The Prime Minister of Barbados on Fully Accessible Barbados (FAB)


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The Prime Minister of Barbados on Fully Accessible Barbados (FAB)

  2. 2. Congratulations to the Barbados Council for theDisabled and all those who have worked closelywith this umbrella organization for Persons withDisabilities, particularly the National Disability Unitof the Ministry of Social Care, ConstituencyEmpowerment, Rural and Urban Development, theBarbados Tourism Authority, the Barbados Hoteland Tourism Association and all the otherGovernment and Non-Governmental organizationsrepresented, for organizing this spectacular eventtonight.Tonight’s ceremony is one of those watershedoccasions when we can together remove theremaining obstacles in the way of making Barbadosbetter.Tonight we are giving public recognition to thoseinstitutions which have gone beyond platitudes anddone something constructive to remove barriers inthe way of citizens and visitors to Barbadosenjoying their constitutional and God-given rights. 2
  3. 3. I am therefore delighted to address this audiencewhich represents the key players in a possiblerevolution that can transform our perception ofpeople with disabilities.Tonight’s ceremony is a classic example of how“Team Barbados” can take a good idea and createa win-win situation for us all.It is an excellent example of how every Barbadianas individuals in their own right or as members oforganizations can make a contribution to thewholesome development of Barbados.In November 2005 a project called Fully AccessibleBarbados was launched. Its goals and objectivewere to: • Raise the quantity and quality of services available to persons with disabilities. 3
  4. 4. • Achieve an all inclusive society, where there is recognition that people with disabilities are potential customers. • Encourage the necessary changes in our structural environment to enable persons with disabilities, both visitors and residents, to have access to all facilities. • Achieve international standards of access. • Attract more visitors to Barbados.It promised to pursue these goals by: • Making awards to public and private sector institutions that have made their facilities and services accessible for all. • Promoting Barbados as an inclusive society. • Raising the awareness of the local business community to the benefits of receiving an access award. 4
  5. 5. • Raising the standard of service delivery by incorporating a “universal design” that gives access to as many people as possible regardless of age, ability or situation.The plan was to make Barbadians more aware ofhow we routinely discriminate against people whoare differently able.Hence the movement systematically set out toshock the average person into realizing how thetraditional perception of people with disabilities leadus to think that they are in some way sub-humanand should be debarred from public places andlocked away out of sight.Little did we know that within a matter of four yearsthis new awareness would create unforeseenopportunities for us to diversify our tourism productand generate desperately needed foreign exchangein one of the worst global economic recessions in80 years. 5
  6. 6. The truth is that there are more people withdisabilities than we think; and what’s more we allare prone to some form of disability.It has been estimated by the United Nations thataround 10 per cent of the world’s population, or 650million people, live with a disability. That’s theworld’s largest minority.In countries with life expectancies over 70 years,individuals spend on average about 8 years, or 11.5per cent, of their life span living with disabilities.Barbados with a life expectancy of over 75 yearshas to face up to the challenges of disability. 6
  7. 7. The Barbados Council for the Disabled has listedseveral categories of people that could beconsidered “disabled”. They include: • The physically challenged • The deaf and hearing impaired • The blind and visually impaired • The intellectually challenged • Persons with respiratory challengesThe number of disabled people in Barbados hasbeen estimated to be 14,000. The population ofBarbados is an aging population and it means thatpeople over 55 years of age are likely to developailments that place them in one or more of thecategories listed above.You can appreciate that disability is therefore aserious and growing national problem. Theproportion of people aged 55 years and over inBarbados is about 25% and rising. 7
  8. 8. I became aware of the routine discriminationagainst people with disabilities in November 2005 –not due to my age but - when I injured my ankle atthe St. Philip Carnival. I found it difficult to accessfacilities which were essential for me to do my workand other activities which I had previously taken forgranted, such as going to a restaurant. Nearlyeverywhere I went there were formidable obstacles.I just could not exercise my human rights. (Trinidad)When you take into consideration the fact thatBarbados is a service economy that relies heavilyon tourism, you would realize that we not only denymany of our clients their rights, but also fail tocapitalize on business opportunities that are staringus in the face.As you know, tourism is one of the pillars of oureconomy, with countless satellite industries. Asagging tourism industry sends ripples throughoutthe economy. 8
  9. 9. Right now we are experiencing challenges due tothe global recession. The numbers of visitors fromour major source countries have fallen in recentmonths.In addition to this we anticipate that the lifting ofrestrictions on travel to Cuba by the ObamaAdministration will have a negative effect on thenumbers coming from the USA.There is therefore a pressing need for us todiversify our tourism product by finding niches inwhich we have an absolute advantage. Indeed thestatistics show that in catering to the needs of thevarious categories of people with disabilities, we arenot just creating niches but penetrating a hugedemographic with enormous spending power.Statistics from the tourism sector show that morethan a quarter of all tourism trips are taken bypeople over 55. 9
  10. 10. This is an age group that is most likely to have thespending power and the time to take overseasholidays.Making your facilities more accessible to this groupis one of the most effective means of penetratingthis growing market.Let us start with the United Kingdom, from wheremost of our visitors come. According to statisticsfrom the Council for the Disabled: • There are approximately 10 million persons with disabilities living in the UK with an estimated £80 billion purchasing power. • In England alone, over 2.7 million persons with disabilities travel annually. • The Disability Discrimination Act places a duty on services providers and facilities not to discriminate against persons with disabilities. 10
  11. 11. • The Act stipulates that service providers take reasonable steps to remove, alter, or avoid physical features that make it impossible or unreasonably difficult for a person with a disability to use the service. • The National Accessible Scheme aims to help service providers within the UK tourism industry make their services more accessible, allowing more disabled people to use them. • This scheme has been extremely beneficial in promoting travel and vacation within the United Kingdom.In the USA, where the second largest number of ourvisitors originates: • The US Census Bureau reported in 2005 that 1 in 5 US Residents reported some form of disability. • Approximately 20.9 million families have at least 1 member with a disability. 11
  12. 12. • Vacations taken by people with disabilities rose 50% from 2002. • Overall, adults with disabilities take about 2 trips every 2 years and each trip generally lasts 5 days. • 71% of adults with disabilities have travelled at least once in the past 2 years. • This includes 21 million pleasure/leisure travellers and 5 million travellers who combine business and pleasure. • Adults with disabilities, spend an estimated $13.6 billion a year on travel. • The Caribbean is ranked fourth behind Canada, Mexico and Europe, as their most popular international destination.In Canada: • The Conference Board of Canada reported in 2001 that the combined annual disposable income of working aged Canadians with disabilities was Can. $25 billion. 12
  13. 13. • Some States provide grants to ensure that people with disabilities, mobility impairments and other challenges can enjoy holidays like the rest of their compatriots.Similarly in the Caribbean, where the third largestnumber of our visitors resides, there is also a hugedemand for holidays by disabled people who do nottravel abroad because of the fear of discrimination.I therefore want to congratulate the BarbadosCouncil for the Disabled, the National DisabilityUnit, the Barbados Tourism Authority and theBarbados Hotel and Tourism Association foropening our eyes to this huge market.What’s fascinating about this market is that thedemand is highly elastic. Keep in mind that: (1) Persons with disabilities usually travel with care-givers, family or friends. 13
  14. 14. (2) The location of conferences is frequently selected with accessibility in mind. (3) Hotel users say they would stay in hotels 2 more times per year if hotels were to accommodate their needs as a person with a disability. (4) This means that hotel spending by the disability community could at least double if hotels were to make the necessary changes. (5) The same is true for the Airline Industry. (6) 85% of those who travel say that they share their travel experiences with others, indicating a powerful network among travellers with disabilities.It is therefore abundantly clear that an AccessibleBarbados will attract new and repeat business.Let me stress that time is of the essence incapturing this market. 14
  15. 15. Singapore, which for many Barbadians, includingthe Father of Independence, the Right ExcellentErrol Walton Barrow, offers a model which we couldfollow.In April 2009, Singapore went after this growingaccessible tourism market by opening its doors tothe 3rd International Conference on AccessibleTourism (ICAT 2009) which aimed to bring Peoplewith Disabilities to the heart of a more inclusiveglobal society.With the theme "Tourism Unlimited: Access for All“,the event endeavoured to break down barriers toaccessibility and allow free mobility for all. Thisevent promoted accessible tourism in the Asia-Pacific region.Singapore, with its strategic location, made apromise to become a “Global City for All” whereunlimited access is achieved through speciallydesigned buildings and facilities. 15
  16. 16. Barbados has also made some strides to becomefully accessible. We have looked carefully at thehindrances and made some progress in removingthem. For example: a) In 2002 a White Paper on Disabilities was adopted by Parliament. The Government committed itself to the development of policies and programmes to protect and empower disabled and socially disadvantaged persons. • I can assure you that my Government through the Ministry of Social Care, Constituency Empowerment, Urban and Rural Development will place this White Paper top of the priority list in this financial year. It is currently being reviewed in order to arrive at an Action Plan as a precursor to the drawing up of legislation. 16
  17. 17. b) A Building Code has been under discussion for many years. Included in it are provisions to set and regulate standards including those for people with disabilities. The objective is to remove all physical barriers to access by the disabled in all new and refurbished buildings • I can assure you that this Code is being seriously considered by the Ministry of Public Works.c) Barbados became a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in July 2007. It pledged to create an environment in Barbados conducive to the integration and inclusion of persons with disabilities at every level of society from nursery to old age. 17
  18. 18. • I can assure you that my Government through the Ministry of Social Care is working assiduously to ensure that Barbados is in a position to ratify this enlightened Convention as soon as possible.d) In order to make Barbados fully accessible, recognition of the rights of people with disabilities must become the norm. • My Government is working towards introducing legislation banning discrimination against people with disabilities. 18
  19. 19. Tonight’s Awards Ceremony affords me theopportunity to highlight the work of the trendsetters.I congratulate each and every one of you forvoluntarily demonstrating what can be done for bothethical and business reasons.Tonight we are focussing on the tourism sector,mainly……• Hotels• Restaurants and Bars• Recreational FacilitiesBut I can assure you that for reasons that areconsistent with my Government’s policy ofprotecting and empowering the most vulnerablemembers of society, we shall at a later point turnthe spotlight on the facilities of every serviceprovider in Barbados. 19
  20. 20. These will include:• Conference centers• Retail outlets• Employment in the public and private sectors• Churches• Educational and training establishments• Transport vehicles. What is amazing is that these changes in attitudesand in the physical structures used by our clients (a)do not cost an exorbitant amount and (b) do nottake away anything from other users.With respect to (a), service providers only need tomake changes that are reasonable. These mightinclude simple changes to layout, improvedsignage, information and staff training. Once theBuilding Code is completed, my Government willconsider what tax concessions could be given to getlandlords to comply with the requirements. 20
  21. 21. With respect to (b), these changes improve thefacilities and the quality of life for all. I am sure thatmost of us, at some time or another took our trolleysloaded with luggage into the only toilets at theairport which could accommodate these widecarriers. Similarly, faucets that do not requireendless turning make life easier for all of us.Improving our physical and service environment is aprerequisite for achieving developed country status.Barbados cannot improve its Human DevelopmentIndex without taking into consideration the needs ofthe disadvantaged. In the final analysis the measureof the progress of a civilization is how it treats itsmost vulnerable members.My message to you tonight is that what is good forpeople with disabilities is good for Barbados. 21
  22. 22. I therefore end by again congratulating the firstwinners of the Fully Accessible Barbados Awards.Thank you for setting the standards which I hopemany others will try to emulate. 22