About Inclusive Tourism
Who are we?
Melissa James is the CEO and Founder of Inclusive Tourism. She began her accessible tourism crusade after experiencing firsthand the difficulties of travelling on a trip to the US with her elderly father. At 82 he had mobility challenges and found many seemingly innocent obstacles blocked his path.
During the same trip, Melissa spent time in New York with a friend who uses a wheelchair. Melissa saw the many challenges her friend was faced with, and how, as many people living with disability do, she had learned to be stoical in the face of these challenges. Again, hotels and attractions that claimed to be ‘accessible’ were unable to accommodate her needs.
It seemed that businesses had little understanding of the needs of people with access requirements. This resulted in a lack of information to assist with planning a trip and often miscommunication of what the hotel or venue was able to offer.
In 2013, after much research, Melissa launched Cangoeverywhere.com.au a website designed to provide information on accessible accommodation and destinations. (See the story below) To gain a deeper insight and technical knowledge into the area Melissa also trained as an Access Consultant with the Access Institute.
Melissa then broadened her scope and setup a consultancy with a ‘social purpose’ to advocate for change and increase accessibility in the tourism sector. Her vision is to make a difference in the lives of people living with a disability by increasing their sense of inclusion in the world. She has now worked with a variety of organisations ranging from small to large tourism operators, Destination Management organisations and local Councils on a variety of projects to implement change within their community or business. Since founding Inclusive Tourism, Melissa has developed and delivered educational programs, keynote addresses educating people on the practical elements, as well as the economic and social benefits of being accessible.
In 2018 Melissa was invited to speak at the World Summit on Accessible Tourism held in Brussels. She shared her experience of working in partnership with local government organisations on the Gold Coast to increase accessibility at the Commonwealth Games. She is a passionate and engaging speaker and has contributed articles and interviews for a variety of publications and media programs.
CanGoEverywhere.com.au was created in 2013 to provide information to travellers about accessibility-friendly destinations and services around the country. CanGo was designed as a service directory with complete destination information. The website won many awards for most innovative venture during 2014 and 2015.
Our vision was to help people with special requirements have more confidence to travel and be certain their needs would be met. Not only would people be able to find somewhere to stay, but they’d also be able to find what they could do, where they could eat and any other relevant information, such as equipment hire outlets.
The website has been an ever-evolving project. It was designed by qualified access consultants to provide information on the physical environment for people with mobility issues and for wheelchair users. It also catered for people with vision and hearing impairments and a broad range of different disabilities and requirements.
Sadly, it became apparent that CanGo was ahead of its time. Although people with disabilities greeted it with enthusiasm, the tourism industry wasn’t quite ready for it. So, we’ve made the very difficult decision to put CanGoEverywhere on the shelf for the time being. We will focus on the consulting work to support organisations to understand and adapt to the market. In most cases, business have some level of accessibility – we want to help them identify it, improve it and start letting people know about it.