(Re)Envisioning the Tourism Experiences of People with Vision Impairment
Cardiff Metropolitan University
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Whilst tourism has been recognised as a tool for tackling social exclusion, disability has been a neglected area of tourism. Moreover, few studies have focused on the experiences of vision impaired people in part due to an assumption that they can derive little from seeing 'the sights' and experiencing a place at its full potential. My research aims to gain a profound and in-depth understanding of the tourism experiences of vision impaired people to discover the meaning and significance of tourism in their lives while also capturing embodied experiences in tourism places and spaces. Underpinned by the social, sociology of impairment and affirmation models of disability, the study’s emancipatory disability research philosophy places vision impaired people’s voices at its heart as the study’s co-researchers. Phase One involved four focus groups of vision impaired people at Cardiff Vale and Valleys while Phase Two is based on in-depth conversations with five vision impaired people and their families in South East Wales. Phase One identifies individual, social and environmental barriers to positive participation while Phase Two highlights the need for effective staff training, universal design, accessible information and illustrates that embodied experiences involve the synaesthesia of the senses connecting with multi-sensory tourism environments. Vision impairment does not necessarily preclude appreciation of visual impressions and my co-researchers have demonstrated from non-vision and low vision perspectives that meaningful tourism experiences are achievable. However, the research also presents a complex and diverse picture of needs and aspirations in tourism engagement. The thesis concludes with a series of recommendations for enquiry, practice and policy. It is suggested that inclusive thinking by the tourism industry, scholars and vision impaired people themselves hold the key to improving rights of citizenship and enabling vision impaired people to find an equal sense of place in the world.
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