The daily struggle to lift wheelchair users on to and from aircraft at Grantley Adams International Airport appeared to come an end today as the airport’s state-owned ground handler introduced a new mobility lift.
And Minister of Tourism Kerrie Symmonds sees the development as a chance to tap into the disabled tourist market.
Caribbean Aircraft Handling’s unveiled its ‘Ambu-lift’ service using a new piece of equipment known as a ‘lift-a-loft’ to elevate disabled passengers to airline doors.
Symmonds said the service signals an end to the days of airport attendants struggling to lift disabled people onto plane, in what some may term as an undignified manner.
Addressing the audience at an unveiling ceremony at the airport, Symmonds acknowledged that over the years Barbados has not done all it could to make the destination accessible to everyone.
He said: “When I became Minister of Tourism I have maintained then as I do now that there is a glaring omission that we have been presiding over for a long time. We were not doing all that we can as a people to ensure universal accessibility to those people that we have the honour to play host to. As sought after as Barbados is as a destination, it is critically important that we do all that we can in our power to remember those people who cannot easily access all the things Barbados has to offer.”
The Minister of Tourism and International transport praised Caribbean Aircraft Handling for taking steps to correct the problem in a short space of time.
Apart from a moral obligation, he said Barbados has been missing out on an area of revenue for years.
Symmonds said: “The fact of the matter is that people with all forms of disabilities are travelling and doing so in large numbers. It is also true to say that very often these persons have a capacity to spend a lot of money. Why then would Barbados want to lock itself out of a market that is so potentially lucrative? It is low hanging fruit and we must go after with every ounce of vigour.”
But the Minister of Tourism suggested that in order for Barbados to capitalise on this market, the seaport and hotels ought to replicate the mobility initiative.
“Initiatives like these have to be done at the sea port as well. In my view it must be reflected in every hotel and I yearn for the day when every new investment will make provision by way of room accommodation and special other accommodations for persons with reduced mobility. We must get to this point because first of all it is a moral requirement and secondly it makes good sense if we are offering hospitality.”