Thoughts on Evaluating Countries for Mobility-Impaired American Travelers

Thoughts on Evaluating Countries for Mobility-Impaired American Travelers
Scott Rains, srains@oco.net
 

When Americans with disabilities ask about a place "Is it accessible?" they actually mean "Is it independently accessible?" ("Can I get in, out and around there by myself  using whatever means of mobility is normal for me?") They most likely also mean, "Are all the products, programs and social interaction which take place there open to my participation." (Is it socially inclusive?)
 
When Americans with disabilities travel they do so with an assumed baseline that is the legacy of the Sections 504 and 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and its implementation
guidelines (ADAAG), actions of the U.S. Access Board, and legal decisions such as Spector v. Norwegian Cruise Line Ltd. It is appropriate to evaluate the accessibility (and/or social inclusiveness) of another country relative to wha ta US traveler has come to expect as the norm back home regardless of the legal,economic or social framework of the state being visited.
 
A first reference point as to the potential ease of travel,accommodation and social participation by PwD might be to determine if the state being visited has ratified the CRPD since the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) is based on the ADA.Embassy staff can learn a great deal about the status (actual and aspirational ) of PwD by examining the actions of the state post ratification of the CRPD audits optional protocols.
 
Typically national listening sessions, public education campaigns and a complete review of a state's laws and policies follow ratification. Subsequent reviews of existing building codes, infrastructure accessibility, monitoring or permitting procedures and disability-oriented services that are undertaken by state actors, the private or the civil sector can provide a database for evaluating hospitality.
 
The truth is that no city, country or society is completely accessible or inclusive - nor has one ever been at any time in history. Americanslive at the cutting edge of an experiment in the granting of human rights to all.

Yet few Americans recognize the degree to which the rights they come from the constant work and even mistakes of their neighbors. Be both firm and patient.

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