Operators need to be aware of much more than wheelchair ramps when declaring that their properties and services are accessible.
When hosting guests with different disabilities, tourism suppliers have to consider wheelchair sizes, capacity of accessible areas and more – but it comes at a cost.
“Since the early 2000s, around the televising of the Paralympic Games, there has been a lot more awareness for people with disabilities and their capabilities,” said Pam Taylor, Owner of Flamingo Tours, a tour operator specialising in accessible travel in South Africa.
Taylor said there was a sudden urge from the tourism industry to help and many people have contacted her asking how they can make their properties more accessible.
“You’ve got to start right from the parking lot. Can you get from there into the foyer in a wheelchair? Can you access an accessible room and all the facilities, the pools, gyms, bathrooms, restaurants, etc? Most accommodations find that it simply costs too much to change everything,” she said, adding that many of her clients with disabilities were very understanding.
“Most of them just appreciate the effort where they see it and don’t make a fuss if they can’t necessarily access the pool, for example.”
Taylor emphasised that when designing accessible spaces there was no ‘one-size-fits-all’. “There are so many variations and people’s abilities really depend on their particular case.”
She told Tourism Update that in Cape Town, accessibility was relatively manageable, but that venturing anywhere more rural posed difficulties. It is a priority of Cape Town to make tourism universally accessible, as part of its responsible tourism recovery plan.
The city will play host to the winners’ exhibition for the Universal Accessibility Hub’s (UAH) disability access photography competition. To raise awareness for accessibility in tourism, UAH has launched a competition for photographs that showcase the participation of people with disabilities in tourism activities.
The winner will be announced on International Disability Day, December 3, at Cape Town’s Artscape Theatre.