Saturday 22 September, 2018

Barbados gearing up to make persons with disabilities a real priority

Tourists on the Bridgetown Heritage Walk Tour. (FILE)

Tourists on the Bridgetown Heritage Walk Tour. (FILE)

A totally accessible Barbados could be a reality sooner than later. Wheelchair access is finally being looked at as a priority for Barbados, especially in and around the Capital City of Bridgetown.

Word of this came from the Minister of Tourism, Kerrie Symmonds during a press conference today.

He said:

“Bridgetown is our capital city. Bridgetown is not wheelchair-accessible. Some of the wealthiest people in the world, frankly, are sitting with a degree of impairment, not because they can’t walk, but can’t walk well…a fella or a lady may have a wheelchair because of the fact that at 65, and got a lot of money to cruise the world, may have millions of dollars in a bank account, 'but muh hips aren’t what they used to be. I had two hip replacement surgeries and the Arthritis setting in'…” These challenges make wheelchairs a necessity.

He said due to ageing, not only because of disabilities, some persons are confined to wheelchairs, and as such Bridgetown needs to be more accommodating.

At present, the country stands to lose all it has gained because people have plenty of options. The Minister lamented, “If that passenger has to choose between staying on the ship because to get off the ship and out the port depending on where the ship is birthed quite frankly, is a massive challenge, experiencing Bridgetown is a massive challenge.”

Speaking with the board of Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc (BTMI) recently, he said that we have to come to a point in Barbados where every hotel, restaurant, tourist attraction and Greenfield investment must be asked if there will be a wheelchair facility when constructing.

Furthermore, he used the occasion to make mention of a move towards closed captioning for the deaf; and adding Braille to some signage and cards; as well as ramps.

He said that the quality of visitor experience is heading towards total-inclusion and he warned that unless we step up and keep up, we in Barbados will become irrelevant.

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