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Geotourism & Disability

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					Questions for Geotourism Projects Scott Rains, The Rolling Rains Report www.RollingRains.com srains@oco.net

An estimated 10% of those traveling at any point in time have a disability. These include not only people with visible aids such as wheelchairs or white canes but also many people with disabilities that are not immediately obvious to the unaware observer. Yet “invisible” disabilities, too, can profoundly impact the travel behavior of people who experience them, for example disabilities that affect hearing, speaking, reading, reading social signals, or other communication. The United Nations estimates there are 500 million people with disabilities in the world while a study by Open Doors Organization in 2002 demonstrated that the 42+ million Americans with disabilities spent $13.6 billion annually on travel. How is this market and this cultural phenomenon addressed by the tourism industry? To be considered ecologically sustainable a project must be socially sustainable. That is, it must be realistic in accounting for the human needs and cultural variation among those it impacts. The following questions are meant to stimulate your thinking about how successful you have been in accommodating the diversity of capacities of travelers in ways that make earth-sensitive tourism projects open to all.

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Do you provide information in various formats so that it can be independently accessed by users who may or may not be sighted, hearing, English-speaking, literate? Do you follow best online practices in Universal Design such as W3C WAI or Section 508 (a US web accessibility law) standards? Does the information you provide include the sort of information that is essential for someone who, for example, uses a wheelchair, travels with a companion animal, or is short of stature , or needs sign language interpreters to participate in certain activities? If not, has that information been collected and made readily accessible for when a traveler requests it from you? Does your knowledge of place and local culture include explicit knowledge of the local cultures of disability ( i.e Local sign language dialects, crafts or professional niches traditionally held by persons with disabilities, historical figures of note who had disabilities?)

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Does the marketing material you provide portray people with disabilities respectfully? (Does it portray them at all?) Have you made an attempt to employ persons with disabilities? To seek them out as consultants in product development, marketing, and evaluation? Employ them on an ongoing basis? ? If so, are they only assigned tasks related to disability issues? Or do you also employ workers with disabilities in your mainstream initiatives as well? If you provide a service to someone without a disability have you designed that service so that it is accessible to all or created an alternate system to accomplish an equivalent result? If such service requires additional or modified equipment have you attempted to limit the environmental impact of the accommodation (i.e. Does your wheelchair lift-equipped vehicle operate on biodiesel?) Have you implemented the insight, adopted in the LEED (green building) Certification specifications, that building accessibility is a necessity and is an environmentally practice because it extends the functionality of a building for its occupants (i.e. aging-in-place, visitability, lifespan design)? Retrofitting to correct a space that excludes uses more resources and produces waste material. Reading on LEED Certification and inclusion: http://www.rollingrains.com/archives/001457.html

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Are you aware that the Responsible Tourism Movement specifies accessibility for all as central to its definition of responsible tourism? Readings on the Responsible Tourism Movement: http://www.rollingrains.com/archives/002134.html

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Did you know that participation in sports, leisure activities, and tourism is a right guaranteed in the UN Convention on the Rights of persons with disabilities (CRPD; see Article 30)? Do you know if the country or countries you operate in are signatories of the CRPD or have similar national legislation and what your legal obligations are under each? Readings on CRPD Article 30: http://blogs.bootsnall.com/Scott-Rains/tourism-in-the-united-nations-convention-on-the-rightsof-persons-with-disabilities-crpd.html http://blogs.bootsnall.com/Scott-Rains/tag/crpd

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If your project involves access to the water have you familiarized yourself with the Waypoint/Backstrom Principles on accessibility of maritime environments:

Readings on the Waypoint/Backstrom Principles: http://www.waypointcharter.com/Waypoint-BackstromPrinciples-Sept2008.htm  Have you reviewed your program using the seven principles of Universal Design (http://www.adaptiveenvironments.org/index.php?option=Content&Itemid=25): 1. Equitable Use: The design does not disadvantage or stigmatize any group of users.

2. Flexibility in Use: The design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities. 3. Simple, Intuitive Use: Use of the design is easy to understand, regardless of the user's experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level. 4. Perceptible Information: The design communicates necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user's sensory abilities. 5. Tolerance for Error: The design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions. 6. Low Physical Effort: The design can be used efficiently and comfortably, and with a minimum of fatigue. 7. Size and Space for Approach & Use: Appropriate size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation, and use, regardless of the user's body size, posture, or mobility.  The Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria are part of the response of the tourism community to the global challenges of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals. Interest in poverty alleviation and environmental sustainability are highlighted in the criteria. How might your work be enhanced by applying the criteria to travelers, employees, and destination residents with disabilities? Readings on the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria: http://www.sustainabletourismcriteria.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=58& Itemid=188


				
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Description: Prepare for Ashoka Changemakers' Geotourism Challenge