It is World Tourism Day and the biggest topic of debate is centered around providing and promoting universal accessibility for all. Now I am sure for most of you out there who don't pay too much attention to travel will most probably ask, "What do you mean by that" and to be very honest with you, that is a very difficult question to answer. When we think of access , the first thing I think of and it is all related to travel is how easily can I make a booking? Well through development of various apps for our phones I can say that well, it looks really good at this point. At the first glance, on any mobile app store when you click or type "Travel & Leisure" a whole scope of apps emerge. 

Sure then we can say that there is universal access right because almost everyone who travels has a smartphone right?

Not necessarily.

I say this because how many of you actually use those software's and how many of you make a complete booking on your mobile phone?

But relating it back to how do we promote universal access?

In South Africa, many places that I have called home temporarily have had simple access to buildings for differently-abled persons but I can guarantee that this is not all that needs to be done. What we need to remember is that as much as this is a business thing and what I mean by that is, yes hotels and other residential homes available for tourism use  with lavatories and rooms being able to be offered to those who need it for their comfort but also this is a social thing as well.

In many cases I think we tend to solve one side of an issue and not the issue comprehensively , when we need to think of the social part of the accessibility, we need to think of the overall experience of the traveler right? I mean, we don't want the hindrance of access to chase away potential travelers who could experience the world.

What I do think that we can do to make it more accessible socially is to sensitize the travel industry to differently-abled persons. This does not mean that the industry is not open to it but that I cannot see how the potential needs of the customers are being met. So I think investing in customer relations especially patience and understanding of the needs of the disabled guest should be a priority. A whole adventure can be completely dimmed by bad service and understanding. 

I also think that we are at a point where stigmatization of disabled persons should be at an end but in some parts it may not be so we need to educate people about differently-abled persons. The reason is simple, they are exactly like you and me, just seeking adventure. So being able to be in the same space around them and converse with them as a fellow guest will make their experience increasingly better. 

I think that it is very important that we focus on making travel better for differently-abled persons in every way possible. This should not be a goal but an obligation internationally.

I also think that enabling differently-abled people to also play an active part in the travel industry will make it easier for society to see the willingness and determination of the industry in terms of inclusiveness because the truth is , we all don't want our travel adventures to not be comfortable enough because of a place not having adequate access for differently-abled persons but also we need to find concrete ways of including universal accessibility to the travel industry. 

 

Published by Athi Rulashe