First Scholarship of Hope awarded for a research proposal

Since 2010, MODUL University Vienna has been awarding students with innovative ideas in the area of sustainability through the Scholarship of Hope. Until recently, the scholarship focused solely on project proposals, however it has been expanded to include research proposals with a strong focus on sustainability.

Kristof Tomej, PhD candidate and Researcher and Lecturer at MU Vienna, is the first such recipient of the scholarship, which provided funding for data collection in his research. Kristof’s research focuses on inclusive holidays for persons with and without visual impairment. He believes that such tourism products can teach scholars and practitioners a lot about how to design experiences which are equitable to people regardless of their sensory abilities.

Traditional tourism is heavily occulocentric,” says Kristof. “In other words, typical tourist activities focus overwhelmingly on the visual sense. It is difficult to imagine a visit to any destination without sightseeing, gazing at the aesthetic features of the landscapes, touring museums and looking at artefacts carefully protected behind glass. Such practices, however, exclude people whose visual abilities are different from the majority. These are not only people with blindness, but also persons with various forms of minor and severe visual impairment, including seniors. The offer of activities that these people could enjoy at tourist destinations is meagre. Luckily, social entrepreneurs and charities in many countries are offering specially designed holidays where persons with and without visual impairment travel together. Not only travelers with visual impairment benefit from being guided by a sighted travel mate, but the sighted guides themselves profit from an enhanced sensorial experience.”

For his research, Kristof participated in one such tour in Italy, where he conducted observations using a wearable action camera. He then used the theoretical framework of affordances to structure these observations in a way that can be useful to service designers.

“Affordance is a concept that is increasingly being used by product designers. I would like to contribute to its application in a service context as well.” According to Kristof, the findings from his research will be useful to professionals involved in designing tourism experiences in their efforts to create offers that consider the sensory capabilities of different groups of people.

“Equity is an underlying principle of sustainability. We often forget about it, but it should be our objective to strive for better opportunities for diverse groups of people, in tourism as well.”      

All current undergraduate, graduate, and PhD students from all study programs at MODUL University may apply for the scholarship to assist them in conducting research which makes a strong contribution to fostering sustainability. Additionally, the whole MU community is eligible to apply for the Scholarship of Hope with a proposal for an innovative project that could be implemented at MU in order to advance the ongoing goal of becoming a more sustainable university.

Congratulations Kristof!