As the world marks International Day of Disabled Persons on December 3, there are calls for greater effort to make hospitality more accessible for the disabled.
The IIE School of Hospitality and Service Management (IIE HSM) is one institution that is recognising and addressing this need by including disability awareness and inclusion training in its curriculum.
Etresia Booysen, a senior lecturer at the school's Johannesburg campus, discusses the significance of improving hospitality.
“There is a dedicated chapter in our food and beverage management module that addresses how to interact with diverse individuals at a service level and includes guidance on accommodating people with disabilities. Training staff in the tourism industry to be aware of the needs of travellers with disabilities is crucial. This includes understanding how to assist, communicate, and provide necessary accommodations.”
“Hotels, lodges, B&Bs and guest houses are continually working to provide rooms and facilities that include features such as ramps, wider doorways and accessible bathrooms, and efforts are also being undertaken to make transportation more disabled-friendly, including vehicles for tours, airports with proper facilities and public transportation systems that accommodate people with mobility challenges,” says Booysen.
She further points out that improving accessibility and making tourism more disability-friendly is a global trend, and many destinations, including South Africa, are working towards creating inclusive environments for all travellers.
Chantell Kriel, CEO of Casa Caritas, a non-profit care home for severely challenged people, also shares meaningful information regarding the day, highlighting that it brings awareness to the different forms of disabilities and calls on society to ensure that all disabled persons receive adequate care.
“Persons with disabilities are members of our communities and families whose affliction is not their own doing. It is the responsibility of all South Africans to ensure they receive the respect, opportunities, acceptance and care that they deserve,” said Kriel.
Kriel added that care facilities such as Casa Caritas remain havens for disabled persons to receive the long-term care they need to thrive.
“It is our combined responsibility as members of society to stop discrimination of the disabled community and to remove the systemic barriers they face. This is important – not just on International Day for Persons with Disabilities, but every day,” she said.