Research on accessibility in leisure sector

Upon the initiative of Karin Stiksma from Joint Projects, a study on accessibility within the leisure sector is starting under the auspices of the Centre of Expertise Leisure, Tourism and Hospitality (CELTH). This will mainly look at the demand side. Stiksma: “The starting point is that we will look at the wishes and needs of people with disabilities.” In the second phase, the research should lead to a toolkit that both government and entrepreneurs in the sector can use.

Karin Stiksma is originally a leisure scientist. She worked for years in the public domain in various roles. Because, in her own words, “she was active for far too long on the shady side of society and wanted to work more on the sunny side”, she decided more than two years ago to start working as a leisure strategist at the intersection of leisure and inclusion. From her company Joint Projects, she offers different services for this purpose. For instance, she supports directors and managers to come up with an inclusive strategy and to translate that into
inclusive business operations. Another service is the community Accessible Recreation ( “I saw that there were many projects and initiatives but they were not really connected to each other, whereas there was a need for connection and collaboration, and for a central place, action and system change.”

The idea for this research came when Stiksma attended Jeroen Klijs’ lecture on conscious destinations. It struck her that although within his professorship the social impact of tourism is central, Klijs had not explicitly included anything about people with disabilities. This prompted her to explore this topic further together. “I then indicated to him that the playing field is big and that there are many parties involved in making a region accessible. And that a lot is also happening, but that it gets stuck at project and middle management level. As a result, projects are likely to remain one-day wonders and bleed to death. Meanwhile, I also heard back from the regions that they were already doing quite a lot, but that they wanted to secure it. And that the regions were keen to involve a government, a DMO and a VVV in order to take a coherent approach.”

Demand side
The research mainly looks at the demand side, says Stiksma. “The starting point is that we are going to look at the wishes and needs of people with disabilities. And what they need to be able to go to a region to realise an accessible day out or an accessible few days away. Then we look at the facilities on-site but also at the journey there by train or bus, at how you are welcomed and at things like signposts. The experience throughout the customer journey is part of the baseline measurement.” However, the study includes even more. “We also look at what is already known in the literature about an accessible region and about the wishes and needs of people with disabilities. In doing so, we are looking at both quantitative and qualitative data.” She also points to UNWTO, the World Tourism Organisation, which has indicated that in destinations, accessibility is
the game-changer of the future.

Leveraging universal design
Although there is a huge diversity of impairments, Stiksma is not in favour of starting to break down research by type of impairment. “As a leisure scientist, I look much more at the question: what does everyone need to have fun and relax? Moreover, in doing so, I am convinced that there are many similarities in this respect. For instance, both people with autism and people with ADHD or Tourette’s syndrome benefit from an environment with less stimuli. The challenge is therefore not to segment into different target groups, but to design your environment with a universal design so that everyone can find their place. And that a bungalow is laid out in such a way that everyone can be there: that someone with a visual impairment does not stumble easily, someone with a mild mental disability finds that the environment is uncluttered and with equipment that is easy to use, and someone in a wheelchair has enough space to manoeuvre easily. In the US, you often see ‘calming areas’ in this context where someone can temporarily withdraw. But you can also think of universal design as ‘playing’ with sound and light.”



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