Foro Mundial sobre os Direitos Humanos Dec 1012, 2013
Turismo Inclusivo e Direitos Humanos
Scott Rains, firstname.lastname@example.org
I have something very simple to say: We have human rights for one reason and one reason
alone. We have human bodies.
A poet might say that a state’s obligation to protect human rights is like clothing its citizens and
guests. It is like clothing them with a garment that covers their vulnerabilities. I like that image of
being clothed. It gently reminds us that human rights must consider bodies with all their senses
and faculties. And those of you who can see me here in my wheelchair may have already
correctly guessed that my body probably doesn’t do everything that yours might be able to do.
Human bodies, and the degrees to which all parts function, vary greatly yet full human rights are
inherent to all those bodies.
I work in a quiet but subversive corner of the human rights and development world. Quiet
because it has a history of only about 30 years. Subversive because it is changing, quite literally,
the world that is being built up around us. We call it Inclusive Tourism and Inclusive Destination
Development. By the end of this presentation you will be able to recognize this unassuming
revolution when you see it. For the moment just know that it has everything to do with bodies and
how societies react to differences between them.
All of us are here because we believe that the world works better when all people have access to
their full human rights. We take pride in knowing the mechanics of how human rights are
protected and exposing the ways in which they are thwarted.
Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings...Human rights are inalienable…
[They may be] civil and political rights, economic, social and cultural rights, or collective
We think of states and civil society organizations as protecting human rights. Sometimes we
forget that businesses also play a role even as they follow a profit motive rather than an explicitly
human rights agenda. We specifically tap the unique role of business in advancing human rights
The topic in this section of the World Forum on Human Rights is “to extend human rights to the
most vulnerable” because “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” 1
So first, how do we locate the most vulnerable?
We can start by noticing how a given society assigns distinctions based on difference.
That might be age, gender, origin, skin color or other factors.
We can ask if these assigned groupings give privilege to some at the expense of others.
We can catalog the ways that the advantage of some is enforced and replicated to the
disadvantage of others.
We can ask those who appear to be vulnerable how they experience themselves.
We can give them voice and so repeat the process of social analysis but this time from
the bottom up to see what we missed when looking from our own perspective instead of
[Entre Rodas e Batom 2:55]
The young woman in this film sees the constant social cues telling her that her place is on the
margin of society shunned, asexual, and of little interest. To use the categories I mentioned
earlier she is confronting limits to her social and cultural rights. That is the area of my focus with
the travel and hospitality industry.
For more than 10 years, starting publicly in Rio de Janeiro in 2004, I have been working to create
a global network that upholds the rights of persons with disabilities to travel freely and
independently. The charter for what I have been doing is the United Nations Convention on the
Rights of Persons with Disabilities the CRPD. The key section is Article 30 entitled:
“Participation in cultural life, recreation, leisure and sport.” It gives a universal legal foundation to
what we call Inclusive Tourism.
Now, when I explain to people what I do they usually first pause and maybe scratch their heads.
Then maybe I’ll get a sly smile and a sarcastic,
“You do what? Right, I want somebody to fight for my right to go on vacation too, Jack!”
We laugh, and then we start down the road of explanations. Let’s follow that path together.
Disability is a dynamic relationship.
It is a relationship between human functionality and environment. Disability is a mismatch
between function and environment when trying to achieve some outcome. Disability is not just a
broken leg. Disability is when the environment does not allow you to go about living your life when
you have a broken leg.
At least that is what disability means when you look at the world through the intellectual lens
known as the Social Model of Disability.
There are other possible models but only this one was created by experts those who actually
have disabilities. Disabled people were given voice to analyze discrimination from the bottom up.
They analyzed from their position on the margins and developed the Social Model of Disability.
The Social Model was forged by people with disabilities in the furnace of intense political analysis
and direct action that was the 1970’s. This model was meant to keep the two models of that day,
the Charity Model and the Medical Model, contained within the small spaces where they are
legitimate. Models help us focus but have you ever heard the saying, “When the only tool you
have is a hammer everything looks like a nail?” Part of the reason people hesitate when I tell
them that I promote the human right to travel and leisure is that they look at people with
disabilities through the wrong model. They don’t understand that we eliminate disability itself by
expanding the kinds of bodies we design for in the spaces, products, and services we create.
The Charity Model looks at differences in human functionality with a compassionate gaze or with
some sense of social obligation. It is fueled from a noble moral and social impulse but it is often
permeated with a patronizing sense invoking shame and assigning stigma on the person who is
labeled as different while it reinforces the dominant social status of the giver. The urge is to
assist the “victim” who suffers a fate or suffers from their own misdeeds.
The highest praise possible within this model is that the victim is brave, special, or inspiring in
overcoming a life that is seen as tragic. This not how people with disabilities experience
The other model, the Medical Model, looks at difference from the norm as indicating some
absence or brokenness in an individual person who, it is assumed, is awaiting a cure. This cure
resides with some expert who is often capable of effecting the cure with little or no initiative from
Models mix the attitudes we receive as our cultural inheritance with our own firsthand
observations of the world around us. The result can be a fairly coherent partial view of reality.
But notice whose attitudes and observations got embedded in the Charity and the Medical
They came from those who benefitted enough from societyasitexists to gain excess wealth
and time that they could then donate. Or, they came from those who devoted their social
privilege to acquiring medical knowledge.
We know that disability is a crosscutting economic issue in all societies. It is both a cause and
an effect of the vulnerability which is poverty and exclusion from social participation.
So, it should not be surprising that at exactly the same time that people with disabilities around
the world created the Social Model of Disability they would also create an action plan for
destabilizing discrimination and evolving a new ethic of inclusion. That action plan was
formalized as the Seven Principles of Universal Design. Universal Design is eloquently
described by the Institute for Human Centered Design:
Universal Design is a framework for the design of places, things, information,
communication and policy to be usable by the widest range of people operating in the
widest range of situations without special or separate design. Most simply, Universal
Design is humancentered design of everything with everyone in mind.
Universal Design is also called Inclusive Design, DesignforAll and Lifespan Design. It is
not a design style but an orientation to any design process that starts with a responsibility
to the experience of the user. It has a parallel in the green design movement that also
offers a framework for design problem solving based on the core value of environmental
responsibility. Universal Design and green design are comfortably two sides of the same
coin but at different evolutionary stages. Green design focuses on environmental
sustainability, Universal Design on social sustainability.
At the moment the disability community is asking if the words Universal, Inclusive, and
DesignforAll are synonyms. "Inclusive" is being interpreted as more comprehensive. The
notion is that is includes in social and economic circumstances as well as variation in age and
[ 12 minutes with video to here ]
When you hear the disability rights motto, “Nothing about us without us,” you are hearing the
political root of the Social Model which is a radical vision of inclusion. It is a logic that insists that
the only valid approach to design begins by thinking of those bodies made vulnerable by
generations of designthatdisables. The end result has been a tradition of design assumptions
that create vulnerabilities which impede the exercise of human rights.
In other words the very tools, works of art, products and places that we create exclude large
numbers of people about whom we make judgements based on their absence as if they were
absent by their personal choice rather than screened out by a maze of socially sanctioned
obstacles that are considered “normal.”
Now think of tourism. At its simplest it is human bodies moving through space. I promote
Inclusive Tourism or “the application of Universal Design within travel and hospitality industry.” It
covers everything from imagining and developing a product to marketing and updating it.
So, I am interested in getting more and different kinds of bodies moving through space.
To do that travelers with disabilities need to easily find information that is relevant. That
information needs to be available in formats that are accessible to everyone. Travelers with
disabilities need to be represented in travel advertising, accommodated comfortably in
airplanes, in hotels, in restaurants, and in tourist destinations.
You see, in 2002 we did a study of Americans with disabilities and we repeated it in 2005. We
discovered that Americans with disabilities were spending $13.6 billion dollars a year just on
travel alone. That began to convince the travel & hospitality industry that we don’t fit in a charity
approach to tourism. And we are not sitting at home waiting to be cured.We are travelers. We
are customers. We mean profits.
Jump ahead 11 years to today and something remarkable is underway. The market data has
leaked into the business decisions of players at all levels. That is impacting everything from the
design of airplanes, to the design of travel itineraries, to the physical design of tourist
destinations themselves. In fact, it is this latter innovation that marks the tipping point we have
been working towards Inclusive Destination Development. Let me end with three examples.
Nineteen European cities were awarded on December 3 of this year for adopting and
making solid progress toward becoming accessible and inclusive destinations of choice
for travelers with disabilities. Organizations like DesignforAll, Cities for All, and the
European Network for Accessible Tourism are to be thanked for raising the capacities of
these cities to become more livable by tourists and residents alike who have disabilities.
After decades of focused work promulgating Inclusive Tourism as rightsbased for Asian
with disabilities the United Nations development arm ESCAP is joined by the panAsian
association the AsiaPacific Accessible Tourism Network. It produces the biennial
panAsian Accessible Tourism Conference and shares industry best practices from
around the region.
This year it is Canada taking the lead. It has issued a call for participants in what is to be
the world’s first DestinationsforAll Summit from the 19th to the 22nd of October 2014 in
Montreal spearheaded by the nonprofit Keroul and the European network for Inclusive
So, the emphasis in this quiet revolution has started to shift from extending human rights through
the full moral and legal power of government to a collaborative approach integrating government,
business, and the civil sector prominently including disabled people’s organizations.
They are just in time too because the world’s population is aging. They are not going to be
traveling with backpacks in microbuses like they did in the 1960’s. And they won’t ever admit to
being disabled. They will insist on being included right there in the middle of everyone and
everything else. In fact, they will probably teach some of us oldtimer disability rights activists
what it means to say, “Nothing bout us without us.”
1) Source: Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
2) Source: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Pages/WhatareHumanRights.aspx