UN regional forum recommends ways to promote accessibility for persons with disabilities

Participants from 15 Asian-Pacific countries adopted a declaration at a regional United Nations meeting laying out 20 recommendations aimed at improving accessibility for persons with disabilities.

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 declaration was one of the outcomes of a meeting held by the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) – the regional arm of the UN - entitled “ESCAP Takayama Congress on the Creation of an Inclusive and Accessible Community in Asia and the Pacific.”

The Congress was held from 24 to 26 November in Takayama, Gifu Prefecture in central Japan , using the host city as an example of a success story.

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.

One of the participants, Mr. Saksit, an advisor to the mayor of Pattaya in Thailand , was particularly impressed with Takayama’s accessible roads and pedestrian walkways, and the clean environment free of littering. “This is a kind of city that our Pattaya City would dream of becoming,” he said.

Representatives from SM Malls, owner of the largest shopping centre in the Philippines , expressed an interest to host a regional conference on accessibility and private sector involvement in 2010.