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UUniversal Accessibility to promote Tourism for All
International Day for Persons with Disabilities is observed annually on 3 December and aims to promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in all spheres of society and development. The 3rd of December also marks the end of National Disability Rights Awareness Month in South Africa.
The International Day for Persons with Disabilities and Disability Awareness Month both present an opportunity for the tourism sector to once again align to ensure universal accessibility and strive to make tourism accessible for all. Universal access affords all people equal opportunity and access to services and products for their benefit, regardless of their social class, ethnicity, ancestry or physical disabilities.
It is estimated that one billion people worldwide live with disabilities, and face many barriers to inclusion in many key aspects of society. The United Nations Social and Economic Council (UNESCAP) estimates that the potential global market for Universal Accessible Tourism (UAT) is 650 million people with differing disabilities and 600 million elderly people. While this signifies a huge potential market for travel and tourism, it still remains vastly under-served due to inaccessible travel and tourism facilities and services, as well as discriminatory policies and practices.
“Like all sectors, the tourism sector has a responsibility to continuously advocate for universal accessibility across all tourism products, in order to ensure that we achieve the necessary levels of inclusivity,” says Amanda Kotze-Nhlapo, Chief Convention Bureau Officer at South African Tourism.
The theme for this year’s International Day for Person’s with Disability is “Not all Disabilities Are Visible” and aims to focus on spreading awareness and understanding of disabilities that are not immediately apparent.
“I would like to urge all tourism stakeholders to be cognisant of universal accessibility and to make sure that facilities are friendly and accessible to all tourist, regardless of their limitations. This also encompasses those disabilities that are not immediately visible,” adds Kotze-Nhlapo.
“Universal access is of utmost importance, particularly in the COVID-19 environment. I would like to appeal to the role players in our industry to make universal access a priority by ensuring that all tourist attractions and establishments are not only graded but also universally accessible. It is our responsibility to ensure the same access opportunities and standardised experiences for everyone,” Kotze-Nhlapo concludes.
Through the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa, South African Tourism works in partnership with all our stakeholders to create awareness and encourage tourism businesses / tourism operators and establishments to implement best-practice standards and to be universally accessible to all travellers.
Accessibility is a central element of any responsible and sustainable development policy. It is both a human rights imperative, as well as an exceptional business opportunity. In this context, accessible tourism does not only benefit persons with disabilities, it benefits all of society.
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