Comparison of Travel Patterns of Families with and without a Member with a Disability

Article excerpt

Recreation and leisure have greatly influenced the quality of of people, including people with disabilities (Modell & Imwold, 1998). The quality of life is closely associated with the opportunity for personal growth, fulfillment, and self-esteem (Pain, Dunn, Anderson, Darrah, & Kratochvil, 1998). Such potentialities include the opportunity to establish social bonds with family, friends, and co-workers and to derive meaning from religious and civic activities. Access to sources of aesthetic and intellectual pleasure, including museums, concerts, the use of public parks and libraries should be pursued for recreational purposes based on one's own choice and control (Kosciulek, 1999; Weisberger, 1991). This can also provide individuals with an opportunity to acquire and improve social skills through play, social groups and inherent interactions, increase the circle of acquaintances and friends, increase self-confidence, acquire physical skills and competencies, develop a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, have fun, and create a sense of social identity and belonging to the community (Lloyd, King, Lampe, & McDougall, 2001; Lord, 1997).

Travel is one of the major parts of leisure activity (Turco, Stumbo, & Garncarz, 1998). As a leisure activity, travel may fulfill an individual's needs for catharsis, independence, understanding, affiliation, and getting along with others. Travel is also a means of maintaining a healthy balance between work and relaxation or of escaping from routine cares, especially with the accelerated pace of modern life. According to Travel Industry Association of America (2000), approximately 997 million people engaged in pleasure travel in the United States, including travelers who have a disability, illness, or limitation that may hinder one or more life functions. The U.S. Census Bureau in 2000 estimated that some 49 million Americans were covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); this reached approximately 19 percent of the U.S. population (U.S. Census Bureau, 2000).

Definition of Terms

For the purposes of this study, it is important to provide clear and specific definitions of the constructs of family and travel. To accommodate the diversity of family compositions and to prevent confusion due to various definitions of family, this study used the definition proposed by Mactavish, Schleien, and Tabourne (1997), which refers to the family as a social group with whom one resides, in other words, the household. In the present study, travel referred to a pleasure trip which is defined as any overnight or day trip to a place at least 50 miles from home for the purpose of enjoyment; including vacations, weekend getaways, shopping trips, trips to a second home, and trips to visit friends or relatives. Finally, since a number of writers have commented on the lack of clear distinction between leisure and recreation (Lloyd et al., 2001), the two terms will be used interchangeably.

Purpose of the Study

Despite the fact that travel is an important part of family life, including a family who has a member with a disability, little research has been conducted to date. The purpose of this investigation was to compare the travel patterns of families with and without a member with a disability. In addition, the relationships between annual incomes, type of employment, and race/ethnicity and families with and without a member with a disability were also evaluated. It was anticipated that the results of this investigation would provide rehabilitation practitioners with information useful for facilitating the recreation and leisure activities of people with disabilities and their families.

Research Questions

Research question 1: Are there differences in travel patterns (e.g., type of activity, types of transportation used, primary purpose of trip, use of the Internet) among families with and without a member who has a disability? …