Tuesday 25 July 2017 | 11:52

Only one fifth of tourist attractions in Minsk are fully accessible for persons with disabilities

16.12.2016  |  Society   |  Piotr Kuchta,  EuroBelarus
Only one fifth of tourist attractions in Minsk are fully accessible for persons with disabilities Tatsiana Zharnosek, Office for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Office for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities presented the results of the study on the availability of tourism in Minsk.

The initiative aiming to make tourism accessible was launched in the spring of 2016. Its goal is to promote the realization of the rights of persons with disabilities to equal participation in cultural life, recreation, leisure and sport. First and foremost the experts were focused on organizations and institutions that work in the tourism field.

Within the framework of the initiative Office for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities experts and volunteers conducted an analysis of the accessibility of key tourist sites and facilities in Minsk, translated the recommendations of the World Tourism Organization on Accessible Tourism and the information about it, created a brochure entitled "Inclusive tourism: what, why and how" and made video explaining what inclusive tourism is.

The author of the study Natalia Barisenka-Klepach (educational human rights defense organization "Office for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities”, Belarusian State University) noted:
 - The concept of "inclusive tourism" is wide, in general it is about all the people who at some point in their lives need a little bit more comfortable accommodation, a little bit more convenient entrance to a hotel etc.

Definition of the World Tourism Organization: Inclusive tourism (accessible tourism for all) is a form of tourism, which includes the cooperation process between the participants of tourism field that allows persons with disabilities for accessibility, including mobile, visual, auditory and cognitive components of accessibility, acting independently, on an equal footing, with dignity, through the provision of universal tourism products, services and environment.

Why is it important to Belarus?

The inclusive tourism market already accounts for 11% of world tourist flows. According to the World Tourism Organization, in 2020, inclusive tourism will account for 22% of all tourism expenditures. "Thus we cannot ignore this trend, it has to be intensively developed in Belarus to catch up with the world community. But if we do not start now, we will find ourselves so far at the rear later that there will be no chance to catch up with the leaders", - believes the researcher.

The top priority of the accessible tourism for all initiative is to promote equality of the right to rest.

Specific tasks of completed phase of the campaign:

1) Analysis of the current situation (accessibility monitoring);

2) Informing the representatives of the tourism industry on inclusive tourism;

3) Organization of information events on inclusive tourism.

Results

The first stage lasted for 9 months. We have informed on the results of the study 10 ministries and departments, regional executive committees, as we hope that the information will cause a reaction and interest in the development of inclusive tourism in the regions, - shared Natalia Barisenka-Klepach. – We studied 68 tourist attractions. 36 of them were rendered radically inaccessible, 12 were marked as accessible. We also introduced a separate category of "accessible not for all", which includes facilities with the situation a little better than zero. This category shows that the situation is not hopeless."

Natalia Barisenka-Klepach stressed that the state has not shown any interest in the campaign: "We held a round table discussion on September 27, all departments and ministries that are directly or indirectly related to the tourism sector were invited. But only a representative of the Committee on Labour, Employment and Social Protection of Minsk City Executive Committee participated. We hope to engage the authorities in a dialogue during the further stages of the campaign."

 Siarhei Drazdouski, coordinator of the Office for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, agrees with the thesis of the World Tourism Organization, that the development of inclusive tourism is impossible without state participation. "Indeed, a lot depends on how the country's infrastructure is ready to provide for a particular tourist. That is when tourists with disabilities travel to a country, they first study not the list of sites to visit but their health security and comfort issues. It is the responsibility of the state to ensure an inclusive environment.", - stated Siarhei Drazdouski.

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