Brazil’s Efforts to Expand Tourism for Handicapped
In an effort to expand the appeal of tourism, Brazil’s Tourism Ministry is adapting some of its sites for the handicapped. Now what is known as “sensory tourism” allows people with visual impairments to enjoy attractions through other senses such as touch or smell.
The Botanical Garden of Rio de Janeiro, for example, invites visitors to come into contact with orchids as well as basil, rosemary, sage and mint seedlings with all their different textures and smells, especially arranged to stimulate the senses.
In Brazil’s capital city, Marcelle Silveira, director of Environmental Education at the Brasília Zoo, said that every two weeks they offer walks for groups of up to 15 people, where visitors are allowed to touch the animals.
Viviane Lemes, a travel agency owner, reported on another idea for the visually impaired. There are now tour itineraries linked to coffee and the taste and aroma of traditional drinks. She said the tours were well received in a recent pilot visit to a farm in Araguari in the western part of Minas Gerais. Her travel agency organized a tour with a visually impaired group, which allowed them to experience the stages of coffee production: harvesting, drying yards, pulped coffee, the bean selection process, the levels of roasting, and even tasting the quality of the coffee.
Also along these same lines, a gallery in São Paulo’s Pinacoteca Museum allows the visually impaired to touch twelve bronze sculptures that are part of the museum’s collection. Size, shape, texture and aesthetic diversity facilitate understanding and appreciation of these artistic works when felt with the hands. The museum’s selection of these particular sculptures took into account recommendations by people with visual disabilities.
In the view of Rosangela Barqueiro, who is part of the Brazilian Association for Assistance of the Visually Impaired, minor adaptations are all that is needed in order to include the visually impaired in tourism. “The training of guides and assistants to deal with this type of visitor can solve most of the problems in this area,” she said. One challenge is to provide audio descriptions and texts in Braille.
Currently, there is another project underway to facilitate access for the handicapped to beaches in Pernambuco, Rio de Janeiro, Alagoas, São Paulo, and Rio Grande do Sul. These sites make provisions for equipment such as mechanical belts or amphibious chairs, and also promote activities like sitting volleyball and an adaptation of traditional bowling.
For its part, the Tourism Ministry has created the Acessível Tourism website in collaboration with the Human Rights Secretariat and the National Council on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CONADE). This handicapped tourism website provides information for the handicapped on the accessibility of tourist sites, hotels, restaurants, and various attractions in Brazil. Website visitors can also suggest new facilities or places of interest that will help people with disabilities to travel around the country with greater independence.
This Internet initiative, which is also available as a smartphone app, won last year’s National Prize for Web Accessibility. http://turismoacessivel.gov.br/ta
[This article is from the Tourism News website]