thesis_access.pdf (5.43 MB)
Download file

From constraints to participation: A study of the behaviour of New Zealand travellers with mobility impairments

Download (5.43 MB)
posted on 08.12.2021, 07:41 by Nazari Orakani, Solmaz

Individuals with disabilities have been acknowledged in the literature to have the same desire to travel as their able-bodied counterparts. However, participation in tourism imposes disproportional challenges for many of them and there are still various areas that need to be improved. Research on travellers with disabilities is still in its infancy and most studies concentrate on barriers and constraints to participation. Not much is known about how these constraints are being dealt with and what influence they have on travel experiences of travellers with disabilities. This study explores the travel experiences of travellers with mobility impairments, with a focus on travel constraints and the negotiation strategies.  This research draws upon the author’s personal experience as a traveller with mobility impairments who has faced travel constraints and tried to negotiate and overcome those constraints. I enjoy personal travel experiences and believe travel is a fundamental right for those with disabilities. Using an approach based on the social model of disability enhanced with a degree of human agency, this research was undertaken with travellers who have some degree of privileged status in terms of access to opportunities and resources required for travel. They voice concerns and problems, but they also demonstrate human agency which is significant for their travel experiences. The study seeks better insight into the tension between travel constraints and the ability of travellers with mobility impairments to participate in tourism. Constraints, negotiation strategies, and their influence on participation are addressed across different scales: the intrapersonal, interpersonal, and structural.  A qualitative methodology informed by an interpretive social sciences paradigm enables this study to access people’s experiences expressed in their own words, give voice to them to get the meaning of social interactions, and thereby explain their travel experiences. Fourteen New Zealand-based participants aged between 18 and 44 were recruited, all of whom have either a congenital or acquired a mobility impairment. In-depth semi-structured interviews were designed with a staggered approach comprising three interview sessions with each participant. Overall, 42 interview sessions with 14 participants resulted in detailed data which was analysed using a content analysis approach.  The analysis focused on the travel experiences of travellers with mobility impairments which span over degrees of participation: from non-participation to partial participation to full participation. This outlined the tension between constraints and negotiation and how the final levels of participation were impacted by that tension. Travel constraints, negotiation strategies, and tourism facilitators ‒ in three levels of intrapersonal, interpersonal, and structural ‒ affected the levels of participation. Sometimes participants used negotiation strategies from a different category than the constraint; for instance, an interpersonal negotiation strategy to overcome a structural constraint. The research confirmed many of the factors identified in the literature but revealed a greater range of constraints, facilitators and negotiation strategies, including some that have not previously been explored, for example, time (constraint), resilience and determination (facilitator), and developing emotional skills (negotiation strategy). The findings also revealed that some factors could influence participation with multiple roles. Equipment and money could be constraints, facilitators, and negotiation strategies in different travel experiences.  Although generalized helplessness around travel was not observed in the sample, individual incidents of feeling a sense of helplessness had an effect on participation in tourism. Participants’ disability, more specifically the type and severity of their impairments, was another determining factor for participation. Lastly, the type of trip and destination were significant in terms of constraints encountered, negotiation strategies used, and the level of participation. Participants regarded business trips as the easiest (when compared to VFR and pleasure travel) with fewer constraints that generally were easier to overcome. Most participants also regarded domestic trips as easier compared to international trips due to their familiarity with the travel context.  The research brings together the theory of negotiation, the theory of learned helplessness, and the leisure constraints model into a single study to understand different levels of participation among travellers with mobility impairments. Therefore, it contributes to an understanding of the travel experiences of travellers with mobility impairments in the New Zealand context and the implications of disabilities for travel. Hence, the research hopes to promote the changes required to improve the travel experiences of travellers with mobility impairments. Based on the theoretical and practical contributions of the study, several recommendations are provided for the tourism industry and the policy-makers. These recommendations aim at moving towards a more inclusive and fair tourism for travellers with disabilities.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Tourism Management

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

Victoria Management School


Smith, Karen; Stace, Hilary; Weaver, Adam