Interdependence: The Heart of Disability Culture


Just before the Inclusive Play Symposium organized by Ingrid Kanics and hosted by
 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.


Question: Is there a breakdown on the $13.6 billion per annum travel spending figure? I am curious as to what consitutes "disability" when calculating this number. Wheelchair users only? People who report themselves as disabled? People registered with their employer or receiving government disability assistance?

The reason: I'd like to know what the representation is of folks with hidden disabilities in this number.

Hi Liz,

Eric Lipp and the Open Doors Organization have never made the raw data public but Laurel Van Horn from ODO reported this at the 2007 TRANSED Conference:

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