Letter to the Editor - July 29: Disability tourism a market

THE Bureau of Statistics advises 20% of our population has a disability of some kind, and of that 20%, a high proportion have mobility problems or are hearing or vision impairment.

This means when travel is planned, it requires special planning to ensure the accommodation and transport used has the accessibility to suit their needs.

The National Construction Code (NCC) has set the Standard that all new and redevelopment construction must adhere to by specifying the accessibility physical requirements.

The Transport Department has set the timetable by which all transport infrastructure and public transport vehicles must be accessible.

The NCC and its predecessor, the BCA, stipulate access in the built environment and minimum accessible accommodation requirements in accommodation houses, but unfortunately only effective post-1992.

However, rarely do tourism venues, hotels/motels, resorts, coach, train and airline operators indicate in their promotional media, electronic or printed, whether their facilities are accessible.

If someone with a disability wishes to travel, it is necessary to phone up to ascertain the following:

First, is the venue/accommodation accessible to the latest standards and, if not, where is it deficient?

Second, will the airline, train or coach be able to take us?

Many hotels, motels and resorts are reluctant to advertise their accessible rooms because they claim travellers will not accept the accommodation classification as "disabled", seeing it as a stigma. These rooms are only let when all the standard rooms are full.

This is an unfortunate perception, because accessible rooms and bathroom facilities are much larger and usually have the same standard of decor and furnishing.

Some years ago, Coffs Council's Access Advisory Committee carried out a survey of accessible accommodation in Coffs Harbour. There were over 120 motels then, only 30 of which claimed to be accessible.

Of that 30, only two or three had access that was anywhere near the required standard.

To my knowledge no new motels/hotels have been built since then, so today, nothing has changed.

Most of the hotel/motel stock is more than 20 years old and therefore, when built prior to the DDA that enforced the standards, which then were not ever high.

Peter Dickson-Smith,
Secretary CCRDA

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