Accessible Tourism in Denmark - A Pragmatic Perspective

Student thesis: Master thesis (including HD thesis)

  • Kristian Bach Sørensen
4. term, Tourism, Master (Master Programme)
This thesis emerges from the observation that the supply of products targeting disabled consumers does not match the market potential for accessible tourism. People with disabilities accounts for roughly 15% of the world population, many of whom are able and willing to travel if given the right opportunity, but this is far from representative of their participation in tourism activities. The more severe the disability, the less likely the person is to travel – mainly because it is difficult to find products and services that accounts for their needs.
By analysing how the discourse of disability and accessibility has developed in the past 50 years it will be revealed that part of the problem, a lacking focus on specialised product development targeting disabled customers, can be correlated to the societal emphasis of the currently dominant social model of disability which conceptualises disability as a socially constructed disadvantage or restriction caused by the contemporary social organisation of the interaction between persons with impairments and attitudinal and environmental barriers.
With the social model contributing to WHO's consensus seeking definition of disability, the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF), and having sowed a new field of politically motivated research – Disability Studies, its theoretical influence is now widespread and not to be overlooked. More importantly, the social model is also dominating the discourse of disability in the United Nations and the European Union, having direct implications on policies, human rights and legislation on accessibility in their respective member states.

Accounting for these factors, the thesis at hand will uncover important aspects of how the theoretical modelling of disability in academic and political discourses is impacting the practical performance and intended nature of accessible tourism. Based on this, a refreshed pragmatic perspective will be presented, leaning on concepts taken from the medical model which the social model and ICF has almost entirely replaced in the theoretical discourse. The key medical insights to be applied in tourism development is to;

A) Focus on the individual person and his/her immediate needs, or, in more business related terms – carefully define and satisfy your target customer.
B) Assist in modifying the person (rather than only the environment) to better overcome obstacles and face the challenges of life.

In short, it is argued that a much needed, different practical outcome is produced by changing the theoretical approach to the subject. In the end, this will be reflected in a series of recommendations for businesses and researchers of accessible tourism (inspired by UNWTO's (2013) Recommendations on Accessible Tourism).
Publication date2018
Number of pages64
ID: 289522128