Access Tourism New Zealand reported that at last week’s UN “ESCAP Takayama Congress on the creation of an inclusive and accessible community in Asia and the Pacific,” a committee of eleven representatives created a declaration laying out 20 recommendations aimed at improving accessibility for people with disabilities (PwDs) in the region, including accessibility to tourism and travel products.

The committee, chaired by Aiko Akiyama, Social Development Division, UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia-Pacific, included members from Malaysia, the Philippines, Pakistan, Hong Kong, Japan, and New Zealand. Congress participants from 15 Asian-Pacific countries subsequently adopted the declaration at the UN meeting. The committee and other congress participants represented access tourism organizations, academic and research institutions, governments, the private sector, disabilities organizations, individuals with disability, and/or development organizations.

The “Takayama Declaration on Development of Community for All” lays out recommendations on regional networking, advocacy, policy development, research and data collection, capacity building, and resource mobilization on improving accessibility. The Congress was held from November 24-26 in Takayama, Gifu Prefecture in central Japan, using the host city as an example of a success story in creating an accessible environment for PwDs, especially in tourism.

A mountain resort, Takayama has been promoting accessible tourism for the last 18 years, creating economic opportunities, as well as a more barrier-free environment for persons with disabilities. The local authorities, working in partnership with the private sector and civil society organizations, made improvement to facilities in the city to make them more barrier-free and purchased accessible devices and means of transportation. Mayor Mamoru Tsuchino, who pioneered these initiatives, spoke at the conference.

During the three-day meeting, about 200 participants – policy makers, tourism professionals, experts on accessibility, and persons with various disabilities – made field visits to various accessible facilities to learn from Takayama’s experiences. They also had opportunities to meet local residents whose awareness of and respect for the needs of persons with disabilities have contributed to the success of making Takayama a barrier-free community for its own citizens and for visitors to the city.