In the words of inclusion consultant Sophie Morgan, true adventures seem to be reserved for those fortunate individuals who possess not only the means and the mindset but also the capability to journey wherever their feet may take them.
Remarkably, she had the opportunity to utilize the world’s inaugural and exclusive adapted camel saddle, a creation by Moroccan Accessible Travel Consultants. Jeremy Schmidt and Erik Neufeld, the founders, have devoted their lives to establishing accessible travel options in Morocco and the surrounding Sahara Desert.
Our world presents a scenario where many destinations remain inaccessible to significant segments of society. Perhaps it’s high time we shift our perspective and consider accessibility as an opportunity rather than an expense. After all, the hallmark of a civilized society lies in its treatment of its most vulnerable members.
Approximately 10% of the global population experiences some form of disability. When we fail to provide accessible facilities and amenities, we exacerbate their challenges. Occupational Therapist and founder of disabledtravel.co.za, Karin Coetzee, emphasizes the need to scrutinize each stage of the travel experience to identify areas where people with disabilities are overlooked.
Coetzee astutely points out that individuals of all age groups can encounter disability discrimination. It could be a young teenager with a broken leg struggling up stairs with crutches, a mother unable to navigate a narrow door with a pram, or an elderly woman finding it difficult to step into a bath. Let us not forget that we will all face some form of physical challenge as we age.
When we prioritize Inclusive Tourism, we don’t just open doors for travellers with mobility challenges. We create an environment where all their family members feel comfortable traveling with them. Retirees from around the world seek to enjoy their golden years through travel, and many of them have some form of disability. These affluent older travellers are more likely to spend their tourism dollars in countries and at attractions that are accessible to them.
Inclusive tourism extends beyond designated parking spots and ramps as alternatives to stairs. It involves readily available transportation for people with disabilities from the airport, accommodations designed to be accessible from the driveway to the bedrooms and bathrooms, wide sidewalks and promenades, safe zebra crossings, and inclusive dining experiences at celebrated South African restaurants.
South Africa has gained a reputation for false advertising regarding accessibility. Coetzee’s research reveals that only 22.7% of accommodations claiming to be accessible actually live up to their claims. As a globally renowned travel destination, making it easier for 10% of our population to experience our captivating country should be a top priority.
We must embrace the global concept of ‘Universal Design,’ which seeks to create environments that can be accessed, understood, and utilized by all individuals, regardless of their age, size, ability, or disability.
ravelers with Disabilities Positive steps toward greater accessibility are being taken continuously. Trailblazers like Schmidt, Neufeld, and Coetzee have recognized the overlooked adventurers and are working to make their dreams more attainable.
Coetzee’s website, disabledtravel.co.za, is a pioneering platform, especially in South Africa, assisting people with disabilities in finding accessible establishments and facilities. She firmly believes that everyone should have the opportunity to explore our beautiful country and all it has to offer.
Karin Coetzee also shares photos and written evaluations to provide travellers with more information about accessible accommodations.
If you’ve come across accessible accommodations, restaurants, or tourist attractions, please consider informing Karin to contribute to the development of the South African accessibility database.