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Scott Rains On Geotourism & Disability

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An article on Geotourism and disability from Contours magazine

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Scott Rains On Geotourism & Disability

  1. 1. IN FOCUS 11 Disability and Human rights Questions for Geotourism Projects By Scott Rains Article 27 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights stipulates that ‘Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits’ But is the tourism . industry taking all the necessary measures for disabled people to freely participate in its various activities, Scott Rains asks. A s I grew up as a boy in the USA the stories in National Responsible Tourism sets out guidelines for the proper Geographic magazine represented the height of exotic intention toward place. Geotourism sets out guidelines for adventure travel and discovery. the proper sustenance and enhancement of place. The Global Sustainability Criteria for Tourism sets out guidelines for the When I became paralyzed at age 17 I packed away dreams of proper development of place. Inclusive Tourism sets out to being an Indiana Jones and set my sights on a less adventurous alert all three that understanding “who” experiences place is life. Little did I suspect at that time that I would get a call to essential to creating just and sustainable tourism. It does so by be Featured Commentator for the 2009 Geotourism Challenge1 giving voice to the quality of tourist experience from a group they sponsor with Ashoka’s Changemakers. (But then, little which has historically been denied access to tourism - people did I expect that I would end up living the adventurous life that with disabilities. caught their attention.) People differ. That is part of what makes the character of a People come in varying sizes and shapes, place unique. genders and ages, colors and languages. People come in varying sizes and shapes, genders and ages, People have differing abilities one from colors and languages. People have differing abilities one from the other -- and even from themselves over the other -- and even from themselves over time as they tran- time as they transition from child to adult sition from child to adult to senior. In programs designed to serve people it is rare that “one size fits all.” That is especially to senior. In programs designed to serve true when no thought at all has been given to trying to do so. people it is rare that “one size fits all.” That Justice calls for questioning when a blanket application of is especially true when no thought at all has uniformity threatens violence to the diversity of persons. Geotourism provides one such basis for questioning. been given to trying to do so. Justice calls for questioning when a blanket application Geotourism can be defined in various ways. One sees it as of uniformity threatens violence to the “tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical characters diversity of persons. Geotourism provides of a place - its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage, and the well-being of its residents.” Geotourism is a call to justice one such basis for questioning. as equally for the earth as for its inhabitants. It dwells on the mandate of sustainability with an eye to balancing geological, biological, and social reality. The Rolling Rains Report uses best practices from Universal Design3 to improve the quality of tourism management (In- In the process of describing our work publishing the Rolling clusive Tourism) and its impact on the destination (Inclusive Rains Report2 and facilitating the online innovation incubator the Tour Watch Forum we wrote: 1 See http://geotourism.changemakers.com/en-us/competition/geotourism 2 Scott Rains’ website can be found at http://www.rollingrains.com/ Who travels is as important as where. 3 Universal design strives to be a broad-spectrum solution that produces buildings, products and environments that are usable and effective for every- one, not just people with disabilities. Moreover, it recognizes the importance Human experience of the “power” of place depends on the of how things look. For example, while built up handles are a way to make quality of attention (mindful presence) and the character of utensils more usable for people with gripping limitations, some companies interaction (engaged inclusion, both physical and social.) introduced larger, easy to grip and attractive handles as feature of mass pro- duced utensils. They appeal to a wide range of consumers (Quoted from Wiki- pedia).
  2. 2. 12 IN FOCUS Destination Development). We believe that Green Design em- travel. How are this market and this cultural phenomenon bodies environmental sustainability; Universal Design closes addressed by the tourism industry? the circle by providing the social sustainability of inclusion. To be considered ecologically sustainable a project must be The Geotourism project is a product socially sustainable. That is, it must be realistic in accounting of disability culture - a culture shaped for the human needs and cultural variation among those it by “ways of being in a body,” and impacts. The following questions are meant to stimulate your thus ways of being in and experienc- thinking about how successful you have been in accommo- ing a place. These often fall outside dating the diversity of capacities of travelers in ways that make what is considered “normal.” It is earth-sensitive tourism projects open to all. a culture to be preserved and en- hanced, existing in all destinations. • Do you provide information in various formats so that it can It brings completely unique insights be independently accessed by users who may or may not be on place to share with the industry. sighted, hearing, English-speaking, literate? Inclusive Tourism’s core tools (Uni- • Do you follow best online practices in Universal Design versal Design and the UN Conven- such as W3C WAI or Section 508 (a US web accessibility tion on the Rights of Persons with law) standards? Disabilities or “CRPD”) embody the political aspirations of • Does the information you provide include the sort of infor- disability culture. Universal Design was forged from the Dis- mation that is essential for someone who, for example, uses ability Rights Movement. This project uses it to prioritize a wheelchair, travels with a companion animal, or is short of benefit to people with disabilities as travelers, potential travel stature, or needs sign language interpreters to participate in industry professionals, and destination residents. certain activities? If not, has that information been collected and made readily accessible for when a traveler requests it Invited to serve as Featured Commentator, it has been my from you? task to encourage entrants with a strong focus on those with disabilities to elaborate on the other elements that make • Does your knowledge of place and local culture include ex- up geotourism. Conversely it has been my task, in all three plicit knowledge of the local cultures of disability (i.e. Local languages in which submissions are accepted - Spanish, sign language dialects, crafts or professional niches tradi- English, and Portuguese – to strengthen their understanding tionally held by persons with disabilities, historical figures and inclusion of disability culture and the community of of note who had disabilities?) people with disabilities as travelers, travel professionals, and residents of destinations. What follows is a reflection document designed to gently guide applicants toward the concepts, values, and resources that will extend justice for the disability community through tourism - one of the world’s largest, and certainly its most global, industries: Questions for Geotourism Projects4 An estimated 10% of those traveling at any point in time have a disability. These include not only people with visible aids such as wheelchairs or white canes but also many people with disabilities that are not immediately obvious to the unaware www.grifotour.com observer. Yet “invisible” disabilities, too, can profoundly im- pact the travel behavior of people who experience them, for example disabilities that affect hearing, speaking, reading, reading social signals, or other communication. • Does the marketing material you provide portray people with disabilities respectfully? (Does it portray them at all?) The United Nations estimates there are 500 million people • Have you made an attempt to employ persons with disabili- with disabilities in the world while a study by Open Doors ties? To seek them out as consultants in product development, Organization in 2002 demonstrated that the 42+ million marketing, and evaluation? Employ them on an ongoing Americans with disabilities spent $13.6 billion annually on basis? If so, are they only assigned tasks related to disability issues? Or do you also employ workers with disabilities in your mainstream initiatives as well? 4 Even though the following questions were addressed to the Geotourism challenge participants, they apply to the tourism industry as a whole.
  3. 3. IN FOCUS 13 • If you provide a service to someone without a disability have 3. Simple, Intuitive Use: Use of the design is easy to under- you designed that service so that it is accessible to all or stand, regardless of the user’s experience, knowledge, created an alternate system to accomplish an equivalent language skills, or current concentration level. result? 4. Perceptible Information: The design communicates • If such service requires additional necessary information effectively to the user, regardless or modified equipment have you at- of ambient conditions or the user’s sensory abilities. tempted to limit the environmental 5. Tolerance for Error: The design minimizes hazards and impact of the accommodation (i.e. the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended Does your wheelchair lift-equipped actions. vehicle operate on biodiesel?) 6. Low Physical Effort: The design can be used efficiently • Have you implemented the insight, adopted in the LEED and comfortably, and with a minimum of fatigue. (green building) Certification specifications, that building 7. Size and Space for Approach & Use: Appropriate size accessibility is a necessity and is an environmentally prac- and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation, tice because it extends the functionality of a building for its and use, regardless of the user’s body size, posture, or occupants (i.e. aging-in-place, visitability, lifespan design)? mobility. Retrofitting to correct a space that excludes uses more re- sources and produces waste material.5 • The Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria are part of the • Are you aware that the Responsible Tourism Movement response of the tourism community to the global challenges specifies accessibility for all as central to its definition of of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals. responsible tourism? 6 Interest in poverty alleviation and environmental sustain- • Did you know that participation in sports, leisure activities, ability are highlighted in the criteria. How might your work and tourism is a right guaranteed in the UN Convention on be enhanced by applying the criteria to travelers, employees, the Rights of persons with disabilities (CRPD; see Article and destination residents with disabilities?10 30)? Do you know if the country or countries you operate in are signatories of the CRPD or have similar national legisla- tion and what your legal obligations are under each?7 5 Reading on LEED Certification and inclusion: http://www.rollingrains.com/archives/001457.html • If your project involves access to the water have you famil- 6 Readings on the Responsible Tourism Movement: http://www.rollingrains. iarized yourself with the Waypoint/Backstrom Principles com/archives/002134.html on accessibility of maritime environments?8 7 Readings on CRPD Article 30: • Have you reviewed your program using the seven principles http://blogs.bootsnall.com/Scott-Rains/tourism-in-the-united-nations-conven- tion-on-the-rights-of-persons-with-disabilities-crpd.html of Universal Design9: http://blogs.bootsnall.com/Scott-Rains/tag/crpd 1. Equitable Use: The design does not disadvantage or stig- 8 Readings on the Waypoint/Backstrom Principles: matize any group of users. http://www.waypointcharter.com/Waypoint-BackstromPrinciples-Sept2008. 2. Flexibility in Use: The design accommodates a wide htm 9 (http://www.adaptiveenvironments.org/index.php?option=Content&Itemid range of individual preferences and abilities. =25) 10 Readings on the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria: http://www.sustainabletourismcriteria.org/index.php?option=com_content& task=view&id=58&Itemid=188 www.accessibletourism.org Scott Rains, D. Min. is a Roman Catholic theologian who writes daily at The Rolling Rains Report on disability, tourism, and develop- ment (www.RollingRains.com). As alumnus of the Graduate Theological Foundation, Dr. Rains serves as Faculty Fellow to the Foundation. Appointed as Resident Scholar in 2004 at the UC Santa Cruz Center for Cultural Studies he has also guest edited the Review of Disability Studies and serves as Senior Advisor to the startup television and IPTV channel [with] tv in the area of Travel Programs. He is a Zero Divide Fellow of the Community Technology Foundation of California. Dr. Rains travels and lectures extensively.

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