Why accessibility matters for your business

Written for Bundaberg Tourism by Sparrowly Group


Whilst travel as we know it has changed drastically in the last 16 months, one thing that hasn't changed is the importance of the accessible tourism sector. Though there are operators and businesses initiating great change, there is still more that needs to be done to ensure that the entire tourism industry listens, learns and acts.

Having an accessible business is about ensuring businesses and the services, infrastructure, public spaces, accommodation, and transport modes developed and delivered are accessible for all, especially for people with disability.

Disabilities can be physical, sensory, intellectual or neurological. Beyond wheelchair users, it also includes seniors, support workers, people with prams, language difficulties, or are temporarily affected by a disability. The most overlooked are those who have hidden disabilities.



In addition to ensuring every individual has the same opportunities to travel, the value of the accessible tourism market presents a significant opportunity to tourism business. A study by Travability found that the value of accessible tourism in 2018 was worth $10.8 billion to the Australian economy - more than that of the inbound Chinese market of $10.4 billion. This value is continuing to grow as is the demand for improved inclusive travel options for people with disability.

Whilst this is the value in terms of accessible tourism, businesses within the broader visitor economy also need to be aware of their role. The term visitor economy refers to those that serve customers directly (being major tourism operators) and those who are involved indirectly (such as retail, food production and service providers).

Whilst the dollars and cents identify the extent of the opportunity, being truly accessible is not just about flicking a switch or ticking a box to be compliant, and it’s broader than structural changes such as ramps and wider aisles. It encompasses a range of things, from training your staff on how to accommodate the needs of all people, where you place your signage, how you arrange your product, the font you choose for your website and more.  

It’s important to think of accessible customers beyond their disability and focus on their ​ability​​. There’s an untapped opportunity for both people with disability, as well as destinations and businesses.

People with disability don’t want to be treated any differently than any other visitor. That is they want the same as every visitor, exceptional customer service and visitor experiences.

In most cases, people with disability face a multitude of barriers which make it difficult, less likely or even impossible to use and visit a business. Some of these include:

  • Barriers to the physical environment such as steps, and narrow or congested spaces.
  • Barriers to information with text difficult to read, information hard to understand, or information on publications only available in limited formats.
  • Barriers to communication with operators providing limited options for people to contact them, and lack of awareness about how to communicate effectively.
  • And finally, barriers as a result of discriminatory or negative attitudes.



Accessibility awareness is getting more traction than ever before, and whilst there are many examples of operators and organisations who are making efforts to be more accessible and inclusive, there is still a long way to go. Here are some examples to inspire you.

Beach Matting
Recently announced for the Bundaberg region, is the beach disability access improvements including a Mobi-Chair, beach matting, and beach matting roll and stow for the community to use for free. The Mobi-Chair is designed with a folding frame and large inflatable wheels and armrests that allow the device to become buoyant in the water. The provision of beach matting enables people of all abilities, including wheelchair users and seniors, to visit the beach and interact with group activities taking place on the sand rather than remaining on a boardwalk. For more information, see here.

Briometrix are specialists in technology for wheelchair users. They produce maps for cities and regions that includes information on footpaths, toilets and change facilities, and accessible car parking spaces, indicating the degree of difficulty for mobilising throughout a region. A wheelchair user is equipped with an app to measure and record the routes taken along footpaths to determine the surface type and identify hazards. The maps created are beneficial not only for local residents and businesses to be aware of and promote, but also visitors to a region. Bundaberg Regional Council has just recently had the Briometrix team in region helping to map the pathways, find out more here.

Commonwealth Games 2018
The 2018 Commonwealth Games and Paralympic Games held in the Gold Coast aimed to be ‘A Games for Everyone’, with an accessibility consultant on the organising Committee. Services included providing audio description and Auslan translation for the Opening Ceremony, free transport, website accessibility and additional staff for support. The Gold Coast City took additional steps in making the city accessible for the Games and to ensure that these strategies remained effective in the long-term. The Games have created a legacy with their approach to accessibility, with more countries adopting similar approaches when balloting to host the event.



Firstly, a change in attitude from looking beyond the tick boxing exercise to be ‘compliant’, to one that’s truly ‘customer centric and commercially minded’. We all need to recognise that ​the problem is that society puts up barriers for people with disability, and it’s not the people with disability that are the barrier.

Whilst it’s unreasonable to expect every staff member to deliver exceptional customer experience in line with every type of disability, any effort or signs that a business has made to make their business more accessible to people with disability can go a long way.

A self-assessment checklist has been created for you to use as a guide to review the accessibility of your business and identify changes you can make to improve access. The key areas it covers includes:

  • The business - it’s surroundings, access, interior, amenities and processes.
  • The experience - staffing and customer experience.
  • Marketing and communications.

Most importantly, something you can do today is get educated. Don’t be afraid to speak to a person with disability and ask questions so you and your business can do better.

To not pay attention to this important sector and make efforts towards accommodating the needs of people with disability, you are not only doing a great disservice to them, but a great disservice to your business by missing out on a loyal, customer base who, with the right care and attention, want to spend money with your business and travel.



  • Making Your Business Accessible self-assessment checklist - available to download here.
  • ‘Making Your Business Accessible Webinar’ delivered by Sparrowly Group for NSW Small Business Month 2020 - resources (including recording) available here.
  • ‘Creating Real Inclusion: A call to arms to the tourism industry in support of people with disability’ - research paper available to download here.



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About Sparrowly Group

Sparrowly Group is a boutique strategic management consultancy, with over 20 years experience in building and scaling businesses and their brands. In 2018, co-authors Giovanna Lever and Jackie Hicks first released the discussion paper, ‘Creating Real Inclusion: A call to arms to the tourism industry in support of people with disability’. The paper outlines not only the current situation with respect to accessible tourism, but the opportunity that exists and requires immediate change to achieve. The paper is updated annually and released each December in line with International Day of People with Disability. The paper is now in its third edition.

Since being released, they have been fortunate enough to continue the discussion about accessibility in the domestic tourism sector of Australia. But most importantly though, is that they have been advocates for the people who need their voice heard most, people with disability.