October 2010 Archives

Al Condoluci's presentation at the Inclusive Play Symposium dealt with Social Capital - the idea that social networks have intrinsic value.

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Two categories are central to social capital theory: bonding social capital and bridging social capital. The first refers to groups made of members who are similar and the second to those whose differences make linkages between them less likely under other circumstances. 

Network Theory observes that the number relationships for a given entity (node) vary widely. Clusters can be seen in graphs of relationships resembling islands and continents with bridging nodes exercising leverage roles between clusters.  For many people without a disability linking with a PwD, even in their own community, creates bridging social capital (in both directions.) Given the difficulty of travel with a disability the scarcity of contacts created by PwD in foreign countries can be a quite unique bridging relationship.

Condoluci went on to examine social assets and pro-social behavior. Pro-social behavior has been described as:

The term prosocial behavior describes acts that demonstrate a sense of empathy, caring, and ethics, including sharing, cooperating, helping others, generosity, praising, complying, telling the truth, defending others, supporting others with warmth and affection, nurturing and guiding, and even the altruistic act of risking one's life to warn or aid another. 

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Individuals and networks accrue social capital. Prosocial behavior allows for retention of those assets. Acquiring the capacity for prosocial behavior is a developmental task. Play facilitates such development.

If "play is reaching out for joy and leisure travel is a search for new playspaces and playmates" in the acquisition of social capital then what is "hospitality?"

Hospitality is the application of prosocial behavior to strangers precisely because they are strangers. Hospitality is a strategy to foster bridging social capital. Whether highly altruistic or calculated in its aim of accruing social assets for those participating hospitality often includes highly symbolic and ritualized behaviors designed to lower anxiety and facilitate trust in the ambiguity of first encounters.

"Aloha" (Hawai'i) and "morabeza" (Cabo Verde) are just two culturally specific instances of prosocial behavior to strangers (hospitality).

The questions for Inclusive Tourism become: 

  • What do these cultural formations of welcome and bridging manifest when the stranger is a person with a disability? 
  • What bridging opportunities are permitted or denied if one is a person with a disability?
  • Are all the constituent prosocial behaviors shown to a visitor with a disability? Expect of her/him?
  • When mobility, communication, or play are part of  the hospitality ritual what disability-friendly modes are available when performing it? (Is a home visitable? Is non-auditory communication available? Is inclusion planned for?)

Wrapping up an event is an honor and a challenge. My topic, "Playing Around the World: Inclusive Tourism" allowed for a review of all the topics covered during the symposium and then a look at how these might be manifesting around the globe.Play for Life.JPG


I began with the thesis that play is a reaching out for joy and leisure travel is a search for new playspaces and playmates.

I was asked to give some background on how I began in Inclusive Tourism:

There is no "one moment" when Inclusive Tourism advocacy began for me. It is a responsibility that every person with a disability slips on like a backpack as soon as they decide to move beyond whatever is their home geography. It is a choice to be fully human.

Three things motivate me to continue.

First, the idea immediately attracts collaborators. Expressing the definition of Inclusive Tourism very precisely, in a way that describes the solution, makes it easier for others to grasp and take in as their own. That solution is the collaborative process known as Universal Design (often known in the EU as Human-Centered Design or Inclusive Design).

 The second motivator is a commitment to the disability community of future generations. I was unable to fulfill my undergraduate scholarship in Linguistics at the Universidade de São Paulo in Brazil because the facility was not accessible and its institutional culture was not inclusive. Inclusive Tourism is one way I make certain that new scholars in every part of the world are free to study and enjoy full citizenship. Mobility International USA (MIUSA) is the world's leader in the area of training on student exchange involving students with disabilities. They have created a new generation of academics and professionals with disabilities who will never let this occur again. I am able to continue because of the foundation laid by people like Susan Sygall, founder of MIUSA and her collaborators spread throughout the world.

 Thirdly it is the friendship - the generosity and bottomless resiliency - of those I have the joy of working with around the world that makes this a passion. The secret-hidden-in-plain-sight about disability culture is exactly the opposite of what TABs (Temporarily Able-Bodied people) think. 

Here's a bit of video I showed to counter the image of disability-as-tragedy or people with disabilities as spunky heroes. I like these cheeky little ankle-biters! They would definitely make for fun travel companions.

Accessibility is Not Inclusion

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There was a completely unexpected sub-theme running through the presentations at the Inclusive Play Symposium, "Inclusion is more than accessibility."


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  • We characterized it historically:

Accessibility was the rallying cry of a a political movement springing from the civil rights era of the 1970's.

Inclusion is a social ethic reflecting a globalized, networked world where freedom of movement and the full participation of all is taken for granted -- and enshrined as a right.

  • We thought about it in economic terms:

Inclusion expands your market. It just makes good business sense.

  • We made simple comparisons:

Accessibility is passive - leaving the door open without obstacles in the way.

Inclusion is active - inviting you in to the human  network beyond the newly barrier-free doorway.

  • We looked at the psychology:

Accessibility looks backward. It tries to hold the line at outmoded and artificial standards of "normal." Accessibility degenerates into "mere compliance"; obsession with checklists; PwD as risk management problems; and performance according to the "least worst" standards - whatever could be institutionalized after the political compromise of legislation and regulation.

Inclusion looks forward.

  • We tied it all back to Universal Design:

Universal Design is a framework for the design of places, things, information, communication and policy to be usable by the widest range of people operating in the widest range of situations without special or separate design. Most simply, Universal Design is human-centered design of everything with everyone in mind.

Universal Design is also called Inclusive Design, Design-for-All and Lifespan Design. It is not a design style but an orientation to any design process that starts with a responsibility to the experience of the user. It has a parallel in the green design movement that also offers a framework for design problem solving based on the core value of environmental responsibility. Universal Design and green design are comfortably two sides of the same coin but at different evolutionary stages. Green design focuses on environmental sustainability, Universal Design on social sustainability.

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Just before the Inclusive Play Symposium organized by Ingrid Kanics and hosted by
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 Landscape Structures, Inc. I was asked by an interviewer how the topic of Inclusive Tourism became a part of the global dialogue on design. Here was my response:

Q. How did you get people to take notice?

A. I didn't. I used "reverse psychology!"

I intentionally stayed below the radar and out of the media until I had built up quite an extensive network of businesspeople, academics, journalists, policymakers, and leaders of the disability community. Together we documented cases studies, analyzed policies, critiqued products, and kept news flowing among those early-adopter entrepreneurs who grasped the business case.

Our community as PwD (People with Disabilities) had worked for decades pressing the case on ethical, financial, charitable, and legal grounds. Finally we simply quit! 

Instead of selling social inclusion as the-right-thing-to-do we went out en masse and bought it by being an astoundingly well-networked consumer niche. We decided to reward those who stood by us in our work to enter fully into society by sharing our resulting disposable income with them as travel suppliers. 

It was not until the end of 2004 when I organized the first seminar for Universal Design experts on tourism. This was at the Center for Human-Centered Design's conference in Rio de Janeiro "Designing for the 21st Century." 

Since then it has just been latecomer businesses playing catch up with our travel behavior and our money. By the way, a study in 2002 and repeated in 2005 showed that Americans with disabilities were spending $13.6 billion dollars annually on travel. 

Too often the logistical barriers of travel become handicapping for someone with a disability. Little energy, imagination, or finance remains to wander beyond the "touristy" bits and be immersed in the spirit of a place. 

There's a paradox to travel. It makes us face up to things we can't do alone. It makes us seek out conveniences - and levels of customer service - that we otherwise take for granted. 

The paradox is the value we call inter-dependence which forms the heart of disability culture.

Landscape Structures, Inc. makes playgrounds but they know what I was talking about whenLSI_Logo.gif I wrote the following in 2009:


Disability can make one life stage intrude on another when design and policies create barriers that limit one's independence. They complicate both the how and the why of travel. The skill is to anticipate these life-stage collisions when they are predictable or embrace them with grace when they are not.

Preparing to address their Inclusive Play Symposium I reviewed the literature on development and play. I found that LSI is well-versed in the research behind development and disability. The research made me wonder when the knowledge that has made them leaders in their industry will cross domains into the travel and hospitality industry. 

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Maybe as more inclusive playgrounds sprout up at resorts, timeshares, vacation and sports destinations - theme parks like Morgan's Wonderland? Adventure Parks like Parque dos Sonhos?

Meanwhile we continue to learn from the masters.

Abraham Maslow:
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Jessica Kessin:

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Specialists on Spectrum Disorders:

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But the most helpful summary of all did not come to my attention until a presentation by Ingrid Kanics

She displayed a pyramid of sensory integration development similar to the one below. (Other versions include Williams & Shellenberger adapting Mary Trott's visual summary which draw from Jean Ayres. )Sensory Integration Pyramid.gif
This has obvious application to childhood development and rehabilitation. It can be a helpful reference in aging. LSI uses it successfully to determine how complete their array of play products is. 

Can we use it to refine user experience of travel itineraries for PwD? Can we design spaces and offer experiences that suit the developmental baselines of comfort common to certain disabilities?

Or maybe we still need the message driven home with extreme sports - a few more wheelers like Aaron Fotheringham showing us how much fun vestibular stimulation can be!