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Sep 08, 2016 03:37 PM

Accessible Tourism: Federal Government presents actions for tourists with disabilities

Actions include publications to make it easier for tourism operators to create accessible itineraries and improve quality of services

Rio de Janeiro, 8 September 2016 - The importance of initiatives to promote accessibility were at the forefront in one of the most exciting moments of the opening ceremony of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games: before lighting the Olympic flame, Paralympic swimmer Clodoaldo Silva (13 Olympic medals), stopped in front of a huge staircase. The steps then moved in front of him to form a ramp. "Yesterday, we moved the world and showed that simple solutions such as this can be of great importance for accessibility," said Interim Minister of Tourism Alberto Alves in an interview this Thursday (8 September) at the Rio Media Center.


Aiming to make tourism accessible for all, the Ministry of Tourism has been developing a series of initiatives to promote accessibility in tourist destinations and establishments. The idea is to facilitate travel to Brazil for tourists with disabilities or reduced mobility. According to estimates by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), about 45 million Brazilians have some kind of disability, which corresponds to 23.9% of the population.

“We have enormous potential for tourists with some form of disability who want to discover the charms and beauties of our country, and we need to ensure that we have the right conditions for them to travel safely and with their specific needs met. We still have a significant way to go, but we are moving in the right direction," said the Minister.

One of the initiatives developed by the Federal Government is the Accessible Tourism Guide, a website that compiles accessibility ratings of tourist destinations. The collaborative website allows internet users to rate the accessibility features of hotels, restaurants and various attractions. The website's database currently provides accessibility info on approximately 530,000 establishments in the country.

At the Accessible Tourism Guide, visitors can register, browse through and review restaurants, bars, hotels and other accommodations, shops, malls, museums, historical attractions, parks, zoos, events, cinemas and tourist services and leisure activities. To date, the site has received over 456,000 hits and has 1,900 registered contributors.

The Guide also brings information on the rights of persons with disabilities and guidelines for the tourism sector. The website also offer several texts for users to read and download, such as laws and rules in force on accessibility and brochures with tips on how to adapt to and welcome persons with disabilities or reduced mobility.

The president of Embratur (the Brazilian Tourism Board), Vinicius Lummertz, highlighted the actions by the International Tourism Unlimited programme to promote Brazilian tourist destinations adapted for persons with disabilities. The programme has organized press trips for journalists from Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay to places like the Socorro Hydromineral Ranch (state of São Paulo) and taken Italian journalists to the island of Fernando de Noronha (state of Pernambuco). "During these eleven days of Paralympic Games, we want to raise the level of awareness on the importance of accessibility as a right and as the enormous economic potential it represents for Brazilian tourism," Lummertz said.

App and tips to serve well

With an eye on the needs of tourists coming to the country for the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Ministry of Tourism released (in May) a smartphone app version of the Accessible Tourism Guide. With versions in Portuguese, English and Spanish, the Guide makes it easier for users to check the accessibility features of tourist establishments. The app is available for download at the iOS, Android and Windows Phone app stores.

Another initiative was launched by the Ministry of Tourism on August 31 at the Casa Brasil: the Tips to better serve tourists with disabilities guide, a publication target especially at tourism service providers. The brochure emphasizes that accessibility is a universal right that guarantees better quality of life, allowing for greater autonomy not only for persons with disabilities but also for people with reduced mobility (such as pregnant women and elderly people).

Illustrated and colourful, the guide provides information to tourist establishments on the different types of disabilities, explaining aspects that can facilitate communication with deaf, blind, deaf-blind persons and persons with physical or intellectual/mental disabilities. There are also safety tips for employees of commercial establishments, public agencies and hotels so they can be prepared to proceed correctly in case of emergency situations, such as how to inform a deaf person that an emergency alarm is sounding and other guidance.

A total 35,000 copies of the guide have been produced, and distributed to tourist establishments throughout the country to help the people who will receive tourists for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.


Since 2006, the Ministry of Tourism has invested more than R$ 83 million in agreements for specific accessibility works in cities across the country to improve the experience of persons with sensory or motor disabilities.

According to Administrative Rule 112/2013, which addresses the signing of agreements to support the building of tourism infrastructure by the Ministry of Tourism, the investment by the MTur must be focused on promoting accessibility for people with sensory or motor disabilities or reduced mobility.

Interview with Interim Minister of Tourism Alberto Alves

Rio Media Center - How does the Ministry of Tourism see the issue of Accessible Tourism? 

Interim Minister of Tourism Alberto Alves - We understand that this is a matter of utmost importance and therefore, throughout the years, we have mobilised ourselves in search of actions and initiatives to make tourism in Brazil increasingly accessible. This is also a cause we share with the World Tourism Organization, which defined Tourism for All as the theme for this year's World Tourism Day, celebrated on 27 September.

We took a series of actions that allow us to assess the accessibility of some of the main tourist destinations in the country. Sensitive tourism establishment to better meet the needs of persons with disabilities is another important aspect of our actions.

We cannot forget that the Ministry of Tourism also help finance major tourism infrastructure works through agreements with multiple public authorities. In Recife, for example, the federal government has invested more than R$ 12.2 million to renovate the Pernambuco Museum mansion for accessibility. We have also supported a project to adapt the city's tourist attractions for the 2014 World Cup and helped in the renovation and adjustment to the infrastructure and accessibility features of seven tourist service centres in Recife.

RMC - What actions is the Ministry of Tourism developing to ensure the accessibility of Brazilian tourism attractions and destinations?
Minister - The Ministry has been working on a number of actions both for the improvement of infrastructure and services for tourists with disabilities and for the identification of accessible attractions. One of our initiatives was the Accessible Tourism Guide, a collaborative website that allows users to assess the accessibility features of hotels, restaurants and various other attractions. In addition to the website, the guide is also available as a smartphone app with versions in Portuguese, English and Spanish.

As for service providers, we launched a guide last week with tips to better serve tourists with disabilities. These are simple, straightforward tips that make a difference and 35,000 copies of the guide are being distributed to tourist service providers from all over Brazil.

Finally, we also have to mention infrastructure investments. For that end, the Ministry of Tourism has invested over R$ 83 million in agreements for specific accessibility works in cities across the country to improve the lives of tourists with sensory or motor disabilities.

RMC - How can Accessible Tourism impact the Brazilian tourism market?
Minister - According to IBGE, there are about 45 million Brazilians with some kind of disability or reduced mobility. This in itself is already a significant number, but if we add the companions travelling with these potential tourists, we have a highly representative number of people who want to discover our country and can further boost domestic tourism. However, we must be prepared and adapted to offer targeted itineraries for these audiences that can provide services tailored to the reality of each tourist. Thus, we will have new safer and more satisfied travellers. We are aware that there is still much left to do, but the Ministry of Tourism has been working continuously to promote actions that seek the higher goal of accessible tourism for all.