Category Archives: Travel

Reflecting on Waitangi Day

Many Pakeha New Zealanders seem to feel confused about Waitangi, and that constrains our ability to wholeheartedly celebrate it as our national day. We are confused about the ‘one nation, two people’ thing, and there is maybe some misplaced guilt and anger about the past, and about Maori assertions of their rights under the Treaty.

For those Pakeha who think it is relevant only to Maori, we need to remember that it is the Treaty that gives us our place here.

Unity in diversity is healthy. It is also productive and creative. The Treaty of Waitangi, with all its flaws is our Treaty too. I, for one, enjoy exploring and learning about our history, especially as the version I was taught was neither accurate nor helpful in increasing my general understanding. The reality was much meatier and more challenging and interesting.

A visit to Waitangi, especially on Waitangi Day is one we should all make at least once in a lifetime. I treasure the visits I have made, both on Waitangi Day and on several other occasions.

On Waitangi Day I believe we should celebrate the things we have gained together, and acknowledge and explore the things we have still to do. We should treasure our uniqueness as a nation of Maori, Pakeha and everyone else who has chosen to make Aotearoa New Zealand their home.

I also think Waitangi Day should be ‘Mondayised,’ to use that ugly word. It is after all our National Day and should be accorded due respect.

It is rather ironic that Waitangi Day seems to be celebrated more wholeheartedly by our compatriots abroad than at home.

I can’t resist adding that it is shame the Waitangi Trust web site has fallen prey to the “greying of the Internet.” Perhaps trustees should remember that Waitangi Day is for all of us, and all includes disabled and older people of all ethnicities who may struggle to read grey text on an important site. After all Ink on the internet is free.

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Filed under Disability Issues, Disability Rights, Miscellaneous, Travel

Inclusion tourism

Compelling demographics, the need for industry engagement and for better auditing processes, and the glaring absence of accommodation providers were all features of New Zealand’s first Access Tourism conference.

But I was particularly interested in the claim by Bill Forrester that the issue is not so much accessible infrastructure as the way accessible tourism is not valued by both operators and promoters alike. He talked about going beyond grudgingly ‘accommodating’ disabled people to welcoming them and including them as business as usual in very real and tangible ways, to the point where statistics about their numbers were not collected.

This has set me thinking about the application of this perspective on access to our tourism industry and other areas of daily life, and I don’t just mean the built environment. This attitude persists despite some compelling figures. Twenty percent of the New Zealand population live with disability. By 2031 people over 65 will be 26% of the population with an accompanying increase in the disability rate. This is a significant market by anyone’s reckoning, even allowing for some overlap.  In countries which are our main source of tourists the rapidly ageing population is even more marked.

Dr Sandra Rhodda, access tourism researcher says of the revenue value of the access tourism market, “In Canada, for example, pwds account for $25 billion in consumer spending and in Australia the accessible tourism market is believed to be worth around $4.8bn to the Australian economy.”

Is this blinkered attitude because the non-disabled youth market is cooler, sexier and more glamorous for the advertising industry, the marketers and the PR people, who seem to me to be mostly under 40, or is it simply that older and disabled people have been invisible for so long that it is hard to take us seriously, even when we have the dosh. Perhaps it is simply a failure of the imagination.

The only products marketed to people over fifty seem to be rest homes, erectile dysfunction medication, mobility scooters, anti-ageing creams and laxative drinks. Well whoop de do!

Perhaps the providers and marketers of tourism will wake up just in time to watch the tourist dollars disappearing over the horizon to more welcoming destinations.

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Filed under Disability Issues, Disability Rights, Inclusion, Information Accessibility, Travel, Web Accessibility

Accessible Tourism?

I am taking a break at the halfway point through my Ten points to Accessible Information series. The series will resume soon.

New Zealand tourism has to do more than grudgingly meet minimum standards, or international visitors will not return, and they will tell others of their bad experiences.

Where is customer service?

I don’t often write about physical access as it is not my area of expertise. But a friend of mine recently had some difficulty with public transport after completing the Rail Trail. The reasons that were offered for the refusals to take her powered wheelchair on public transport reminded me of how much disabled people are still seen as a problem to be avoided rather than valued customers to be served like anyone else. The so-called number-eight wire mentality and the innovative ‘can do’ attitude beloved of kiwis was sadly lacking in this instance. Not to mention simply providing good old-fashioned quality service to a fare-paying customer.

Accessible tourism is becoming increasingly ‘business as usual’ abroad and we are being left behind. The Rail Trail is promoted as an iconic twenty-first century southern experience, but this won’t wash internationally if the infrastructure to support it is still in the dark ages.

Accessible tourism should be the norm

I decided to have a look around the Interweb to see what I could find about accessible tourism in New Zealand. I found a few specialist tour operators whose websites vary in the quality of their accessibility. I would rather see general tourism services applying accessibility principles, but good luck to those providers for offering an accessible service where it would otherwise be lacking.

There is also a good New Zealand-based Accessible Tourism blog which keeps a watch on the accessible tourism scene in NZ and keeps up to date with international developments. It recently reviewed a report Domestic Tourism Market Segmentation prepared for the Ministry of Tourism which recognises baby boomers as a market segment, But the report identifies disability as a barrier to travel and the blog says

“the report reinforces the idea that it is a person’s disability that is a barrier, rather than  environments such as inaccessible transport and accommodation that are disabling.”

Tourism Ministry out of touch

Oh dear. The Ministry should know of the New Zealand Disability Strategy and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD,) which NZ has ratified. Both of these take a different view of barriers.  The approach taken by the report explains a great deal

I checked for information on “accessible tourism” on the very modern New – where you would expect to find it. I found none. I then tried the Ministry of Tourism site which gave me seven search results of which the first six were totally irrelevant and the seventh took me to an uninformative page with a link to “travel information for those with special needs” which is actually on listed under “key facts”.  This  left me utterly confused.

Why was it so hard to find? Because  “Travel information for those with special needs” s not what most disabled people would look for.

This outdated page is indicative of the attitude. It reads as if disabled people are inconvenient parcels that have to be conveyed from one place to another and put up with, not welcomed, or even accommodated, (sorry about the pun.)

No one in my wide NZ and international (travelling) networks is likely to feel that the term “special needs” is acceptable when the generally recognised term is accessible tourism. Other travellers might have ‘wants’ or even ‘desires.’ Someone else has arbitrarily decided that disabled people have ‘special needs’ (for ‘special’ read second class).

The tone of the page is grudging. It does not reflect an understanding of the audience. With inspiring headings such as

  • Disabled Facilities
  • Accommodation for the disabled
  • Transport for the Disabled, and
  • Food Allergies

it is hardly an enticing read.

The tourism market is growing and the potential customer base is ageing, and with that come higher rates of disability. In tough times we need to see the market as it is and behave accordingly.

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Filed under Disability Issues, Disability Rights, Inclusion, Information Accessibility, Travel, Web Accessibility

Time out down south and across the Tasman

I have been a bit slack about my blog lately, partly because I have been away without access to email. A lot seems to have happened in the last few weeks. My time been particularly taken up with family.

Towards the end of September I spent time with my mother, returning to my rural roots in Canterbury. I took the guided tour around my brother’s new state-of-the-art dairy operation on land that would be as dry as a bone were it not for irrigation. It seemed so strange that I had to pinch myself to make sure this was really true and not a cold-induced hallucination. I wondered what our father would think. Growing up in a traditional Canterbury sheep and cropping farming family we had always scorned “cow cockies” But although Dad was deeply conservative when it came to the behaviour and dress standards of teenage daughters he was never closed-minded about new farming developments. I suspect he would approve.

On Sunday Mum and I went to church. But instead of attending the beautiful neo-gothic St Johns we drove to Lake Coleridge under the lee of Mt Hutt, (Maunga Whare) on a lowering gray day with snow on the tops. The service was a homely spring festival, belied by the temperatures which were distinctly mid winter. A small group of people in a semi-circle around a comfortably crackling fragrant wood fire in the little community hall sang hymns and said prayers which had been refreshingly rewritten for the rural congregation. So instead of “We plough the fields and scatter the good seed on the land” we sang, “We plough the fields with tractors, with drills we sow the land.” It was a delightfully informal service, with one reader being moved to pause and mutter darkly “we could do without them,” to a reference to possums.

The warmth of the service continued in a hospitable high country home nearby where I found myself discussing the inappropriateness of young disabled people living in rest homes and the finer points of web design over a substantial morning tea in an environment where the views from the windows were equaled by the artwork on the walls and a pleasing modern interior of a house that blended satisfyingly into the landscape.

From Canterbury it was a flying visit home to fling the merino out of my bag and substitute some light weight cotton and head off to Brisbane to join other family members for a short holiday. It was below ten degrees in rural Canterbury and hitting thirty in Brisbane! There was relaxing, shopping, swims in the apartment pool, some river trips and of course good eating and drinking, and catching up with a friend.

And then back to the coal face, with two days of workshops and meeting, and a good old freezing Wellington southerly. Just as well I am a tough southern woman!

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