Melding the Green and the Human: Geotourism Challenge 2009


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To date I have held off applying to this year's Geotourism Challenge because the sponsors (Ashoka Foundation and National Geographic) have asked me to serve as a Featured Commentator.

The following is a set of questions I have prepared for the applicants. The application process is still open. Consider applying and feel free to suggest questions to me in addition to the following:

Questions for Geotourism 2009 Nominees

An estimated 10% of those traveling at any point in time have a disability. Many more of those disabilities affect sight and hearing than is apparent with the easily identified wheelchair or cane user. Many disabilities are virtually invisible to the observer - yet they profoundly impact the travel behavior of those who experience them.
To be considered ecologically sustainable a project must be socially sustainable. That is, it must be realistic in accounting for the human needs and cultural variation among those it impacts. The following questions are meant to stimulate your thinking about how successful you have been in accommodating the diversity of capacities of travelers to make an earth-sensitive project open to all.

•    Do you provide information in various formats so that it can be independently accessed by users who may or may not be sighted, hearing, English-speaking, literate?

•    Do you follow best online practices in Universal Design such as W3C WAI or Section 508 (a US web accessibility law) standards?

•    Does the information you provide include the sort of information that is essential for someone who, for example, uses a wheelchair, travels with a companion animal, or is short of stature? If not, has that information been collected and made readily accessible for when a traveler requests it from you?

•    Does your knowledge of place and local culture include explicit knowledge of the local cultures of disability ( i.e Local sign language dialects, crafts or professional niches traditionally held by persons with disabilities, historical figures of note who had disabilities?)

•    Does the marketing material you provide portray people with disabilities respectfully? (Does it portray them at all?)

•    Have you made an attempt to employ persons with disabilities? To seek them out as consultants in product development, marketing, and evaluation? Employ them on an ongoing basis?

•    If you provide a service to someone without a disability have you designed that service so that it is accessible to all or created an alternate system to accomplish an equivalent result?

•    If such service requires additional or modified equipment have you attempted to limit the environmental impact of the accommodation
(i.e Does your wheelchair lift-equipped vehicle operate on biodiesel?)

  • Have you implemented the insight, adopted in the LEED (green building) Certification specifications, that building accessibility is a necessity and is an environmentally practice because it extends the functionality of a building for its occupants (i.e. aging-in-place, visitability, lifespan design)? Retrofitting to correct a space that excludes uses more resources and produces waste material.

Reading on LEED Certification and inclusion:

•    Are you aware that the Responsible Tourism Movement specifies accessibility for all as central to its definition of responsible tourism?

Readings on the Responsible Tourism Movement:

•    Did you know that participation in sports, leisure activities, and tourism is a right guaranteed in the UN Convention on the Rights of persons with disabilities (CRPD; see Article 30)? Do you know if the country or countries you operate in are signatories of the CRPD or have similar national legislation and what your legal obligations are under each?

Readings on CRPD Article 30:

•    If your project involves access to the water have you familiarized yourself with the Waypoint/Backstrom Principles on accessibility of maritime environments?

Readings on the Waypoint/Backstrom Principles:

•    Have you reviewed your program using the seven principles of Universal Design?

   1.      Equitable Use: The design does not disadvantage or stigmatize any group of users.
   2.      Flexibility in Use: The design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities.
   3.      Simple, Intuitive Use: Use of the design is easy to understand, regardless of the user's experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level.
   4.      Perceptible Information: The design communicates necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user's sensory abilities.
   5.      Tolerance for Error: The design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions.
   6.      Low Physical Effort: The design can be used efficiently and comfortably, and with a minimum of fatigue.
   7.      Size and Space for Approach & Use: Appropriate size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation, and use, regardless of the user's body size, posture, or mobility.

  • The Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria are part of the response of the tourism community to the global challenges of the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals. Interest in poverty alleviation and environmental sustainability are highlighted in the criteria. How might your work be enhanced by applying the criteria to travelers, employees, and destination residents with disabilities?

Readings on the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria:

Further Reading:

OSSN Blog on Geotourism Challenge 2009

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