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Sunday 19 November 2023

Making tourism easier for people with disabilities

Travelling with a disability can be difficult. 

Even able-bodied people can struggle to cope with stairs,  access to public transport, and poorly designed public spaces. 

With 1.3 billion people globally estimated to have a significant disability, the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) says it has joined with key partners to further make tourism more accessible to all.

The UNWTO Conference on Accessible Tourism was held for a second time in San Marino this week, powered by the Ministry of Tourism of Italy and in partnership with the European Accessibility Resource Centre - AccessibleEU, an initiative of the European Commission. 

The result was San Marino Agenda, "a clean action plan for disability inclusion in every part of the tourism sector".

Talk is, of course easy. Action is much harder. 

At this year's two-day event, over 200 delegates discussed policy advances such as the international standard ISO 21902, which caters both to host communities and visitors, and covers the entire tourism value chain. 

The event featured a ministerial toundtable, bringing together San Marino, Italy, Republic of Korea, Uzbekistan, Czechia and Israel, to discuss governments' roles in advancing accessibility through policies, strategies and standards.

Innovation in accessible tourism was one of the key themes, with speakers presenting new solutions in access to transportation, leisure, MICE and tourism services. 

These included SEATRAC helping wheelchair users to bathe in Greece, city-wide Braille touchpoints and the first certified blind tour guides in Cape Town, and the fully accessible waterfront in Rimini.

Small steps. 

With one in six people expected to reach the age of 65 by 2050 more action is clearly needed. 

"Baby boomers" already account for over one third of the EU population and 70% of the EU citizens with disability have financial means to travel.

So that's a key driver. Money talks. 
The UNWTO said: "The Action Agenda is seen as a game changer for disability inclusion and tourism's contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals, with a commitment from it's those attending the conference to achieving concrete results.

"It includes measures to advance training, develop measurement systems and increase industry awareness of the advantages of a diverse workplace."

Image: Matt Doheny,

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