Recently, the Italian Association for Responsible Tourism Associazione Italiana Turismo Responsabile (AITR) organised an online meeting on Responsible and Accessible Tourism. A tour operator, a tourist accommodation, an NGO, a research body and a festival talked about their experiences, offering an overview full of good ideas for a tourism aimed at travellers with disabilities or special needs. The intention was to raise awareness and provide information to those working in the sector (but also others) regarding the best practices that can be put into place so that the travel experience can be guaranteed for everybody, respecting the pace and needs of the people themselves.
The terms architectural barriers and accessibility have undergone some considerable conceptual transformations over time, arriving at such declinations as availability and usability, as additions rather than replacements of the other terms. The design disciplines have in fact introduced into the definition of environmental quality such concepts as comfort, safety, and ergonomics, creating the conditions for a different approach to the very concept of the architectural barrier, defining barriers as physical, sensory, conceptual/cognitive, psychological/perceptual, and cultural. Today then, we talk about environmental well-being (source: C.E.R.P.A.).
Starting with this assumption, and bearing in mind that the person is always at the centre of the tourist offering at the Case Valdesi, we wish to briefly introduce two of the eight guesthouses of the Diaconia Valdese.
The Casa Valdese di Pietra Ligure, in the province of Savona, is a three-star hotel equipped to meet the needs of guests with disabilities. An outstanding feature of this structure is the direct access to the private beach, guaranteeing that people with physical or motor disabilities and their helpers will have top priority for its use. It is equipped with JOB chairs, allowing guests with motor disabilities to get in and out of the water.
The Casa Valdese di Vallecrosia is in the province of Imperia, and is suitably equipped to host tourists with disabilities or special needs. The pride of the structure is the large private garden shaded by tall trees and beautified with various species of flowers and plants. The garden is a true oasis of relaxation in the populated centre, and just a short distance from the sea; the garden is a great place for guests to get together, read, rest and share experiences.
The aim of these activities, common to all the Case Valdesi, is to ensure that through dialogue and listening, guests are able to choose the destination that best suits their wishes and needs, and then enjoy a pleasant stay that meets their expectations.
Gianfranco Roella, head of the Casa Valdese in Pietra Ligure, briefly describes the privilege of being able to create this kind of tourism. Elisa Rubboli, head of the Casa Valdese in Vallecrosia, reiterates the words of her colleague, thanks to the experience taking place “a few kilometres to the west?:
“In recent years, I’ve seen an exponential growth in the affluence of disabled guests. Over time I’ve experienced and appreciated coexisting with people with disabilities, who often help to create harmony between guests with different characteristics and needs. Undoubtedly, hosting people with disabilities is an enriching experience for those who are able to see, grasp and appreciate the naturalness and lack of prejudices that disability itself can express”.
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