Untitled Document

10 March 2009
Some Thoughts on South Africa’s Capacity for Inclusive Tourism

By Dr Scott Rains - srains@oco.net

Scott Rains at Marimba
From the left, Henry Shields (Enabled Online / Marimba), Scott Rains, Susanne Dittke (Enviro Serve)

Let me start with some praise. Canada published the study “International Best Practices in Universal Design: A Global review in 2006. This year it won an international award in Dubai as one the 100 most significant recent achievements in design. The South African Hotel Star Grading System standards, created through the expertise of Phillip Thompson and Heinrich Spies, holds up quite well to these international standards.

Several inbound South African tour operators are world renowned: Epic-Enabled, Endeavour Safaris, and Flamingo Tours each have more than a decade experience taking people with the most severe disabilities on holiday and safari. New specialized operations are emerging like Access 2 Africa Safaris in KZN or special programs at African Encounter.

I am aware that all policy and legislation is a political compromise. South Africa has excellent civil rights legislation to eliminate the vestiges of apartheid-like thinking that infected social attitudes toward people with disabilities. We all understand now that the underlying principle must be a presumption of inclusion over exclusion – that the burden of proof is now on those who would exclude.

The unwavering standard that we hold as a community of person with disabilities worldwide is called Universal Design in most parts of the world. Often it is referred to as Universal Access in South Africa. The definition of Universal Design is:

Universal Design is a framework for the design of places, things, information, communication and policy to be usable by the widest range of people operating in the widest range of situations without special or separate design. Most simply, Universal Design is human-centered design of everything with everyone in mind.
Universal Design is also called Inclusive Design, Design-for-All and Lifespan Design. It is not a design style but an orientation to any design process that starts with a responsibility to the experience of the user. It has a parallel in the green design movement that also offers a framework for design problem solving based on the core value of environmental responsibility. Universal Design and green design are comfortably two sides of the same coin but at different evolutionary stages. Green design focuses on environmental sustainability, Universal Design on social sustainability.
I spent the past month in South Africa evaluating the tourism industry from the perspective of Inclusive Tourism.

Inclusive Tourism is the systematic application of the seven principles of Universal Design by the tourism industry at all phases of its product’s life cycle.

What that means for the South African tourism industry is that people with disabilities need to be imagined in as part of society and the economy from before the first pen goes to the architect’s drawing pad.

Inclusion means more than seating inside soccer stadiums. It means attention to the full customer experience of travelers with disabilities and quality management through the whole tourism supply chain. Individual accessible bits need to be integrated into a whole seamlessly convenient product involving new South Africa’s new Bus Rapid Transit and airport transit systems, theatres, and hiring practices. We, as a community, pick up signals by seeing people like ourselves in the workforce, in advertisements, or “built into” the design of places and products.

And we as a traveler demographic travel more based on word-of-mouth recommendation than any other group. We have the three elements necessary to travel: desire, means, and time. We need to be marketed to.

That is why I am so encouraged by initiatives like Enabled Online Travel ( www.enabled-travel.com ) which is designed to represent brand South Africa as a destination of choice for travelers with disabilities. That is also why I am encouraged by the leadership of tourism professionals like Mariëtte du Toit-Helmbold of Cape Town Tourism, James Seymour at Tourism Kwazulu Natal, and Nonnie Kubeka at Gauteng Tourism Authority. Their pioneering work creates space for the traditional tour operator, hotelier, or other tourism industry stakeholder. It also allows South African entrepreneurs like Piet Human introduce entirely new products to the world like the DVD-based Incar Travel Guide to South Africa.

The seemingly unique features of our bodies need to be accommodated the very first time a place or product is built out of respect for the planet – so that no waste is created in rebuilding – and out of respect for each person whose natural abilities change and eventually always diminish over time. These converging principles – already present in the Cape Town Declaration of the Responsible Tourism Movement and reflected in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD – especially Article 30), can be brought home in a very significant way once they are incorporated fully into the South African Green Stay Programme evaluation process.

For further reading on Inclusive Tourism see:
“What is Inclusive Tourism?” in the Oct – Dec 2008 issue of Ability magazine, Chennai, India

The Rolling Rains Report at http://www.RollingRains.com

For a travelogue on Dr Rains’ 30 day study in South Africa see: http://www.rollingrains.com/travelogues/


Untitled Document

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