Accessible tourism pushed

Philippine's tourism sector banded together this week to press for reforms and make travel and tour a more accessible and enjoyable experience to persons with disability (PWD).

Sectoral representatives gathered for a forum at the Diamond Hotel in Manila to celebrate World Tourism Day and Philippine Tourism Week, themed "Tourism for All: Promoting Universal Accessibility."

At the Department of Tourism (DOT) main office on G. Puyat Ave., Makati City, Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo led a weeklong celebration with a trade exhibits, bazaar sale, cultural presentation, parlor games, and recognition of outstanding and long-time DOT employees.

The "Accessible Tourism Pilipinas Forum," jointly-sponsored by the DOT and the National Council on Disability Affairs (NCDA), was highlighted by the recognition of 10 hotel establishments found to be "barrier-free" or "PWD-friendly."

There was also a strong consensus among the participants to push for amendments to Batas Pambansa 344 of 1983, known as Accessibility Law.

Architect Jaime Silva of United Architects of the Philippines, one of the resource speakers, stressed the need to make the law more suitable to the needs of PWDs in the age of high-technology.

The DOT in 2011 partnered with NCDA, an attached agency of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), to advocate tourism for all to make tourism sites and establishments more accessible to PWDs, the elderly, pregnant women and families with small children.

Other resource speakers representing PWD groups were universal design expert Adela Kono and Dr. Jeana Manalaysay, who both noted the PWDs as a growing market for domestic tourism.

Also on hand to tackle accessibility issues were PWD advocates Margaretha Gloor of Circle of Friends Foundation, Inc. and Christian Pirodon of InterContinental Hotel Group.

At the "Breaking Barriers: Tourism Stakeholders Conference" held in Lyceum of the Philippines, Cavite, DOT Assist. Sec. Gwen Javier, spoke about the extreme difficulties that PWDs and the handicapped have to go through as a tourist.

"Every day, wheelchair-bound PWDs suffer from the unavailability of mechanical lifts on bus services, absence of access ramps and inaccessible bathrooms. Ironically, such hardship that they have to put up with, in many instances, defeats the purpose of the trip of having an enjoyable experience," Javier said.

She urged the tourism sector to work hand in hand to provide a wholesome "total tourism experience" for PWDs, handicapped and elderly.

Source: Philippine Information Agency

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