When Karen Harvey takes a holiday she has a longer-than-average list of things she needs to check before embarking on her trips — and it can be quite consuming.
- One in three West Australians has an accessibility requirement when travelling
- A tourism access and advocacy officer says it's more than just having ramps and lifts for people in wheelchairs
- Experiences should also meet the needs of people with low vision, low hearing, limited mobility, cognitive impairment, autism, allergies and intolerances
Ms Harvey lives with paraplegia and has to find out the accessibility for every single part of her journey, including how wide the doors are or whether there is enough room to move around a facility.
She told Stan Shaw on ABC Radio Perth it was more than just having ramps and lifts for people in wheelchairs.
Businesses needed to think about how to consider the needs of people of all ages and abilities, including those who needed to travel with support people or guide dogs, or those with low vision.
"Do you have a high counter, how do you manage that?" Ms Harvey said.
"When I go to a business and there's a high counter I prefer that someone steps out to talk to me rather than try look over the top of the counter because that in itself is really disempowering."
Ms Harvey has been working as an access and advocacy officer at Spinal Life Australia, trying to educate tourism operators and businesses on how they can improve.
A recent survey commissioned by the Tourism Council in WA found one in three West Australians has an accessibility requirement when travelling.
"Accessible tourism hasn't been looked at as a top priority but it should be," she said.
Ms Harvey said that while Australian building standards had improved over the years, the efforts to enhance accessibility needed to extend to older buildings and facilities, and often one of the first steps was increasing awareness.
"We still have people who don't understand disability and don't understand that we're just regular people who want to go out and have accessible experiences," she said.
"If you invest in your business to make it accessible you will get that money back because there are a lot of us wanting to travel."
At the recent Accessible Tourism Forum, WA operators committed to publishing information about their product's accessibility to ensure guests with accessibility requirements had the information they needed.
"Tourism operators have an opportunity to develop products and experiences that will meet the needs of people with low vision, low hearing, limited mobility, wheelchairs and scooters, autism or cognitive requirements, or allergies and intolerances," said Tourism Council WA CEO Evan Hall.
Industry representatives are calling on the state government to provide grant funding for tourism businesses and destinations to develop accessible tourism products.
"State funding would present an opportunity for many businesses to grow and accommodate all requirements," Mr Hall said.