Wheelchair bungee jumping in Cairns, Queensland. Picture: Supplied Source: Supplied
TOURISM operators worldwide have begun catering for an increasing group of travellers, those with disabilities and the ageing, and many Australians have taken the lead.
There’s no denying Australians love to travel but for some it can be more of a challenge than for others.
Tourism facilities for people with disabilities have improved greatly over the past decade or so, but with an ageing population it’s becoming more important than ever.
Bruce Cameron, from Easy Access Australia, says people with disabilities can feel enormous anxiety before going on a holiday somewhere new.
“It can be hard to get information and when you do, you don’t always know if it’s correct,” he says.
Tourism researcher Simon Darcy, Associate Professor at UTS Business School, says it is a great opportunity for
Australian tourism operators to position themselves for a competitive advantage.
“Sometimes you pay $500 a night for an accessible room only to look at the back laneway when everyone else is looking at Sydney Harbour. Some hotels complain the accessible rooms don’t get used very much but when we look at them we think ‘no wonder’.”
Here are some destinations that have made steps in the right direction.
1 Port Stephens, NSW
This region, which is about a two-hour drive north of Sydney, has been acclaimed for its attractions and accommodation catering to people with disabilities.
More than half of the guests who stay at O’Carrollyn’s Eco Resort, at One Mile Beach, have some kind of disability and 20 per cent are in wheelchairs. The resort offers roll-in access to units, accessible bathrooms, concrete pathways through bush and has a pool with a hoist.
It also has a special “Gator” vehicle which transports wheelchair-using guests to the beach, where wheelchair users can use O’Carrollyn’s special, thick-wheeled wheelchairs ideal for all terrain beach wheelchairs.
Port Stephens also has a wheelchair-friendly dolphin watch boat, the Tamboi Queen. Little Beach at Nelson Bay also offers access to the water via a dedicated wheelchair ramp.
Ph 1800 808 900 or see www.portstephens.org.au
Darcy says Hawaii is a “fantastic” destination for people with disabilities.
Atlantis Cruises has wheelchair-friendly tours on Oahu’s Windward Coast, with boarding ramps provided, while non-profit organisation AccesSurf Hawaii helps people with disabilities enjoy the water with tandem surfboards, wave skis and specially designed shoreline flotation equipment.
Travel agency Access Aloha Travel specialises in organising trips for people with disabilities.
All 1021 villas at the Westin Ka’anapali Ocean Resort Villas in Maui are accessible by lift and there are ramps leading from lobby areas to the outdoor pools and beach, and accessible shuttle buses. One of the resort’s pools has a special chair to lower guests into it.
3 Bali, Indonesia
One option for people with disabilities is Villa G at Ellora, which is in a group of 11 villas in a quiet location just off the well-known Danau Tamblingan St. The villa, about 10 minutes from Denpasar and 30 minutes from Kuta, has no steps and the pool has a large pool hoist for guests with limited mobility and a hand rail for those who use the steps.
Two rooms have been adapted for guests in wheelchairs, with 1.8m wide shower entrances.
Bali Access Travel specialises in accessible wheelchair travel in Bali, Java and Lombok, equipment hire, a home care service and airport transfers.
It can also arrange diving and snorkelling for people with disabilities and a three-night accessible safari in East Java and scuba diving in east Bali.
See www.baliaccesstravel.com or www.disabledholidaysbali.com
4 South Pacific cruise
Cruise companies are catering more and more for people with disabilities.
Australian-based P&O Cruises and Princess Cruises ships have several wheelchair accessible cabins, including some wonderful wheelchair accessible suites.
The ships also have ramps and lifts throughout. The Sun Princess and the Dawn Princess have 19 accessible rooms, the Pacific Sun has 14 and the Pacific Dawn has 13.
All Australian-based P&O Cruises and Princess Cruises ships also have special devices to alert and communicate with hearing-impaired passengers.
The Pacific Sun, Sun Princess and Dawn Princess have cabin directories in Braille, which can be obtained from the Purser’s Desk upon embarkation, and Braille in elevators.
But Darcy warns that many destinations in the South Pacific may not cater well for people with disabilities on island visits.
“You might be able to get off at three quarters of the stops in the South Pacific you’re getting the cruise experience but not getting the on-shore experience,” he says.
5 Cairns, Qld
For those wanting to see the Great Barrier Reef, Quicksilver Cruises offers many services for people with disabilities recently it even took a blind man scuba-diving.
It has a water-powered chair lift at its outer reef platform that can lower people into the water.
The Pullman Reef Hotel Casino has three accessible rooms with prime water views.
Wheelie Easy Pty Ltd (wheelie easy.com.au), based in the Cairns region, also can help disabled tourists in north Queensland.
Darcy says Cairns and Palm Cove, in particular, have done some fantastic work with the accessibility of their urban environment.
“It’s a good quality, accessible tourism precinct,” he says.
6 Uluru, NT
All restaurants and bars, hotel reception areas, the town square and shops at Ayers Rock Resort have access for wheelchairs.
Sails in the Desert Hotel has 11 assisted rooms, Desert Gardens Hotel has 10, the Lost Camel Hotel has four and Outback Pioneer Hotel has three.
The Sounds of Silence dinner tour is suitable for people with disabilities, with special transfers arranged to the site with prior notice.
AAT Kings has wheelchair-friendly coaches which can accommodate collapsible wheelchairs.
The base walking tracks at Uluru are also accessible.
Wheelchairs also fit on to the resort shuttle and there is a ramp leading on to it at the front of the bus.
7 Phillip Island, Victoria
This popular tourist destination has several accessible accommodation options and attractions.
The famous Penguin Parade at Ventnor has ramp access and wide manual doors are left open during summer and at viewing time.
Displays are also visible from wheelchair height and a wheelchair is available free of charge for visitors with limited mobility.
For accommodation, Wheelies Rest, at Smiths Beach, is a purpose-built 11-bed house suitable for all wheelchair users. Alvina Holiday Cottage, at Ventnor, has two and three-bedroom self-contained units with lever doorhandles throughout, hi/lo hospital beds, hoists and a beach wheelchair.
8 Sydney, NSW
The Harbour City has a dedicated website, sydneyforall.com, for people with disabilities and several tourist attractions have made inroads in the area. BridgeClimb offers services for the vision and hearing-impaired, including Auslan Climbs in which climbers are accompanied by an Australian Sign Language interpreter who interprets the commentary about Sydney and its world-famous Bridge.
The Art Gallery of NSW offers several access programs, including free Auslan-interpreters for groups of visitors who are deaf and who book at least two weeks in advance.
It also has a free program called In Touch at the Gallery which offers guided sensory tours for people who are blind or vision-impaired, allowing them to experience the tactile qualities of bronze and marble.
It can be hard to find accessible rooms with a view, but the Shangri-La and InterContinental hotels and the YHA in The Rocks all offer these.
9. Hong Kong
WITH accessible trains and stations and plenty of accessible rooms, Hong Kong is a popular choice for people with disabilities. Several years ago, its building code was revised to state that for every 100 hotel rooms, two rooms must be accessible for people with disability. Easy Access Travel, a subsidiary of the Hong Kong Society for Rehabilitation, provides services through its Rehabus and Easy-Access bus and offers recreational activities for people with disabilities. Novotel New Century and the YHA are both accommodation options worth considering.
10. London, UK
IN the lead-up to the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, there has been a huge surge in improvements for people with disabilities and new accessible areas such as Southbank in London. The city also has its own accessibility website called Inclusive London which is dedicated to showing all accommodation, attractions and bars and restaurants which are fully accessible.