Cebu News

Barrier-free tourism pushed in Cebu City

Kristine B. Quintas, JMO - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines -  The City Council is set to discuss this month a proposed legislation that would require the city to adopt the so-called standard Barrier-Free Tourism (BFT), which would benefit mobility-impaired individuals such as persons with disabilities (PWDs), people of short stature, the elderly, pregnant women, and children.

The proposed legislation authored by Councilor Alvin Dizon puts emphasis on accessibility by mobility-impaired individuals to places the city’s tourism sites.

Adela Kono, accessibility specialist of the Organization of  Rehabilitation Agencies (ORA), said there is a need to adopt the concept here so that a universal design can be implemented in infrastructures in tourism sites here, so much so that the provisions of Batas Pambansa Blg. 344 or the Accessibility Law do not necessarily cover tourism sites.

“There should be accessible accommodation facilities in tourist spots that are safe and convenient in all local and life stages...friendly destination and places to stay, also competitive with other countries,” Kono said.

Kono is also a Vice-president of Accessible Environments for PWDs Today (Accept).

“We have taken the rule of advocacy with technical guidelines. This barrier-free tourism is more welcome to the people because they are more responsive to tourism,”Kono said.

Barrier-Free Tourism (BFT) supports the retirement program of the Philippine Retirement Authority (PRA), encourages medical and local tourism, and generates employment and inclusion especially to PWDs.

The accessibility law requires “certain buildings, institutions, establishments and public utilities to install facilities and other devices” for the disabled persons for them to participate fully in the social life and the development of the societies.

Kono said they have since been receiving complaints from people with disabilities about establishments and public transportations that do not comply with the accessibility law. Most of the complaints were about lack of easy access to toilets and bathrooms.

She urged establishments such as malls, hotels, and terminals, among others, to provide “friendly” facilities such as ramps, handbars, wider doorways, parking, elevators, lavatories, and other facilities that would make it easier for people in wheelchairs to navigate their way through.

She pointed out that 90 percent of accidents involving the mobility-impaired occur in bathrooms.

Non-compliance of the law, Kono said, stems from people’s ignorance of the issue and the absence of guidelines.

Dizon pointed out that the Commission on Human Rights itself has recently lamented on the absence of firm compliance on the part of construction firms as regards the implementation of the accessibility law. Many buildings are built in such a way that they deny certain sectors in the community easy access to the structure.

“BFT may truly be achieved by forcing the recommended universal standard design features in all tourism sites and related facilities to remove any constraints in the mobility independence, safety, convenience and dignity on the part of the mobility-impaired,” Dizon said.

What the city can do, said Councilor Margarita Osmeña, is ensure that the Office of the Building Official (OBO) enforces the Accessibility Law to the letter and one way to do so is to check if a building has complied with the law’s requirements because it can be occupied.

The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (Unescap) has called on governments to “adopt inclusive policies and programs that favor the PWD’s right to access tourism facilities and services and promote equal participation and inclusion among the public and private players in the industry.” (FREEMAN)

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