How accessible is your tourism business?

Accessible tourism is universal

A number of developments in the wider environment have placed the spotlight firmly on the issue of Universal Accessibility (UA). The Tourism Grading Council of South Africa has introduced UA guidelines into the grading criteria for accommodation establishments; the Building Council has introduced mandatory requirements and the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) regard it as both a human rights imperative, and an exceptional business opportunity.

What’s in a name?

But what is Universal Accessibility and how do we define accessible tourism? Accessible tourism is described as tourism that is accessible to all people, with disabilities or not, including those with mobility, hearing, sight, cognitive, or intellectual disabilities, older persons, mothers with prams and those with temporary disabilities like a broken leg.

Three good reasons to get involved:

  1.  Accessibility is an important destination on your good business journey.
  2. Greater accessibility gives you a competitive advantage. Studies have shown that about 11% of Australian tourists have disabilities; the United Kingdom found in a 2009 study that 12% of domestic tourists had a disability and Americans with disabilities or reduced mobility spent on average $13.6 billion annually on travel.
  3. The National Department of Tourism have identified Universal Access in Tourism (UAT) as an important initiative to enhance South Africa’s competitiveness as a destination. The NDT have embarked on a local pilot project to gage the level of UA readiness with Cape Town and Durban as case studies.

How is my business doing?

Take a walk through your business and with visitors with special access needs in mind; look at how your business measures up in some basic areas:

  1. All staff should receive universal access awareness training.
  2. Your level of accessibility should be declared on your web-site and all facilities and services promised available to visitors.
  3. Avoid putting pictures and images behind staff at reception as these distract from lip-reading.
  4. Facilities should be made available for guests with a visual impairment travelling with a guide dog.
  5. Procedures must be put in place to evacuate guests with special needs in the event of an emergency and their rooms must be clearly logged.
  6. Firm, slip-resistant and even floor surfaces provide stability for wheelchair users and pose less of a hazard to a blind or partially sighted person.
  7. The gradient of a ramp should not be more than 1:12 measured along its centerline. If the gradient is steeper than 1:20 a level platform must be provided.
  8. All switches and controls should also be accessible by a person lying or sitting in bed. It takes a lot of energy to transfer from a bed to wheelchair to switch off lights and get back to bed.
  9. Information and menus should be in a format that is as accessible as possible i.e. with the incorporation of Braille, large print or audio.
  10. Restaurant and other tables that are 800mm high with a clear 760mm space beneath them allows wheelchair to move without obstruction and guests do not have to transfer from their wheelchairs onto restaurant chairs.

Read our blog titled ‘A visitor’s guide to accessible Cape Town’ for a different perspective on exploring Cape Town.

For more information on the needs of visitors with special access needs, also visit the Cape Able website or the NCPPDSA site.


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