March 2010 Archives

Survival Strategies for Going Abroad: A Guide for People with Disabilities

The Bookshare collection of resources in DAISY format for print disabled readers includes Survival Strategies for Going Abroad: A Guide for people with Disabilities.

Anyone can discover this by running a search here:

I discovered it in a more roundabout way. I saw it on the desk of one of my new colleagues at Bookshare. It led to a conversation about travel, student exchange, digitizing books, and her non-apparent disability.

Good books often lead to good conversations, budding friendships, and a thirst for more knowledge.

I began to ask myself, "What other good conversations around travel and disability might be waiting inside the Bookshare collection?" Plenty as it turns out.

Then I turned the question around, "What good conversations around travel and disability could I recommend for the Bookshare collection?" Same answer.

I won't pretend to be objective. I want to see the Inclusive Tourism sector in southern Africa get their due. They are competent and dedicated. They have a unique product to offer that is not yet well enough known. I want to see Gordon Rattray's book available to Bookshare members:

Access Africa: Safaris for People with Limited Mobility
Written by Gordon Rattray; Published by Bradt Travel Guides

  • This guide is the first of its kind
  • Describes access in hotels, lodges and tented camps, so readers can decide if it suits their needs
  • Information on specialist operators and equipment
There is a problem with listing just one book like this. Not only are there many more great books to suggest but I know the authors of many of them.

So, rather than struggle to be either selective or comprehensive let me endorse the list compiled by one of our best writers, Candy Harrington:

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With disability awareness rising to the level of institutionalization all around the world organizations like the CAFE (Centre for Access to Football in Europe) project provide a central repository of best practices and expertise. (Press release)

Can the growing network of researchers, advocates, and practitioners addressing inclusivity of the sports spectator experience make a significant impact on tourism?

We think so.

FIFA's bad behavior in South Africa leading up to the de facto discrimination at World Cup 2010 has marred the image of that country in the tourism industry. Organizations such as NADS' CAFE and projects such as the Fondazione CRT Paralympic Legacy Project can contribute to a world where league documents supporting equality of experience for spectatorsis not simply an empty promise to gain publicity.


Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Centre for Access to Football in Europe.
CAFE's aim is inclusivity and equality of experience.

In August 2009 UEFA announced the great news that its Monaco Charity Award for 2009 would be dedicated to the creation of a new organisation to establish equal access for disabled football supporters across Europe.

CAFE - Centre for Access to Football in Europe is a brand new charity which has been created to ensure disabled supporters across UEFA's member associations can enjoy a football match as a problem-free experience. CAFE's aim is inclusivity and equality of experience. And, because football embraces diversity in all its forms, CAFE will also work with the football family to raise disability awareness more widely throughout Europe.

CAFE will build on the excellent work started by NADS in the UK. NADS worked alongside UEFA and host stadia, for EURO 2008 and the 2008 and 2009 Champions League Finals, advising on improved facilities and services. Significant improvements have included: additional wheelchair-user spaces and amenity seating for ambulant-disabled supporters, audio-described commentary for visually-impaired supporters, accessible toilets and refreshment areas, team dedicated disabled liaison officers at each match, accessible transport and taxi drop-off points. CAFE means to bring about such changes at all stadia and all games in Europe (all 53 UEFA associations).

It's a big challenge, and people may wonder why this is important. Disability affects around 11% of the population with more than 100 million disabled people living within the UEFA geographical region. At least 500,000 are likely to be existing football supporters and they have the right to enjoy football in the same way as everyone else: the right to equal access. More and more disabled supporters want to travel to UEFA matches and tournaments; as provisions improve, they will feel they can attend major tournaments like EURO 2012 alongside their fellow supporters.


CAFE Centre for Access to Football in Europe. PO Box 145 Flint, CH6 9DH, UK.

e-mail cafe

The Paralympic Legcy Project
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Space Shuttle Atlantis takes flight on the STS...

Image via Wikipedia

Author Suzanne Robitaille has a way with words as she writes on assistive technology at

Here she interviews the founder of Benetech, Jim Fruchterman who is also quick with the memorable quote:

Q: You're a former rocket scientist. Are you ever going back to that job?
A: My rocket blew up on the launch pad. I'm happier now developing software that causes much less damage when it blows up. But I wouldn't mind going into space at some point!

Assisting in-house at Benetech's I asked the perennial question, "How does this empower people with disabilities to travel and participate more fully in the world?"

The simplest way to start is with a search of the Bookshare library catalog. A search on the term "travel" turns up 52,358 titles.

Well, with a collection of around 70,000 titles either Bookshare is the world's best travel resource for PwD or maybe the search term I used was too broad. Either way, those who qualify as print disabled under the Chafee Amendment and are members of Bookshare
can find titles such as:

Ask the Pilot: Everything You Need to Know about Air Travel by Patrick Smith

The Best American Travel Writing 2009 by Simon Winchester
Best Travel 2009.jpg
Britain by Britrail by Adam Price and Laverne Ferguson-Kosinski

The next question becomes, "How complete is the catalog when it comes to bookks written by and for travelers with disabilities?"

That's a question for tomorrow's post on this 8-week travelogue into print disability and Benetech's social entrepreneurial response.
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@ CrisisCamp Silicon Valley


I was invited to CrisisCamp Silicon Valley.

The Carnegie Mellon Silicon Valley Disaster Management Initiative host[ed] CrisisCampSiliconValley a goal-oriented bar-camp focusing on the Bay Area. CrisisCamps brings together domain experts, developers and first responders around improving technology and practice for humanitarian crisis.
Today was the wrap-up session where distilled ideas were presented. Some interesting products, Google mashups, and social entrepreneurial approaches to disaster preparedness and response were highlighted.

Not having attended the first two days I contributed the Social Model definition of disability as an interaction between function and environment observing that, due to changes in environment, "in a disaster we are all disabled." I also contributed an overview of:

For more on CrisisCamps:
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Opportunities to Volunteer with Benetech

Location: Palo Alto, CA 95051
The images in textbooks are a crucial part of teaching content and visually disabled students who don't have access to these images are at an immediate and serious disadvantage. Bookshare is looking to create image descriptions for these text books,. . . more

Location: Palo Alto, CA 95051
This exciting internship involves a combination of crucial tasks with Bookshare's Collection Development department which is responsible for growing our online library of accessible books for people with print disabilities. Responsibilities include:

-Running quality checks on books that have been scanned. . . more

Location: Palo Alto, CA 95051
Our engineering volunteers work on one of several exciting ongoing projects based on his/her qualifications and time commitment. Examples of responsibilities include: • Creating a full text search engine for our 45,000 books stored in XML format. • Working on our document conversion libraries.. . . more

Administrative Assistant for Palo Alto Non-Profit

Location: Palo Alto, CA 95051 is an online library of more than 60.000 accessible books for people who are blind or have other print disabilities. Given that less than 5% of the world's books are available in accessible formats, the need for is. . . more

Location: Palo Alto, CA 95051
Bookshare is an online library of more than 39,000 accessible books for people who are blind or have other print disabilities. But the collection is far from complete. Our members have a deep passion for reading. Given that less than. . . more


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Irene Mbari-Kirika, Founder & Executive Director of Our Reading Spaces Foundation, reports on the successful Computer Lab program she helped establish in July 2009 at the Thika Primary School for the Blind in Kenya, the first and oldest school for the blind in Africa.

I met the students at Thika Primary School for the Blind in January 2008 during a library trip in Thika, Kenya. I was amazed at how brilliant they were despite their disability. The students participated in different reading activities alongside the sighted students and the visually impaired students took home most of the awards.

Thika Primary School for the Blind is the first and oldest school for the blind in Africa, founded in 1946 as a hospital for disabled World War II veterans. It has a total of 278 students and 34 teachers (14 teachers are totally blind). The school has the most diverse population of students from blind institutions: HIV/Aids, Autistic, Albino, hearing impaired, and developmental disabilities.

Later, I came to learn that Braille books for the blind students are a luxury and four to five students are forced to share books.  A math book is five times more expensive for a blind student as compared to a sighted student. I had my personal experience when I visited the school this past November. I saw students in a class sitting in groups during a class session... It's difficult to understand why this is going on TODAY even with the presence of technology.

In my search for a solution, I came to terms with the fact that Braille books are bulky and very expensive worldwide but technology can make a big difference for a disabled student.  In July 2009, we opened our computer lab at Thika Primary School for the Blind with 15 computers. The computer was a foreign gadget to the students and teachers, but today they can freely email and browse the web.

Christine Kiyathi a 47 year old blind teacher at the school emailed and I quote,                                                                        

"A dream has finally come true, I can now read a paper of my choice comfortably without being a bother to someone thanks to Our Reading Space".   

On November 12, 2009, we honored 39 students and 20 teachers enrolled in our program and we were able to expand our computer lab at the primary school. This occurred as a result of the generosity of individuals and corporations such as Coca-Cola Nairobi Bottlers.  An additional 15 computers were purchased from donations, doubling the size of the computer lab.  This will allow Our Reading Spaces to accommodate more students on the program.


  • The students and teachers are able to use MS Office software with emphasis on Word and Excel. This will help the school save on cost since Braille paper is a luxury.
  • Limitless resources are available online for the students and teachers. Courtesy of Bookshare, the students and teachers have access to more than 9,000 books available online. At the same time Thika School for the Blind does not own a single dictionary, so now the students and the teachers use

For more information, sponsorship or funding opportunities for the project "Expansion of the Computer Lab at the Thika Primary School for the Blind," please visit Our Reading Spaces Foundation website at 

Watch the video: Heroes: Thika School of the visually impaired, NTVKenya, August 2009 (source: YouTube) 

Contact: Irene Mbari-Kirika, Founder & Executive Director, Our Reading Spaces Foundation
e-mail: - phone: 404-542-1463 

Access to information is a fundamental necessity for full participation in society.

The Bookshare project is designed to bring technology to bear on issues related to print disability. Don Johnston is one provider of text readers for persons with print disabilities.

Read:OutLoud Bookshare Logo

Don Johnston Partners with Benetech/Bookshare
to Provide FREE Technology Access to Thousands of Online Educational
Materials for Students with Print Disabilities

As part of their $32 million U.S. Department of Education OSEP award, Bookshare chose Read:OutLoud by Don Johnston Incorporated as the text reader that would best achieve the goal of providing access to reading materials and enabling students to read texts with comprehension. It is available for free to all Bookshare members.

If you are a Bookshare member you can download Read:OutLoud Bookshare Edition here.

To learn more about Bookshare visit their website.

Read:OutLoud Bookshare Edition

Read:OutLoud Bookshare 

Key Features:

  • Text-to-speech reads Bookshare content
  • eHighlighter and Note tools cultivate text-to-self connections
  • Bibliographer logs and organizes sources in a structured step-by-step process


  • Provides access to classroom content - Students with print disabilities can access curriculum-based information through electronic books available from Bookshare
  • Supports reading comprehension - Read:OutLoud provides the structure and a robust set of tools students use to independently practice comprehension strategies recommended by the National Reading Panel Report and Reading Next.
  • Increases knowledge in any subject area - Students highlight key information creating an information outline to organize and clarify their content understanding.

Text Reader Functionality Lookup Table

Determine which text reader is right for you. This functionality lookup chart compares features found in Read:OutLoud, Read:OutLoud Edition and the ClassMate Reader.

Update as of 8.7.09

Both the Windows and the Mac version of Read:OutLoud Bookshare Edition are now available! Bookshare members can download the software on the Bookshare website here.


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Right. Now Scott is going to write about the commute between Silicon Valley and Standford University as a Travelogue?

One word review even before he starts: "B-O-R-I-N-G!"

No, this journey is only a short drive from home but an exploration of many branching paths through assistive technology as applied to solving social needs by Benetech.

The technology behind including print disabled folks is the publishing protocol known as DAISY

One of the easily available tools is the AnyDaisy Firefox Extension:

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Photos from the Maputo Seminar by designer and seminar speaker Rosanne Ramos.

The U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education

Seal of the United States Department of Educat...

Image via Wikipedia

Programs (OSEP), awarded $5 million to Benetech, in collaboration with The Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM) at WGBH and the U.S. Fund for DAISY (USFDAISY), to create a research and development center that will greatly improve the processes and availability of accessible images for students with disabilities.

The new Digital Image and Graphic Resources for Accessible Materials Center (DIAGRAM) will develop tools and best practices that will make it easier and more cost-effective to create and use accessible images across a range of educational content.

"Together, we are committed to creating tools and best practices that anyone can use to make graphical content more accessible and widely available," says Jim Fruchterman, CEO of Benetech, the nonprofit organization that operates Bookshare. "Educators and students with print disabilities will have unprecedented opportunities to use devices and software to make access to image and graphical content a reality in educational materials."

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act 2004 (IDEA) calls for timely access to educational materials; through projects such as Benetech's Bookshare for Education, access to text has greatly increased. Yet, educational materials include a wide array of other types of content. The burden of accessible image preparation typically falls on educators, who have limited time and tools to create useful descriptions or accessible graphics for students. Too often, students using text-based accessible instructional materials (AIM) are presented with only the words "image" or "graphic" when the devices they use to read digital text encounter illustrations, equations, graphics, photos or diagrams in textbooks.

"With such a wide array of media becoming more popular, it's more important than ever to foster collaboration and innovation by encouraging nonprofit and commercial enterprises to work together to solve this problem," said George Kerscher, Secretary General of the DAISY Consortium and head of the U.S. Fund for DAISY.

Through rigorous research and testing, over the five year period of this award, the DIAGRAM center will help create a set of tools for producers of accessible instructional materials, such as publishers and state and local education agencies, to expand the field of image description and interactive exploration of graphical content.

"As an early pioneer with years of experience in the challenges of image and media accessibility, NCAM believes the collaboration of these three partners will have a profound impact on the education of students with print disabilities," said Larry Goldberg, WGBH's Director of Media Access, who oversees NCAM.

Each of the DIAGRAM center partners has led technology initiatives that fundamentally changed how people with visual and other print disabilities experience and interact with all forms of media, from the DAISY standard to the Bookshare library to NCAM's work on image descriptions. Bookshare is an initiative of Benetech, a Palo Alto, CA-based nonprofit that creates sustainable technology to solve pressing social needs.

About Benetech

Benetech ( is a nonprofit technology development organization based on Silicon Valley. Benetech specifically pursues endeavors with a strong social, rather than financial, rate of return on investment, bringing open source technology and private sector management techniques to bear in creating innovative, non-traditional solutions to challenging social issues. One of Benetech's initiatives is Bookshare, the world's largest accessible online library for people with print disabilities. Through its technology initiatives and partnerships, Bookshare seeks to raise the floor on accessibility so that individuals with print disabilities have the same ease of access to print materials as people without disabilities. In 2007, Bookshare received a $32 million five-year award from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), to provide free access for all U.S. students with a qualified print disability. The Bookshare library now has over 70,000 books and serves more than 80,000 members.

About NCAM and WGBH

The Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family National Center for Accessible Media at WGBH is a research, development and advocacy entity that works to make existing and emerging technologies accessible to all audiences. NCAM is part of the Media Access Group at WGBH, which also includes The Caption Center (est. 1972), and Descriptive Video Service (est. 1990). For more information, visit The Media Access Group at WGBH (

About the U.S. Fund for DAISY

The US Fund for DAISY ( was established in 2005 to provide financial support and administer U.S. based projects and grants for the DAISY Consortium in accordance with the mission, vision and values of the DAISY Consortium. The DAISY Consortium was formed in May 1996 by talking book libraries to lead the worldwide transition from analog to Digital Talking Books. DAISY denotes the Digital Accessible Information System. Members of the Consortium actively promote the DAISY Standard for Digital Talking Books because it promises to revolutionize the reading experience for people who have print disabilities. The Consortium's vision is to ensure that all published information is available to people with print disabilities, at the same time and at no greater cost, in an accessible, feature-rich, navigable format. The DAISY Consortium has established its mission and goals in order to make this vision a reality.

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We preserve the best of the old -- books by leading experts, peer‑reviewed and developed to high editorial standards, fully supported by review copies, teaching supplements and great service. Then we change everything. Our textbooks are:

  • Free online
  • Affordable offline
  • Open-licensed
  • Customizable by educators

Educators choose the book -- students choose format and price. Everybody wins.

Partner with Flatworld Knowledge:
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Bookshare in Chennai

A guest Beneblog by Viji Dilip
International Bookshare Program Manager

Every morning braving the heavy Chennai traffic Maria wheels into Worth Trust to start her work as a proof reader. Maria was raised by the sisters of the local Chennai Church, given a basic education and was sent off to Worth Trust to learn life skills. Two years later, Maria who was affected by polio at the age of one and has to use a wheel chair and calipers, is now soon to be married on Jan 18th, 2010. The proud bride to be is full of smiles and happy that the Worth Trust- Bookshare partnership has given a new meaning to her life, she is full of confidence ready to face the world. She says, "This job has greatly increased my self-esteem. I now feel even I can help people living in America!!"

Thanks to a generous grant from the Lavelle Fund for the Blind, Bookshare has been able to work with Worth Trust, a nonprofit with offices in Chennai, India. The project's goals were to work with organizations that provide opportunities for people with disabilities and digitize a million pages of books to be added to the Bookshare collection. The partner we chose, Worth Trust employs people with disabilities, in addition they conduct life skills classes and provide training. Manufacturers of mobility aids like wheel chairs and Perkins Braillers (the leading braille typewriter in the world), Worth Trust's main office is located in Katpadi, a few hours away from Chennai.

From manufacturing wheel chairs to digitizing books was a huge change but the employees at Worth Trust were up for the challenge. We started of with a few validators and proof readers, a scanner, a computer and a handful of eager learners. For the employees English is not their first language and for some it was not the medium of instruction. However that did not stop them from trying, learning and working hard. After several days of training in Chennai and through Skype with me in California and the Worth Trust team in Chennai they started off with 30 books a month. Today two years later they digitize about 150,000 pages a month and have far surpassed their goal of a million pages. They now work with higher level books with charts, graphs and equations and can turn around books for us in 24 hours if necessary.

Every employee on this project has a story to tell, some have moved on to get other jobs, like Vikas who is now a consultant at Tata Consultancy Services after having worked in the Bookshare-Worth Trust project. Vikas, who became blind at ten is a PhD in English but had never ventured far from home. Working on this project, utilizing his knowledge of English to proof read he was soon able to gain self confidence and is now residing a few hours from his home town, independently and exploring the world through the internet. Sheila on the other hand is a woman who is deaf and nonspeaking and could not find work that utilized her undergraduate degree. The Worth Trust-Bookshare project provided her with an opportunity where she could work hard and learn a lot. She is off next month on maternity leave but is certain that she'll be back as soon as she can.

In addition this project alone has enabled us to add more than 6000 high quality books to our collection making our Bookshare members very happy.

Thanks to the Worth Trust team and to Lavelle in supporting these efforts!

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AFB and Time Warner Unveil New Audio Book Technology

On September 21, 2000, as part of a White House initiative on bridging the "digital divide," AFB president and CEO, Carl R. Augusto, accompanied President Bill Clinton on a trip to Flint, Michigan. There, Time Warner AudioBooks and Intellectual Properties Management, Inc. (IPM), in association with AFB Talking Books (now Talking Book Productions), unveiled a prototype of a digitally synchronized audio and text version of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech.

"I Have a Dream" is part of "A Call to Conscience: The Landmark Speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.", which was published in hardcover by Warner Books and as an audio program (featuring original recordings of Dr. King) by Time Warner AudioBooks in December 2000. AFB Talking Books--the creator and producer of audio books for over 65 years--produced the book in this new format developed through the research of the Digital Audio-based Information System (DAISY) Consortium. People who are blind, visually impaired, or dyslexic will now be able to enjoy these historic words in an exciting new way.

"We are proud to have developed this prototype for Time Warner AudioBooks, said Augusto. "It will revolutionize the way books, e-books, and audiobooks are used."

The ability to 'toggle' (or switch back and forth) between audio and print versions of the same work increases the accessibility and enriches the value of each component. Readers will be able to have the text of the book displayed on screen or in braille, fully synchronized with the audio of Dr. King and a professional narrator. In addition, this synchronization technology has broad appeal for students (particularly those learning English as a second language), schools, travelers, and commuters who may wish to consult the text and listen to the audio independently or simultaneously.

Talking Book Productions can provide either full audio book production or any combination of the following services: project coordinating, casting, paymaster services, directing, engineering, recording, proofreading, editing, mastering, duplication, packaging, and fulfillment.

For a demonstration of DAISY technology, follow the instructions below to download Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech.

How to Download and Play the DAISY Digital Talking Book Demonstration


  1. Click download link below.
  2. When the dialog box comes up asking you where to save the file, we recommend that you save it to the desktop (for future access).
  3. Once download is complete, switch to your desktop and double click on the file you just downloaded. This will install the demonstration.
  4. Hit the "next" button for all subsequent dialog boxes when prompted.
  5. When installation is complete click on the newly created "I Have A Dream" icon on your desktop. The program will load and the demo will start playing.


To Play

  • Play and Pause - Spacebar
  • Play next phrase - Right Arrow
  • Play previous phrase - Left Arrow
  • Next screen - Down Arrow
  • Previous screen - Up Arrow
  • Go to start - Home
  • Go to end - End
  • Larger font - Ctrl+4
  • Standard Font Size - Ctrl+3
  • Search text - Shift+Ctrl+F, type text, press Enter
  • Copy current text to clipboard - Ctrl+C
  • Stop - Escape key


 the Martin Luther King, Jr. Digital Talking Book Demo (for fast 
connections)  Download the Martin Luther King, Jr. Digital Talking Book Demo (for fast connections)

 the Martin Luther King, Jr. Digital Talking Book Demo (for dial-up 
connections Download the Martin Luther King, Jr. Digital Talking Book Demo (for dial-up connections)


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Projeto de aventura especial e adaptação de equipamentos turísticos para pessoas portadoras de deficiência estão entre as prioridades do governo.


O Ministério do Turismo (MTur) apresentou, em Maputo, capital de Moçambique, a experiência brasileira em acessibilidade para o turismo. Foi no Seminário Regional de Acessibilidade e Meio Ambiente, realizado no início deste mês com a participação de mais de 20 países de língua portuguesa. 

"O Ministério desenvolve uma série de projetos voltados para a inclusão das pessoas
 com deficiência no turismo. Já temos casos de sucesso que podemos mostrar ao mundo, como o de Aventura Especial na cidade de Socorro, em São Paulo", conta o diretor do Departamento de Estruturação e Ordenamento Turístico, Ricardo Moesch, que representou o MTur no evento. 

Socorro (SP) é um dos destinos turísticos que fazem parte do projeto 10 Destinos Referência em Segmentos Turísticos do MTur. O projeto de adaptação de meios de hospedagem, restaurantes e atrativos turísticos da cidade para pessoas com deficiência também foi apresentado na África. "Em 2009, houve um aumento de 20% nas operações de Turismo de Aventura em Socorro, com relação a 2008", afirma o diretor do Conselho de Turismo do município, José Fernandes Franco, confirmando o sucesso do projeto. A cidade chamou atenção também dos organizadores da Copa de 2014 e das Olimpíadas 2016, eventos que exigem cumprimento de normas de acessibilidade nas instalações esportivas. 

O MTur distribuiu para os participantes do evento as quatro cartilhas que compõem a coleção "Turismo Acessível". Cada volume é dedicado a um tema: "Introdução a uma Viagem de Inclusão"; "Mapeamento e Planejamento - Acessibilidade em Destinos Turísticos"; "Bem Atender no Turismo Acessível" e "Bem Atender no Turismo de Aventura Adaptada". 

Ilhéus é um excelente destino para o turismo acessível com suas paisagens belíssimas, é necessária uma adaptação para as praias com estrutura de lazer e aumento do número de leitos na rede hoteleira que hoje contamos com apenas 05 unidades e a adequação das calçadas para os cadeirantes, um forte exemplo é um acesso na Av. Lomanto Junior - Pontal que termina em um poste. A Cooperbom Turismo já tem um projeto no qual está trabalhando para o turista com deficiência e está formando parcerias. Ilhéus pode se tornar referência para este tipo de turismo a exemplo da cidade de Socorro - SP.

Fonte Cooperbom Turismo:

Cooperbom turismo banner.jpg

By far the most flexible and accommodating venue we found in Maputo as we planned the Inclusive Tourism Seminar was Residencial Kaya Kwanga. "Kaya Kwanga" means (in Soto, I believe) "Your Home."

The homey feel was evident in the rapidly-executed modifications undertaken to accommodate 15 wheelchair-using guest from 17 countries. We left the infrastructure upgraded for accessibility in the process. For those wanting an affordable, if slightly challenging, family-oriented base to work from in Maputo Kaya Kwanga might be an option.
Afrin Hotel.JPG
Other wheelchair-users stayed at Cardoso, Southern Sun, Avenida, Hotel Turismo, and the Holiday Inn with varying degress of satisfaction with their limited accessibility.

Now let me change glossaries and pull out the superlatives to describe a new hotel that we discovered while driving past - it is not even in this year's Maputo telephone directory!
Within minutes of moving into my room at Hotel Afrin there was a housekeeping team at the door to welcome me. That was followed by the head of housekeeping doing a total furniture makeover adding a lower table to the kitchen and innumerable small touches to enhance the accessibility of the environment.

And it didn't need much!

The room was huge. No carpets. Easy to open wall-sized curtains to a (inaccessible) balcony.

My home won the 2006 Universal Design Award for Silicon Valley based on a remodel of our master bathroom. I am glad I did not have to compete with this hotel's design. I would have lost!

The photos show a superbly designed wet room. The unfortunate flaw was using a Portuguese standard for door widths (70 cm) and then losing an addition 1.5 cm through moulding. Once again hoteliers, build for the clientelle who you want to attract and exceed their expectations. Never be satisfied wth mere compliance with minimum standards.
Now, as important as architecture is, as appealing as the hotels excellent art and fair food was, the coup de grace of staying at Hotel Afrin were my daily visits from the two owners Iboo and Fortunato.

It did not slip past my attention that my first encounter with Iboo was as an empty pair of black loafers outside the door to the mini-mosque across the hall from my room. When Fortunato sought me out one night to inform me that he planned to support our work he was palming his prayer beads. Successful, exceedingly sharp businessmen, these two gentle Sufis were the highlight of my perfectly comfortable stay at Hotel Afrin.
Five stars plus for design and service!

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São Luís

Image by Tony Gálvez via Flickr

Among the many talented exerts this work introduces to me around the world is the unassuming Katia Espindola (Es-PIN-do-la) of São Luís in the Brazilian state of Maranhão.

Trained in Tourism she specialized in the Geography of Tourism. Her work has been almost completely on Inclusive Tourism. She  has recently presented in Cuba, Spain, and will present this week in Portugal. Before graduation she proposed a project to revitalize the UNESCO-designated historic patrimony site of the old central São Luís as a destination for travelers with disabilities.

Design opportunities include creating wheelchair access without changing the facades of separate buildings that share three exterior walls.  In some places these run as a unit for an entire block yet have no capacity to accommodate a normal-sized elevator and no doorways between buildings that would allow sharing of a single elevator for these 2-3 story structures.

In addition, the entire historic center is cobblestone pedestrian mall with the practice found in many places around the world where the sidewalks are totally blocked to wheelchair passage by merchants' tables, chair, and kiosks making what sidewalk ramps exist useless.

Katia's team is looking for exemplary best practices from around the world involving vertical and pedestrian circulation in historic settings as well as alternatives to physical access such as virtual tours or centralized interpretive centers with representative historical materials accessible to people with both physical and sensory disabilities.

If you wish to contribute to this project contact me at or Katia Espindola (in Portuguese) at

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Q: "Are you American? "

A: "Yes," I reply.

Q: "You don't look American."

[Confused pause on my part - What does one say to the guy in customs who questions your nationality when he has your passport in hand and you only have your face as collateral?]

A: "Muito obigado." [Translation: "Thank you very much." Processing internally:  I consider it a sign of my success at cultural competence and appropriate behavior to not immediately be marked as American when a guest in another country - although I'm a bit surprised that I seem to be wearing my citizen-of-the-world identity so obviously once I am home.]

Q: "What's with the beard?" The officer glances at my passport.

A: "Excuse me?"

Q: "Your beard. It looks like it was cut like you are supposed to cut it. Did you convert?"

[Confused pause - Level 2]

A: [Tentatively] "No" [Light bulb goes on. Try humor.]  Oh! Asalam aleykum!"

Q: Your beard doesn't look American. Did you convert?

A: No [Practical dilemma: How do I prove that I am not Muslim? Moral dilemma: Why would I want to? Observation: Save humor for an audience that doesn't offer free tickets to Guantanamo as the consolation prize for bad improv.] "Aren't they supposed to not cut any facial hair? See I shaved my neck."

Q: "I wouldn't know."

A: "Sorry for joking. You're serious.  I forgot what your job is. No, I didn't convert."

[Having publicly professed my non-faith three times in a row I silently pray that I won't hear a cock crow and I head off to quickly find the first restaurant that serves pork - preferable Kosher - just to shake the guy in sunglasses, ear bud, and trench coat who I am sure I will see following behind me if I turn around quick enough.]

Aleykum asalam! Welcome home to America.

The clock on my laptop tells me it is 11:47 AM but I can't remember if it is set to Johannesburg, Paris, Lisbon, New York City, or somewhere that exists only in Gabriel García Márquez' One Hundred Years of Solitude.

The predawn darkness and occasional wall clock here in LAX tell me that it is closer to time for bacon & eggs than bacalhau and batatas but my stomach is voting more for the latter while even Starbucks sleeps.

But this is the story of Magdala Morales and not jet lag and gastronomy.

The wait in JFK was of only a few hours  (during which I learned from the helpful young man and his mother waiting across from me that they were returning from a quick trip to Puerto Rico to try to see the family's youngest boy after the father was sentenced to life for various atrocities.) Lifelines cross that would not otherwise during travel.

Arriving here at LAX at around midnight the crew helping with the aisle chair were fairly timely and attentive or at least I made it off the plane safely and without incident before all the flight crew had holed up for the night at some hotel. (My expectations of service diminish perceptibly after more than 24 hours in transit while, unfortunately, my level of need for them increases.)

So I am all the more grateful to G2 passenger services employee Magdala Morales.

Learning that I was unable to find my cell phone she mobilized what appeared to be a battalion of co-workers. From the cavalleros holding lassos of electric cord in one hand as they ran carpet cleaners across the empty expanses of sage-gray carpeted terminal to the TSA security and unseen aides on her phone we developed a plan and eventually located the phone.

Thanks, Magdala for putting in the overtime.


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Accessible Portugal


A quick note: If you get the chance to visit Portugal and you or a member of your party have a disability I can highly recommend Accessible Portugal based on my personal experience on their tours and interviewing their staff.
Find more photos like this on Tour Watch

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