By Patricia Mashiri
People with disabilities (PWDs) are calling for universal accessibility of tourism services as the minority group is usually left out in most tourism activities.
The 2016 theme “tourism for all: Promoting Universal Accessibility’ calls for tourism and hospitality industry to focus on designing, developing, managing travel and tourism facilities and services accessible to PWDs.
Edgar Mbwembwe, Minister of Tourism, Environment and Hospitality Industry said the 2016 theme highlighted disabilities issues in the context of tourism and travel and the need to work together.
“As the Ministry we were inspired by the above mentioned theme to formulate strategies and policies that will ensure that all tourism facilities in our country are accessible and user friendly to PWDs, the elderly and young children, hence the call for this first all stakeholder workshop that will map the forward on how best we can make our tourist attractions universally accessible.
“By now, tourism industry will recognize that people with disabilities have equal rights to tourism services and opportunities, that is independent travel, accessible facilities, trained staff, reliable information and inclusive marketing,” Mbwembwe said.
The minister went on to list a number of problems faced by the PWDs in tourism and travel industries, which include economic barriers where PWDs need more money when travelling than their able-bodied counterparts. The need for accessible transport carries additional costs.
Architectural barriers are one of the problems faced by PWDs in the tourism and travel sector in which most builds have narrow passages, unfriendly restrooms; steep or rugged trails which is at times a result of ignorance on part of the planners.
The Ministry of Tourism, Environment and Hospitality Industry promised to ensure that tourism master plans, policies and programmes incorporate the principle of universal access to tourism infrastructure, products and services.
Annastancia Ndhlovu, the Deputy Minister of Tourism, Hospitality Industry and Environment said all people should play a crucial role in bringing to light the accessibility issues affecting PWDs as tourism cuts across many sectors.
“Tourism depends on all of our efforts in our various capacities for us to derive much for the benefit of our people, Ndhlovu said.
Anna Shiri, Senator and representative of the PWDs in Parliament said most of the services are inaccessible and are not user friendly.
“We need to embrace sign language for the deaf, employment of PWDs and braille menu books,” Shiri said.