‘Tourism is everybody’s business’ goes the slogan of Barbados’ number one economic sector, but based on the numbers it can be argued that disability is also everybody’s business.
An average of one in every 24 people has some form of recognized physical disability. This makes getting all Barbadians in tune with the needs of the disabled comparable to the need for all to get involved in tourism, the island’s bread and butter industry.
Supported by 2010 national census figures that put the number of people with disability at 11,546, out of a total population of 288,821, the Barbados Council for the Disabled has conducting sensitivity training for service industry workers on relating to the special needs of the disabled.
Airline bag handlers, ‘red c airport porters, lifeguards, National Conservation Commission workers, immigration officers, policemen, restaurant workers, hotel workers – all who contribute to making Barbados’ host tourism product enjoyable for everyone, including the disabled, have received the training.
BCD’s outreach is under its Fully Accessible Barbados (FAB) project and at the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc workers are the prime users of the programme.
Fully Accessible Barbados “recognizes the importance of accessibility in order to achieve the truly inclusive society which is part of our vision,” said the council.
“FAB enlisted the support of a number of key stakeholders. These include representatives from tourism, education and other service related sectors.”
BTMI has been the main user of the council’s disability sensitivity training programmes for public service providers, according to the council’s operations manager, Rosanna Tudor.
Through a specially designed ‘Host Tourism’ element of the programme, the BTMI has been sending its frontline workers for training on an almost monthly basis.
“The training is to get them to become aware of the need and how to respond to the needs of persons with disabilities,” Tudor said.
“It’s a cross-section of tourism industry providers that we train through that host tourism programme. That’s been going on now for the past couple years,” Tudor said.
Emphasizing the tie-in of tourism economics with service needs of physically challenged the residents and visitors, Tudor spoke of a US survey of travellers with disabilities that reported them “saying they would go back to a place, or facility or country where the people’s attitudes were more accommodating”.
Being ‘accommodating’ in the service industry involves more than simple provision of ramps for wheelchair users, but with the understanding and helpful attitude of providers of that service, she said.
In Fully Accessible Barbados, “not only do we assess buildings and facilities, but we also have to provide this service because you have to be able to respond and recognise the various needs of those who come to use your service,” Tudor added.
Staff of about 15 organizations have so far participated in the sensitivity training sessions.
Drivers at the Transport Board and some supervisors devoted last Saturday to a sensitivity class at the BCD’s Harambee House headquarters, the Garrison.
The management of this essential service saw the importance of the training and has so far sent their frontline employees for two sessions, with more attending whenever classes can be scheduled to suit the bus company’s work shifts, she said.
But the disabled community official also pressed the state-owned enterprise to seek a large proportion of buses designed for the disabled whenever Government is restocking its fleet.
And momentum is gaining for various organizations in Barbados to sign up for disabled sensitivity training, as the council has conducted 40 to 50 training sessions annually for the last three years.
At this rate, the BCD may be well on its way to making disability the business of everyone in Barbados. (GA)