Disabling journeys : the social relations of tourism for people with impairments in Australia - an analysis of government tourism authorities and accommodation sector practice and discourses

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This thesis explores the citizenship rights of people with disabilities and their experience in relation to one activity and industry - tourism. It is proposed that people with disabilities living in Australia have been excluded, oppressed and disadvantaged by government, tourism authorities (TA) and tourism industry (TI), practice and discourses. This exclusion, oppression and disadvantage has been perpetrated by the government, tourism authorities and tourism industry, whose practices and discourses do not provide an equality of service provision for the group. From this position the central question addressed is: To what extent are the tourism patterns and experiences of people with impairments in Australia unduly constrained by tourism authorities and tourism industry practice and discourse? In taking direction from the social model of disability (Oliver 1990), the proposition deliberately uses the word impairments rather than disabilities as both a definitional and conceptual approach to the research. This is because the question tests whether the social relations produce the constraints that people with impairments face in negotiating tourism experiences and, hence, create disabling journeys. In other words, the disabling social relations transform the impaired person to the person with a disability in the tourism context. 'Unduly' means that people with disabilities were not provided with an equality of service provision in comparison to the non-disabled. The research design and methodology involves inductive inquiry utilising both quantitative and qualitative methodologies. This includes a multiple methodological approach involving secondary data analysis of major national and regional surveys, content/discourse analysis, in-depth interviews and a focus group. The secondary data sources involved the Disability, Ageing and Carers Survey (ABS 1993; 1998 n=42,000), National Visitors Survey (BTR 1998 n=78,000) and Anxiety to Access (Tourism NSW 1998 n=2647). A content analysis is undertaken of the HREOC (2002) complaint cases, public hearings, public inquiries, disability action plans and disability Standards projects relevant to tourism. A content analysis is also undertaken of tourism authorities' disability tourism initiatives from 1990-2000. In depth interviews are undertaken with three separate populations that include people with disabilities (n=15), accommodation managers (n=10) and responsible officers from tourism authorities (n=3). A focus group of accommodation managers (n=23) is also undertaken. The data are analysed and interpreted using binary logistic regression, ordinal logistic regression, phenomenology, grounded theory and discourse analysis. The central argument to emerge from this thesis is that disability is a social relationship - or rather a complex set of social relationships - between people with disabilities, and the organisations that control and administer the institutional and social environments in which they live. Tourism represents an important arena for social and cultural participation. Given the commitment by governments to 'reduce disability' it is thus critical to consider whether the relationships in the area of tourism are disabling or enabling. The thesis shows that the practices and discourses of tourism authorities and the tourism industry unduly constrain the tourism opportunities and experiences of people with impairments in Australia and create disabling journeys.
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