The development of a universal accessibility framework for national parks in South Africa and Zimbabwe
Despite global growth in the disability tourism market, tourism organisations have not realised the full potential of this market due to a lack of understanding of this market segment as well as the perception that PwDs do not travel. Most facilities remain inaccessible to people with both permanent and temporary impairments. Disability movements (like the American Association of People with Disabilities, Aspies for Freedom and Handicap International) have raised their voices but not loud enough to stir action. Workshops, seminars and conferences have been held but most were talk shows with no practical implications. To date, no research-based universal accessibility framework exists for national parks in South Africa and Zimbabwe and no practical standards have been formulated to ensure accessibility to all in these parks. This study aimed to design a universal accessibility framework for national parks in South Africa and Zimbabwe. To achieve this goal one of the study's objectives was a literature review on universal accessibility and tourism. This objective is achieved in Chapter 2. The second objective was to establish the extent to which national parks in South Africa and Zimbabwe are universally accessible. Interviews were conducted with park management in both countries to meet this objective. The study also sought to establish the accessibility expectations of people with disabilities; this was attained by administering a 10-page online questionnaire to people with disabilities from across the globe. Finally, the study aimed to formulate a set of recommendations and develop a framework for universal accessibility. Using SPSS, Exploratory Factor Analysis and ANOVAs were performed in order to analyse and interpret data. Descriptive statistics were also used. The Alpha values and mean inter-item correlations confirmed the reliability and internal consistency of the data. Eleven factors were identified from the factor analysis: transport; parking and entrance; the reception area; restrooms; bird watching and game drives; trails; information accessibility; interpretation; water-based activities; accommodation and dining as well as campsites. The results revealed that while people with disabilities want all areas to be accessible, specific facilities were singled out in line with particular disabilities. People with mobility impairments were more worried about transport and parking than people with other impairments. They were also concerned about the accessibility of bird watching and game viewing as well as accommodation and dining than were people with hearing and visual impairments. People with hearing impairments placed much high value on the accessibility of the reception area than those with mobility and visual impairments. Interesting to note was the fact that people with visual impairments did not regard accessible restrooms as very important. Most importantly, all people with disabilities were strongly against steps and staircases in all facilities since they are a serious barrier to accessibility regardless of type of disability. They also attach more value to how they are treated when they visit national parks. This was identified as more important than physical access. A universal accessibility framework was developed based on the literature and research findings. This framework will go a long way in assisting policy makers to address accessibility issues in national parks and the tourism sector in general.