Providing for the disabled community

This morning I was asked to do the welcome and make opening remarks at a workshop conducted by the Ministry of Tourism on The Fully Accessible Barbados, A Sensitivity and Sign Language Workshop. This is just part one of a three-part series planned by the ministry to sensitise industry partners on the issue of dealing with customers with disabilities.

My questions today are: How prepared are we in terms of dealing with disabilities? How can we do better in this regard?

First let me say that the market for persons travelling with disabilities is a huge one; there are thousands of persons from within our major source markets who have one disability or another. Having a disability however does not preclude persons from travelling and enjoying a full life. What is important to understand is that these persons have special requirements like everyone else and knowing their requirements is a good first step in achieving customer satisfaction in this source market.

It is my experience that persons with disabilities do not expect pity. What is expected, more than anything else, is respect and equality. I believe that persons with disabilities have as good a time as anyone else when they travel and enjoy the many attractions and excursions like everyone does.

Some of the very simple ways in which I believe that we can show this respect is by first observing that the person does have a disability and exhibiting more patience with them; don’t block sidewalks and force them to have to step into the traffic; assist them when we can by helping them to cross the streets.

From a business point-of-view I believe that the time has come where business have to take into consideration providing facilities for the disabled. Things like ramps next to stairs, public washrooms that allow for wheelchair access, hand rails and grab bars which will allow persons to get around in greater comfort.

There used to be a time when persons with disabilities where expected to stay at home, but we are long past those days and therefore we have to accept that they are an active part of our society and our customer base. Businesses that make the investment in the facilities that cater to the disabled can realise tremendous benefits, not only from the actually disabled person, but also the persons that often travel with them.

Disabled persons are everywhere and with the invention of newer and modern equipment they are willing to explore and enjoy all that life has to offer.

We are a tourism destination that does not discriminate and therefore we should seek to learn as much as possible about working with this market.

Tourism is our business, let us play our part.

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