April 24, 2004

Inclusive Travel - Asia Pacific Region

Reading UN documents seems about as engaging as reading the Manhattan phone directory but ocassionally something pops out.

Here is an excerpt from a UN ESCAP document subtitled, PROMOTION OF BARRIER-FREE TOURISM FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES IN THE ASIAN AND PACIFIC REGION

IV. PRIORITY AREAS FOR THE PROMOTION OF BARRIER-FREE TOURISM

Notwithstanding the number of initiatives already pursued by countries in the region to make tourism barrier-free for people with disabilities and older persons, there are three key issues that require immediate attention.


One key area is the formulation and implementation of related legislation in order to protect the right of persons with disabilities to accessible facilities and environment. Countries should be encouraged to continue developing such legislation as well as introduce new amendments in keeping with changes in the tourism sector, including travel conditions, and the specific situations of different disability groups. While it is essential that legislation be reviewed in a continuous manner, it is imperative that members of the tourism industry be informed of their obligations and operational implications in order to protect not only their interests, but also those of the people with disabilities. Of equal importance is the role of the various disability bodies and organizations, which must begin to work closely with the tourism industry to improve existing practices. These organizations are well acquainted with and knowledgeable about various disability issues. They should assist the tourism industry in introducing the necessary changes required under the legislation and assist in the organization of related staff training programmes.


Education and training on awareness and sensitivity to disability issues constitute another top priority area in the promotion of accessible tourism. The education sector should be encouraged to include in its training curricula on tourism management and related tourism services courses on "disabled persons' right to access", as well as "customer services to, and relations with, people with disabilities". Here again, close collaboration between the disability organizations and the tourism industry along with the education sector would facilitate the development of the required training programmes. It would also help in the publication of training material, such as facilitative guides, student handbooks and audio-visual training support, for wider distribution in the tourism industry.


Provision of accessible facilities is by far the most important area of concern for achieving barrier-free tourism for people with disabilities. Taking into consideration that it is highly unrealistic to presume that the situation will change overnight, owing to cost and time limitations, what is required in the short term is that the tourism sector should strive to achieve a reasonable level of accessibility, which balances disabled users' needs, the constraints of existing conditions and the resources available for such adjustments. In many cases, this relates to the issue of physical access, such as main hotel entrance access, appropriate access ramps, reception counters, disability-friendly rooms, access to and location of all public areas. In the long term, the approach will be to encourage major restructuring and/or refurbishment of hospitality establishments and tourism sites.


Posted by rollingrains at April 24, 2004 04:50 AM | TrackBack