A Barbados for All
Known for its sophisticated beaches and enough culture to quench any traveler’s adventurous and inquisitive side, Barbados is a tropical island that can now be accessed by ALL explorers. Launching, a Fully Accessible Barbados (FAB), an initiative of the Barbados Council for the Disabled, the importance of creating greater accessibility and exploration of the island by those with disabilities is now a concept being adopted by almost everyone on the island - from hoteliers to restaurants and more. Travel is a right and with a number of Bajan tourism partners enlisting in the FAB program, a totally cohesive and accessible Barbados is now in the sights of the 8 out of 10 Canadians with disabilities that use aids or devices. "Combining travel needs of those with disabilities with the island’s eclectic terrain - from its rocky eastern shoreline, to the calm, serene waters of its “Platinum Coast,” and changing the landscape of an entire community is a monumental and somewhat daunting task, but seeing a Fully Accessible Barbados is a dream that is quickly becoming a reality," says Deborah Millington, Business Development Officer for Barbados Tourism. The aim of FAB is to create a cross-section of standards and criteria that help meet some of the challenges travelers may encounter, especially seeing as the prevalence of disability increases steadily with age. The retirement of Canadian seniors (baby boomers) will soon make up the largest cross-section of the population. The impact to the Inclusive Tourism sector is significant as over 40% of them will be retiring with some form of disability, and according to recent statistic raises the total value of this sector to over 25% of the tourism market by 2020. This is by no means a ‘niche market’!
To communicate their level of accessibility, partners will be awarded in the following areas: Wheel Chair Assisted: Offering easy access to persons who depend on the use of a wheelchair, who can transfer unaided to and from the wheelchair in a seated position. This person would most likely be an independent traveler. Or, offering easy access to persons who depend on the use of a wheelchair in a seated position.
Mobility Challenged: Offering easy access to persons who have restricted walking ability and also for those who may need to use a wheelchair some of the time and can negotiate a maximum of three steps.
Visually Impaired: A property or facility that provides easy access to persons who are visually impaired.
Hearing Impaired: A property or facility that accommodates the hearing impaired.
"Traveling is one of life’s greatest pleasures, and Barbados Tourism Authority is paving a new way by offering persons’ with disabilities FULL access to this Caribbean paradise," says Saj Rahman, Show Manager People In Motion, a free to the public show for those with disabilities and aims to help enhance independent living taking place May 27-28 in Toronto’s Exhibition Place. "As part of the upcoming show, we are honoured to offer attendees access and information on traveling with a disability and how Barbados has opened up accessibility to the island and helped enhance independent travel," Rahman adds. But it’s not just in how tourism partners have made their hotels, restaurants and attractions accessible. Barbados has opened up their island to those traveling in a whole new way: The introduction of an amphibious wheelchair that has caught the attention of world-travelers and myself. The FAB Beach Wheelchair is ideal for people with moderate or severely reduced mobility. With the introduction of an amphibious, ergonomically designed wheelchair, maneuvering the island, on the ground or in the turquoise, crystal clear water no longer proves challenging. Easily manipulated on all types of soil, sand or pebbles, its passenger gain full access to the beach and can enjoy a leisurely swim in Barbados’ calm waters. Known for their warmth, Bajans have proven once again that they have amazingly welcoming culture.