‘You can make money out of us’: the disabled people demanding more accessible travel and tourism

Inclusive TravelPeople with disabilities struggle to have their access needs met – so trying to organise a trip away comes with significant burdens.

For Sarah Clifton-Bligh, the most useful thing to have when you’re travelling is an older brother who plays rugby.

Sydney-based Clifton-Bligh is fitter than most 17-year-olds. She’s a member of the junior athletics development squad and hopes to make the national team in racing and throwing sports. She has travelled around Australia and the world with her family for holidays and athletics meets.

Clifton-Bligh also has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair most of the time. She can do incredible manoeuvres in her chair, and with the aid of ankle-foot orthoses and forearm crutches she can take a few steps – a small thing that makes a vast amount of difference when the family goes places – but too many stairs are an issue.
“The worst place I’ve been was the New York subway,” Clifton-Bligh says. “There are not a lot of lifts in that subway system. There were these metal stairs and there was a platform and then there were another two flights of stairs. It was so bad.”

Clifton-Bligh’s mother, Meredith Jordan, says “we were very lucky that we had a teenage son who could just fling Sarah over his shoulder and carry her up”. “It would be pretty challenging if you were doing it on your own.”

One in six people in Australia have a disability – about 4.4 million of us – including half of people aged over 65. Many of those people – at least 44% of them – travel for pleasure. But disabled people routinely struggle to have their access needs met, and trying to organise a trip away comes with significant additional burdens, including a substantial investment of time and energy into extra layers of planning, and often additional costs.

This is an excerpt from an article by Stephanie Convery, originally published by the Guardian newspaper.

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