MANILA – Creating a barrier-free travel experience for persons with disabilities (PWDs) in the Philippines was the focal point of the of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-Japan Accessible Tourism Seminar hosted recently by the Department of Tourism (DOT), together with the ASEAN-Japan Centre and the National Council on Disability, at the Manila Diamond Hotel.
Seminar participants observed that hospitality services for PWDs are often overlooked by establishments causing hindrances during travel because of limited facilities – from sidewalks, ramps, wheelchair-lifts for cars, to bathrooms, and toilets including audio and visual guides.
In response to the issues, ASEAN member states have started creating facilities and identifying infrastructures to be developed in order to provide better accessibility and reduce barriers for PWDs.
“The Philippines has always been very supportive and now more than ever vigilant in its promotion of the principles of ‘Tourism for All,’ promoting universal accessibility,” said DOT Undersecretary for Tourism Development Planning Benito C. Bengzon, Jr., in his keynote speech.
During the seminar, representatives from Japan, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines presented technological and infrastructure advances, and barrier-free tour products specifically designed for wheelchair-users, and visually and hearing-impaired travelers, as well as the areas of improvement in the said aspects.
Among the identified areas of focus in providing accessibility to PWDs are transportation, lodging, and architecture, as well as communication aides.
Raising awareness on PWD challenges and advocating for their inclusion in travel destinations are the premier goals of accessible tourism, noted Bengzon.
The DOT official also said personnel training for establishments and development of programs in consultation with the PWD communities were also promoted in order to eradicate discrimination towards PWDs and level their inclusion in travel privileges with the rest of the population.