Inclusion is key to sustainability

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As brands greenwash, it is important to remind them that inclusion is a key aspect of any sustainable ecosystem, not excluding travel and tourism. Yet, the world of travel and tourism is far from being barrier-free for people of determination (a respectful term coined for people with disabilities). 

The Dubai Accessible Travel and Tourism International Summit (DATTIS), held last month, heard of the challenges faced by people of determination when they board a plane to go on a holiday.

The summit called for cooperation within the Arab world to collaborate with the UAE, voiced as the best country in the region when it comes to the quality of life it provides for people with disabilities.

As the business of travel gets flooded with tourists again, some destinations are working (or appearing to be working) to become safe, secure and easy to explore for all. Just as tourism is facing an unprecedented boom, tourists requiring special assistance are also out in big numbers with their families and friends, contributing significantly to the travel industry.

The global population of people of determination will double by the year 2050 to two billion people, according to some figures. Local statistics claim that people of determination constitute 15 per cent of the total travel and tourism movement in the UAE.

There are many challenges on the way of barrier free travel and a while yet before all these are taken head on.

Most airports do not have professional staff who are skilled in dealing with travellers of determination with their various needs at check-in, security checks, passports and other points inside the airport facilities. The absence of guiding plates in sign language in the premises of airports will help travellers and guide them to the right areas to complete their travel procedures. Airports often don’t have sign language interpreters to assist passengers with hearing impairments.

Passengers with mobility disabilities are not provided vehicles to enable them to enjoy the airport experience like any normal passenger, to have the opportunity to roam the duty-free, instead of being placed in a special lounge depending on the time of their flight.

Often airlines are lacking a sufficient number of wheelchairs inside the cabin of the plane for use in transporting people of determination, as carriers usually provide only one chair, while more than one passenger with a mobility disability may be present on the same flight.

A suggestion to smoothen the process is to allocate a site for people of determination at airline reservation centres to facilitate the booking process, where airlines and airports can easily take stock of the needs and the services of particular passenger right during the booking process. Perhaps design a document to include the technical details of the equipment used by people with disability for easy identification and to provide help if needed.

The problem is often be compounded when people with hidden disabilities (both mental and physical) set out to travel.

Until we formulate a system where everyone is treated with respect and dignity, we can never truly advance as a nation, as a planet.

Let’s all do our bit to make the tremendous joy of travel accessible to one and all.