from DANIEL JONES in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
VICTORIA FALLS – THE Victoria Falls International Airport is the first such facility in the Southern African regional bloc to install braille material to cater for visually impaired members of the public.
This facility has also been launched at the rainforest, a year after it was piloted at the Lookout Café in the resort city.
At the airport the braille has been installed at the security check point, immigration and information desks on the international terminal.
At the rainforest, it was installed at the David Livingstone statue and other strategic points along the footpath.
Zimbabwe has become the first in the region (Southern African Development Community ‘SADC’) to embark on such a rollout, which is aimed at promoting inclusive tourism.
Mobi Tech Smith Zimbabwe, a local organisation, came up with the initiative in partnership with the Braille for Africa, and locally partnered government through the Ministry of Transport, Airport Company of Zimbabwe, Zimparks and the National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe.
Tourism minister, Mangaliso Ndlovu, who presided over the launch of braille, said people with disabilities must get equal access and services from tourism products and services.
He said the rights enshrined in the constitution can only be enjoyed with requisite tools to engage in the tourism sector broadly and access to world class facilities.
The launch is the first phase of the Braille Tourism, Inclusive Tourism initiative in Zimbabwe.
“This milestone will make Victoria Falls the first ever inclusive city in Zimbabwe and Africa, allowing the visually impaired to travel for purposes of tourism in confidence,” Ndlovu said.
This is a culmination of Zimbabwe’s efforts to align the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS 1 2021 – 2025) through mainstreaming disability in all our planning and activities.
This is in line with the country’s policy of “leaving no one and no place behind.”
The initiative also aligns with the United Nations World Tourism Organisation’s (UNWTO) thrust to promoting accessible tourism initiatives.
Ndlovu said the Braille for Tourism is one of first products towards an all-inclusive tourism offering people with disabilities a chance to experience different tourism sites and attractions in Zimbabwe.
“The Braille for Tourism is a means through which we seek to afford all citizens equal opportunities to the top-class services that includes our tourism sector,” he said.
“We are launching this project in Victoria Falls because it is our prime tourist resort. Any actions we take here, shows our clear intent and commitment to what we believe as government,” Ndlovu said.
People with disabilities constitute at least 10 percent of Zimbabwe’s population, estimated at 15 million.
Last month, President Emmerson Mnangagwa launched the National Disability Policy to empower disabled people towards the national agenda of inclusive development and growth.
Ndlovu challenged tourism operators to make their workplaces and products accessible to persons with disabilities.
“Many other local and international destinations will learn from the example being set in Victoria Falls,” he said.
Enock Mawema, Mobi Tech Zimbabwe director, said plans are underway to spread the braille facility across the continent.
“We are looking at making the whole country accessible and inclusive. We want to spread to the whole of Africa,” he said.
People living with disability have constantly complained about difficulties accessing public buildings including some hotels and shops.
Most have no wheelchair ramps or hand rails.
– CAJ News