it does not apply to aircraft (an Air Access Code of Conduct was published in 2011 but it is non-binding), or overseas accommodation. This fact will not lessen the burden on disabled travellers headed for remote destinations and who are reliant on air travel to get there.
The problem was highlighted in 2011 when Bob Ross, who has cerebral palsy, was awarded ?1,336 for being charged ?18 by Ryanair to use an airport wheelchair. Ryanair announced that a 50p “wheelchair” levy would be imposed on every passenger, while the Court of Appeal later ruled that both airline and airport were responsible.
“The travel and tourism industry has been making improvements to accessibility,” said Keith Richards, head of consumer affairs with the Association of British Travel Agents. “But like many other industries there’s still room for improvement. It is clear that increasing numbers of people who have some form of disability are taking holidays, and many more want to spend their money on travel but currently don’t.”
But Mr Wright cautioned that while technology and legislation have offered a greater degree of empowerment, many challenges remain. “This is definitely a growth area,” he said. “The biggest hurdle we have to overcome is still people. Disabled people who want to be more intrepid will have to deal with attitudes from airlines and hotels that leave a lot to be desired. It’s inevitable that we will still face a lot of frustration. Some will say that, whatever it takes, they’ll travel, but you still require an immense amount of help.”