South Africa celebrated tourism month in September and an issue that has for far too long been overlooked, was raised throughout the month - the theme being accessible tourism or #TourismForAll.
There are a number of concerns regarding accessible tourism in South Africa. Therina Wentzel from The National Council for Persons with Physical Disabilities in South Africa (NCPDSA) says universal design should be implemented - that is, design that caters for all persons from the start.
"We don't want people to design for people with disabilities, we want people to design for all," she said. It should not be necessary to adapt facilities in the future if facilities are initially designed with universal accessibility in mind.
Multiple challenges lie ahead in the road to access for all in South Africa and there is still much to be done.
We struggle with access to beaches and other tourist attractions, a limited number of accommodation options that cater for every need, relevant training given to tour guides, restaurant and accommodation personnel, additional fees required by airlines for special arrangements and poor service provided by taxi services.
Martelize Brink illustrates the challenges of visiting Camp's Bay beach with a wheelchair:
On World Tourism Day, Minister of Tourism Derek Hanekom said "Universal Access will enhance South Africa’s global competitiveness in an increasingly competitive global market. Accessibility is essential for responsible and sustainable development. It is also an exceptional business opportunity. Most importantly, it is simply the right thing to do.”
ALSO SEE: 7 Ways Universal Accessibility will change in SA over the next 2 years
Although we are faced with many challenges in accessible tourism, the solutions and initiatives given by multiple service providers serve as brilliant examples of promoting universal access.
Hats off to three initiatives aiding accessible tourism in SA:
1. Epic Enabled
Epic Enabled specialises in accessible safaris and tours for both able and disabled travellers.
Independent, barrier-free and accessible safaris is their business. Services are provided to physically challenged or impaired, paraplegic, quadriplegic or special needs guests. This enables all tourists to embrace the diversity in South Africa. Wildlife is experienced up close and personal and private, tailor-made tours are arranged to address every last request.
Watch an Epic Enabled journey as told by tourist, Cory Lee:
(Video: Cory Lee)
2. Flamingo Tours & disabled ventures
Pam Taylor from Flamingo Tours in Cape Town recognises the importance of universal access and identifies the limitations still in the way of access for all.
Flamingo Tours is based in Cape Town and operates tours in the Western Cape, Namaqualand, the Garden Route and Eastern Cape. Self-drive tours are also arranged throughout South Africa. They specialise in tours for blind or sight impaired guests according to each guest's needs, interests and budget.
Step inside SA's first deaf-run coffee shop and you will be met by the friendly smile of Thembe - the deaf Barista who brews up a delicious cup of coffee - tried and tested.
Gary Hopkins started ilovecoffee to transform how disability is viewed and foster an understanding of Deaf Culture among South Africans.
Ordering coffee from Thembe and Kaye-Lynne is easy - point at the menu, write your order down or better yet, they will happily teach you how to sign.
In the pipeline for ilovecoffee is funding a mobile coffee shop to open at tourist attractions, set up a deaf barista school and to create a disability hub in Cape Town - an inclusive market space for disabled visitors and traders.
Take a look into ilovecoffee and make your contribution here:
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