HIGHLY COMMENDED Scott Rains, US
Scott visits Dumazulu Cultural Village, KwaZulu Natal Province, South Africa
IF YOU ARE AN ‘able-bodied’ person reading this, ask yourself: ‘How easy would it be to go on holiday if I were disabled?’ Consider everything, from getting up, to getting out the door, from getting on a plane or train, to getting to a hotel, to getting in the pool, to getting on the beach, and getting around the local sights. There’s a way of thinking that might help you to understand this. It’s called the Spoon Theory. We don’t have room to explain it here. Google it, when you’re next online. A study in 2002, repeated in 2005, showed that Americans with disabilities were spending $13.6 billion annually on travel. So why then, so often, is it so hard and so uncomfortable for people with disabilities to travel? For Scott Rains, the answer is ‘it shouldn’t be’. To counter it, he has created the concept of Inclusive Tourism, which is about putting into practice the principles and goals of
Universal Design, which are opportunities and products that are usable by the widest range of people operating in the widest range of situations. On his website Rolling Rains he monitors the spread of such ideas, ‘the bushfire’. His vision is a fully inclusive sustainable society, one where travel and social participation are not inhibited by disability or limited by age. ‘Inclusive Tourism assures that the industry’s physical infrastructure and business values are appropriate and sustainable throughout the normal human lifecycle of all people – including changes in their functions and abilities,’ says Scott. ‘It is not about heroic overcoming of obstacles. Disability culture is about interdependence. We overcome more obstacles getting out the front door every morning than a non-disabled person would ever imagine. ‘The significant obstacles are socially created. The solutions to obstacles are also social. Befriending the vulnerability involved in being human is what social sustainability means to the disability community.’ Scott has not been a head-above-theparapet kind of champion, preferring to work ‘below the radar’, with travel writers, tour operators, hotel chains, airlines and disabled persons’ organisations around the world. Among various consultancy work, he has been invited by the tourism ministry of India to advise on Inclusive Tourism, and was invited by three provinces of South Africa to review the inclusiveness of their tourism prior to the World Cup. He’s attended conferences, edited academic studies and led the World Bank’s Southern
Africa Regional Seminar on Disability. Throughout, he’s nurtured and mentored a growing network of like-minded souls. He doesn’t admit to a Eureka! moment when his advocacy began, saying: ‘It is a responsibility laid upon every person with a disability as soon as they decide to move beyond whatever is their home geography. It is a choice to be fully human. ‘One of the things that motivates me is a commitment to the disability community of future generations. I was unable to fulfill my undergraduate scholarship in Linguistics at the Universidade de São Paulo in Brazil because the facility was not accessible and its institutional culture was not inclusive. Inclusive Tourism is one way I make certain that new scholars in every part of the world are free to study and enjoy full citizenship. Mobility International USA (MIUSA) is the world’s leader in the area of training on student exchange involving students with disabilities. They have created a new generation of academics and professionals with disabilities who will never let this occur again. ‘Inclusive Tourism needs to continue until a generation asks, “Why do we say inclusive? Isn’t it just bad business practice to design environments, products, and policies that exclude certain types of people?”’ www.rollingrains.com WHAT THE JUDGES SAID Scott Rains’ pioneering work has centred on tackling the concept of ‘inclusivity’ in tourism. He has campaigned, at high level, to ensure that access to tourism experiences remains a key focus in the growing responsible tourism movement, and he has done so in an industry still growing in its awareness of social inclusiveness.
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Official magazine of the Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards 2010