Tourism department to make its facilities accessible for persons with disabilities

Asia-Pacific, Tourism, May 22 2017

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: With a declared policy to initiate barrier-free tourism in the state, the tourism department will make all its facilities, including parks and hotels and other properties in various destinations, persons with disabilities before taking on board the owners of private properties and other service providers.

Wheelchair user at Tokyo Big SightThe immediate target is to make all public parks in various destinations barrier-free. “The current scenario in these destinations is not that encouraging. We are yet to do a survey of the parks which do not have the facilities required to give smooth access to persons with disabilities, or take estimates. But, we hope to do that in a month’s time,” tourism director P Bala Kiran said.

Before issuing guidelines to private enterprises to ensure access to persons with disabilities, the government needs to set examples for them to follow suit, the tourism director said. Bala Kiran, former district collector of Kannur, has already set an example in the district, where all 2,800 government institutions were made barrier-free under his tenure. The successful project got wide attention and got national recognition through President’s medal.

When he later became the director of social justice, he extended the project to four more districts, for which allocations have been earmarked in the budget. Now, having moved to the tourism department, he wants to continue with the mission and is more than happy to shoulder the task.

“In fact, in the sector, five and four start hotels have already done that. But coming down the ladder, we cannot preach to them unless we ourselves practice it. Once we are able to start the work, we might be able to take the private players also on board,” he added.

Tourism minister Kadakampally Surendran had informed the assembly that any new project will get approval only if it ensures access to people with physical disabilities. In fact, it’s been six months since the tourism department began issuing guidelines in this regard to architects of new tourism projects.

“Kerala is a state which has already pioneered itself in adopting approaches that make the destinations more inclusive and responsible. This initiative should not be seen in isolation, but as part of our overall responsible tourism movement,” said tourism principal secretary V Venu. Responsible tourism is not all about benefitting the community or protecting environment, but it has to cut across the stakeholders, he said.

“We have the responsibility to cater to the needs of travellers who are physically challenged and aged as well. There’s no marketing angle to it, but it is part of our responsibility. We may not be able to do it everywhere, like in places which already have difficult access to all. But we have adopted a philosophy and approach, to try our best to provide equal accessibility to all across our facilities,” he said.

Source: Times of India

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