Silent voices of tourism: a narrative exploration of cervical spinal cord injury and leisure travel
Luther, Angela P.
Cardiff Metropolitan University
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Utilising an inter-disciplinary approach, this qualitative inquiry seeks to create a space for an absent group and experience by addressing severe physical disability, social exclusion and leisure travel. Drawing on a blended methodology - critical discourse analysis, feminist standpoint and narrative inquiry - it explores, via in-depth interviews, discussions and non-participant observation, the lived experiences of twelve individuals with cervical spinal cord injury (C-SCI) in the USA in relation to travel constraints and what impact (non)participation might have on their overall well-being, quality of life and social inclusion. The challenges of working with such medically and socially-vulnerable research participants are detailed together with those of the study's inclusive and reflexive research approach and presentation, in narrative form, of their unheard stories. Using an approach involving social constructionism and a largely social model of disability, the individual, social and societal analysis of the data illustrates increased levels of obstacles for those who are ventilator-dependent, those who acquired the condition around birth or as young children, and for females in general. Details of the plethora of complex, inter-related environmental, intrinsic and interactive barriers and constraints to participation reveal that most are connected to, or are exacerbated by, socio-political practices and structures. The most significant and long-term psychosocial benefits of leisure travel are associated with those with the highest level of CSCI, chiefly with the desire, post-holiday, to abandon daily pleas for assisted suicide and to begin to live life again, often within mainstream society. Furthermore, the analysis reveals the power of the dominant medical discourse of disability on the participants' largely negative self-concept, knowledge and non-actions in relation to leisure travel. A number of potential practical solutions are suggested. Key policy-driven solutions centre on the provision of a brief, one-off, local holiday towards the end of hospital rehabilitation - to provide a goal and the practical skills necessary for reintegration - as well as on the availability, during hospital rehabilitation, of a different or alternative narrative resource of disability and travel.
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