Increasing participation of the disabled in tourism

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The tourism sector also needs to follow regulations to ensure accessibility for disabled persons.
Photo: Vietnam Pictorial

Accessible tourism, which attempts to guarantee access to all tourist destinations and services for all people regardless of their disabilities or age, according to the World Tourism Organisation under the United Nations (UNWTO), remains a fairly new concept in Vietnam but is gradually gaining momentum.

Do Cam Tho, deputy head of tourism department under the culture ministry, says in most developed countries, public infrastructure includes features to ensure ease of use for people with disabilities, such as lifts in train platforms, grab rails in bathrooms and auditory and visual signals to help deaf-blind people at pedestrian crossings.

Accordingly, the tourism sector also needs to follow regulations to ensure accessibility for disabled persons. Tourist operators have large-sized busses designed to accommodate wheel chair users and tourist destinations are equipped with facilities to serve the disabled.

However, in Vietnam, these features are sorely lacking. Accessibility for disabled persons is not taken into account in typical design or construction process. For example, most destinations still use staircases instead of sloping lanes or a separate lane for the disabled, buses do not have a lift system for less mobile persons and there is a lack of tour guides who have undergone training to assist the disabled.

She also points out that the majority of disabled persons in Vietnam are in the low-income group and will only be able to afford cheap tours, which strip most accessibility features to cut costs.

One recent initiative is building a website on accessible tourism for Vietnamese disabled persons. The “For a bright future” group under the Ha Noi Association of Disabled Persons is in charge of the project, with partial funding from Finland’s Abilis foundation.

Via the website and the Facebook page, people with disabilities can look up information and details of the tourist destinations so they can actively plan ahead.

The website features information on 22 tourist destinations, eight hotels and seven restaurants in Hanoi and transport hubs such as Noi Bai international airport, Hanoi train station and a number of bus stations. The website also features several useful addresses where people with disabilities can ask for counselling before their trips.

The group also gives feedback, which is welcomed by the operators of the listed sites in a bid to continue improving accessibility features to the disabled persons. The initiative is a humble beginning to what will be a long effort to make tourism truly an inclusive and accessible experience for all.

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