It’s Time To Move Beyond Access To Inclusion

Martin HengThere’s been a lot of talk about “accessible tourism” lately, but is this the right term to use? As a wheelchair user, if somewhere — a cool bar, a significant monument, a beautiful view — is accessible only via steps or rugged terrain, I can’t go there. Yet people with a vision, hearing or cognitive impairment, or those living with chronic illness, may be perfectly capable of visiting such places. I would argue that using the term “accessible tourism” limits not only the discussion, but also our chances of participation in cultural life, recreation, leisure and sport.

While access is vital, it’s true inclusion we should be striving for. By emphasizing access, with its reliance on legislation, the stress is immediately put on compliance, not inclusion. To borrow an analogy from a thought-providing article by Lee Young called, “Understanding the key differences between Accessible Design and Inclusive Design,” imagine an established members-only men’s club that installs ramps, an accessible toilet, an elevator and hearing loops to meet legislative requirements. These renovations might make the facility more accessible, but by disallowing female members and requiring high fees or an invitation to join, the club remains exclusive rather than inclusive.

This is where — in