Kate Simon: Holidays for the disabled still have some way to go

"It's very dangerous to say we've come a long way. We've not." Those were the cautious words of Lord Morris of Manchester, speaking last week about the progress made by people with disabilities since he introduced the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act in 1970.

The law, the first of its kind in the world, heralded a sea change in attitudes towards people with disabilities, including within the travel industry. One of the first organisations to lobby for better access to travel and leisure was the charity Tourism for All UK, founded 30 years ago.

Brian Seaman, Tourism for All's head of consultancy, is upbeat about the changes he's seen in recent years. "I have been measuring toilets for 16 years [since joining Tourism for All]. It's not something I'd like as an epitaph, but I now have very few complaints compared with when I started," he says. "Things have improved, not to say that it's perfect."

He points to the shift in the kind of accommodation that people with disabilities can now expect. "A lot of it was institutionalised – like ghettos for disabled people. But now the mainstream has opened up and large travel companies have taken an interest and noted the fact that they need to gear themselves up for this [section of the market]."

Mr Seaman believes that there is also a greater understanding in the industry about providing a good standard of service to people with disabilities. "For example, Intercontinental Hotels – which includes Holiday Inn Express and Crowne Plaza and has a variety of rates to suit all pockets – has a big training programme for staff, so that they are more comfortable in helping disabled people."

Philip Scott, managing director of Can Be Done, which specialises in providing bespoke holidays around the world for people with disabilities, is also positive about the changing experience of travelling abroad. "Spain is exceptionally good for the disabled traveller, and North America, too. There's probably the greatest range of facilities for travellers with disabilities in the Canary Islands," he says.

But he acknowledges that some destinations still have a way to go and that progressive legislation isn't always interpreted properly on the ground. "In Europe, France is probably the worst, with Italy a close second – because there is no real infrastructure for disabled travellers.

"In Spain, we can get accessible transfers arranged between airport and hotel in nearly every major city. In France, outside Paris, it's almost impossible. In fact, we had to buy our own equipment for the hotel that we use for Disneyland Paris because we couldn't source it in France."

One of the latest products being offered by Can Be Done is a new European river cruise on a fully accessible boat out of Amsterdam. Other news for the traveller with disabilities includes the UK National Parks' new guide to accessible activities in Britain's National Parks (nationalparks.gov.uk /visiting/accessforall.htm).

And The Co-Operative Travel has also expanded its disabled-friendly high-street agencies, increasing, from 42 to 89, the number of branches that have staff with specialist training, provide essential information such as airport facilities, and are equipped with power-assisted doors, portable hearing loops and visual alarms in store.

There may still be a way to go for travellers with disabilities, but we are, at least, on the right road.



Do you have a travel issue you want to raise? Email us at: sundaytravel@independent.co.uk

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Content Assistant / Copywriter

    £15310 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has arisen for a...

    Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

    £24000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Situated in the heart of Bradfo...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Reception Manager

    £18750 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Hotel in Chadderton is a popular ch...

    Guru Careers: Marketing and Communications Manager

    £Competitive (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing and Co...

    Day In a Page

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence