Meet NATIVE, an organization that specializes in helping hotels create accessible environments for people with disabilities. NATIVE—which stands for the Network of Accessible Tourism for an Inclusion Valued Economy — consults with hotels and monitors their progress toward accessibility in every stage of a traveler’s experience, from check-in to check-out. This includes applying embossed braille stickers and door hangers to bed and bathroom features and elevator buttons, to installing cutting edge technology, such as detectable fire alarms for customers who are deaf. Accessibility beyond hotels is also becoming part of the touristic experience, a NATIVE hotel in Morocco, for example, now provides a specialized wheelchair for riding a camel so travelers with limited mobility can experience an authentic trek in the desert. It’s true—read on!
The organization is the brainchild of Pablo Ramón, a tourism expert, who sprang into action after hearing a podcast narrated by a girl who was blind. She described her typical day in the big city, fraught with obstacles, yet spoke with a sense of humor. When she couldn’t answer the question of how she would reserve a room in her favorite hotel, Ramón was struck by the profound need for greater accessibility in the tourism industry. He consulted with webmasters and software developers, and eventually partnered with a team of engineers to create an accessible website for people with disabilities.
NATIVE’s website provides users of all types of disabilities with the capability to research accessible hotels and book reservations—by themselves. Navigation is done in numerous ways, depending on one’s needs—blowing, emitting a sound, or touching any or several keys at the same time, as in the case of a customer with Parkinson’s. The interface is designed to adapt and change to a user’s preferences. This includes navigating via voice commands in several languages, managing different contrasts of background and text colors, and using the keyboard and headphone microphones. And soon from a totally refurbished web platform.
NATIVE has captured global attention. They’ve been awarded and recognized by the World Travel Market, the World Travel and Tourism Council, the Ministry of Tourism of Morocco and many others. The organization was chosen by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) as one of six projects to be promoted and expanded globally before 2022. It was also selected as one of the main projects of the One Planet Sustainable Tourism Programme, with the objective to enhance the impact of sustainable development in the tourism sector by 2030.
ABILITY chatted with Ramón to discuss NATIVE, how its interface works and the hotel industry’s overall progress toward greater accessibility.
ABILITY: What level of accessibility is offered by the hotels in NATIVE’s network? ...
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