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Disabled Access and Heritage Attractions

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In a UK context, the importance of heritage tourism, the potential of the disabled market, and government policies concerning tourism, social inclusion, and the historic environment provide the setting within which access improvements at heritage attractions for disabled visitors are studied. At issue is how disabled access and conservation can be reconciled. The stakeholders range from the central actors, the disabled tourists and the heritage tourism service providers, through to the gatekeeper and lobby players in the conservation, disability, and tourism contexts. The critical power structures are identified. Changes to the historic environment are managed through the conservation planning system in which disability interests are not formally represented. Recent disability discrimination legislation has not altered this balance of power, and is a source of uncertainty over the access standards that should apply to heritage attractions. An evaluation of progress in implementing access improvements at heritage attractions reveals the limited extent of improvements undertaken to date. Consideration is given not only to physical access but also to alternative methods (intellectual access) of providing the heritage tourism service. In conclusion, the situation is examined from three perspectives. From the disabled tourists' perspective, choice of heritage attractions to visit remains restricted compared to that of nondisabled tourists. The lack of consultation with disabled stakeholders in the access improvements decision-making process is discussed, including the acceptability of alternative methods of service delivery to disabled tourists. The uncertainties facing heritage tourism service providers arising from the disability discrimination legislation are considered but, to ensure a more balanced recognition of disability interests, both conservation planning and disability discrimination legislation need to be amended, adjusting the roles of the legislative gatekeepers.


Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2006-03-01

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  • Tourism, Culture & Communication is international in its scope and will place no restrictions upon the range of cultural identities covered, other than the need to relate to tourism and hospitality. The Journal seeks to provide interdisciplinary perspectives in areas of interest that may branch away from traditionally recognized national and indigenous cultures, for example, cultural attitudes toward the management of tourists with disabilities, gender aspects of tourism, sport tourism, or age-specific tourism.
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