In collaboration with city councils, travel agencies and other organisations working within tourism, the intention is to find new forms and formats for a more diverse, accessible and multi-sensory experience of travelling – developing alternatives for both locally specific contexts as well as travel opportunities further afield for those with various different needs.
Our vision is to not only provide accessible, welcoming environments for different abled bodies, but to bring people with and without disabilities together to share and learn from their various different ways of experiencing the world: What is it like for someone else? What other alternatives are there beyond the normalised forms of tourism currently on offer? What other ways, forms, formats are there of experience a city, a country, a culture? How can we avoid the trap of assuming what the other wants? How can we provide assistance without preconceived assumptions of what the other needs?
Imagine you are blind and you read that an agency that organises group holidays to countries everywhere in the world is ‘accessible for everyone’. Happy to go on an adventure and explore a country that you had wanted to visit for many years, you call and explain that you have a visual impairment, that you cannot see anything, but that you are independent and just need an arm from someone to guide you, since you are not familiar with that part of the world. Very soon, you realise that the statement they had promised, of being accessible for everyone, is not as trustable as you had hoped for. Suddenly, you get questions such as ‘how will you experience a country without sight?’ ‘How will you manage integrating within the group?’ ‘How will you make sure you won’t be a burden to anyone, as we are a commercial agency and people pay us to have the ultimate time of their life?’, etc.
Imagine you are in a wheelchair and have booked a hotel where there are no elevators, or if there are any, they are too small? What if they do not have washrooms that are big enough for you to use? What about museums and other touristic attractions that you can only move around in if you are able to use stairs? What if people working in these establishments are not willing to assist if needed?
Or imagine you have an invisible so-called disability, where the use of difficult language can be a boundary? Or you can’t hear, and miss out on a lot of information simply because you cannot use the audio guide or because a tourist guide does not know the sign language? And what if you respond sensitively to loud sounds, or that are claustrophobic, or acrophobic? How do we include all these different abled and unable bodies? How can we be welcoming and willing to try, trust and work towards a truly more tolerant and open place?
Working group: Georgia Venetakis, Thomas Tajo, Marjolein Van Laere, Kinga Bartniak.