By Afshin Majlesi

The disabled and fresh start for corona-hit tourism

December 4, 2020 - 18:51

Booking services, airports, transport facilities, hotel rooms, restaurants, public places, equipment rentals, and tourist attractions, or dealing with an untrained travel-related staff, all could be tough and time-consuming for people with disabilities who are left behind in many tourism destinations.

Over one billion people are estimated to live with some form of disability, which corresponds to about 15% of the whole population worldwide. From another point of view, this issue may affect the lives of almost a third of the Earth dwellers as spouses, children, and caregivers of persons with disabilities are taken into account. This figure signifies a gigantic potential for tourism insiders, museums, transport companies, hotels, and other travel businesses, particularly in the post coronavirus era.

Ensuring accessibility for all can be a game-changer for destinations, which are seeking to bounce back from the impacts of the coronavirus outbreak. This will be offering ample opportunities for those trying to adopt market-oriented strategies as the impact of virus-restrictions are temporary and short-lived.

The majority of travel-related destinations and services are still somewhat unfitting for people with disabilities due to inaccessible facilities and services, as well as their discriminatory policies, practices, and routines.

Iran, along with many other countries, tries a firm commitment to inclusive tourism for making destinations more accessible for people with disabilities. Tehran’s Si-e Tir St., a historical thoroughfare surrounded by various museums, travel destinations, and historical monuments, is the country’s benchmark for doing so.

On the occasion of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, which was marked on Thursday, UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said: “Tourism environments and services are often designed without considering the different access requirements that visitors and locals may have. The tourism sector must prioritize accessibility. This can be a real game-changer for destinations and businesses, helping them recover from the crisis and grow back in a more inclusive and resilient way.”

Last year, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) attached great importance to the creation of the international “Accessible Tourism Destination”, aimed to make sure that a destination can be enjoyed by any tourist, regardless of their physical, sensory or cognitive abilities.

The global disability prevalence is higher than previous WHO estimates, which date from the 1970s and suggested a figure of around 10 percent. This global estimate for disability is on the rise due to population aging and the rapid spread of chronic diseases, as well as improvements in the methodologies used to measure disability.

A 2011 census observed a significant demographic change in the elderly population of Iran (the percentage of the elderly population increased from 7.27 to 8.20 percent from 2006 to 2011, and 8.65 percent in 2016). The aging population is predicted to rise to 10.5 percent in 2025 and to 21.7 percent in 2050.

Apart from the disabled, accessibility is of very high importance as well when it comes to the rights of the world’s aging population. As we grow older, the chance of facing a permanent or temporary disability is vividly increased. Accessibility is a key element of any responsible and sustainable development policy which does not only benefit persons with disabilities but is beneficial to the whole society.

Each year, the International Day of Persons with Disabilities reminds us that all citizens on Earth, particularly those with visual, hearing, mobility, or cognitive impairments, have the right to access leisure and sight-seeing services on an equal basis; a matter not being materialized so far despite immense developments and cutting-edge technologies.


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