(left to right) Richard Sealy, Minister of Tourism , Dr. Scott Rains, Inclusive Tourism Consultant, Sonja Welch, Permanent Secretary for Social Care, Constituency Empowerment and Community Development and Maureen Bridgeman, Tourism Development Officer, listen to Senator Kerryann Ifill of the National Disabilities Unit as she speaks at the Inclusive Tourism Symposium held yesterday at the LLoyd Erskine Sandiford Centre. (A. Gaskin/BGIS)

There are 650 million tourists with disabilities in the world and a significant number of those want to see the world, the Caribbean included.

This was revealed by Minister of Tourism, Richard Sealy, who was speaking at the Inclusive Tourism Symposium held yesterday at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.

Noting that it was important to engage in a forum such as this, Minister Sealy remarked: "We must remind ourselves that we are all one step away from an accident or health related challenge that can render us disabled."?? He added that it was crucial for everyone to recognise the value of creating accessible spaces for all.

He said that in addition to the social benefits of a fully accessible Barbados, the economic benefits could not be ignored.?? He observed that in Barbados’ fourth largest source market, Canada, persons with disabilities accounted for $25 billion in consumer spending; while in England, which is also one of this country’s largest source markets, 2.7 million persons with disabilities travel annually.

While the Tourism Minister lauded the progress made thus far in ensuring that hotels were compatible with the needs of guests with disabilities, he noted that "even though we have achieved a level of success, much more is needed to make Barbados a fully accessible market for locals and visitors alike".

This was echoed by Dr. Scott Rains, Inclusive Tourism Consultant and featured speaker at the symposium, who asserted that catering to persons with disabilities extended to educating staff on how to interact with individuals with different needs.?? He also stated that persons with disabilities experienced the world ???through their disability’, and creating environments that served their needs often proved beneficial for everyone, especially retirees or the ???silver tsunami’; persons who had the time, money and desire to travel.

Symposium participants listen intently at the Inclusive Tourism Symposium held yesterday at the LLoyd Erskine Sandiford Centre. (A. Gaskin/BGIS)??

"…what you can do by thinking about senses…lack of senses or disabilities is you can become aware of the kinds of things that…are distinctive, marketable features of Barbados…In your marketing, you can include sounds that become a sound signature…" Dr. Rains said.

He also suggested that the requisite changes could be minimal and offered the example of existing activities being modified to be more inclusive, for example, blind cricket, deaf fishing and wheelchair darts, as just some of the options.

Bougainvillea Resort and the Lanterns Mall, two properties which have made changes to provide greater accessibility for persons with disabilities, were presented with Fully Accessible Barbados (FAB) plaques; while Jon Martineau, Manager of the FAB accredited Accra Beach Hotel, spoke about the steps which had been taken to create inclusive accommodation.

The Fully Accessible Barbados programme, which has continued to receive support from the Ministry of Tourism, launched its website, http://fullyaccessiblebarbados.com/ this week in an effort to highlight accessible areas on the island.


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