Sunday, March 3, 2024

Make it easier for the disabled


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TOURISM INDUSTRY PLAYERS have been called on to make their establishments more accessible to the disabled and to widen Barbadians’ communication skills with languages like Mandarin.
Junior Minister of Tourism Kezia Forde made the call at yesterday’s Barbados Hotel & Tourism Association’s (BHTA) quarterly meeting, as she urged the private sector, in particular, to play its part.
“I’d like to see the private sector take up the mantle and lead the way in making Barbados fully accessible, both physical for the disabled community and lingual to improve communication with our visitors,” said the Combermere student.
In terms of physical accessibility, Forde called for more ramps, elevators where possible, more widened doorways to accommodate wheelchair users and bathrooms outfitted with support bars, among other enhancements.
She also suggested the introduction of Braille literature and pamphlets on tourism, as well as the use of sign language for the visually impared and hearing-impaired.
Noting that the Ministry of Tourism had recently held a training course in sign language to some tourism employees, she urged tour operators and owners of restaurants and hotels to include this in their employees’ training.
“In the same vein, I encourage us not to forget the lingual accessibility. For too long we have talked and talked of wanting to get into new source markets and attracting new modern types of visitors, but are we really reaching this goal? Barbados is an English-speaking country and for very often we have seen English as a universal language, but I have a news flash: Mandarin is the language of the future,” she told the audience of industry stakeholders at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.
Forde recalled that at the Caribbean Tourism Organisation’s state-of-the-industry conference in 2013 it was pointed out that the Caribbean was still unknown to many of the world’s travellers; and therefore markets like Latin America, Russia and China were potential markets for which Barbados should try to break the language barrier.
Suggesting that companies create websites in languages like Spanish, Portuguese and Mandarin, Forde said linguistic students from the Barbados Community College and University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus could be interned in private sector entities like hotels, restaurants and rental car companies to offer “more visitor-friendly” experiences.
“Imagine: An elderly couple from China wanting to book reservations at Oceans 2 or a family of five from Brazil wanting to go on a dive on the Atlantis Submarine, and both groups are only fluent in their mother tongues. Can we honestly say that at this point we have a communications specialist on staff to facilitate both groups of visitors?,” Forde asked.
Barbados’ Junior Minister of Tourism  is annually selected through the Ministry of Tourism’s speech contest in its Tourism Education Awareness And Me (TEAM) programme, which caters to students between14 and 17. (RJ)


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