Javier Torrescasana, co-founder of Barcelona Special Traveler

“Companies need to see the business potential in inclusion, which is beneficial for everyone”

The ideologist of the “first incoming tour operator in Barcelona to specialise in accessible tourism” asserts that having a child with a disability himself has forced him to “be creative, keep an open mind, convert barriers into satisfactions and seek alternatives”. Javier Torrescasana defends specialisation because “groups exist with special needs and it’s important to provide them with solutions”, but he also defends the inclusive approach as a strategy that is beneficial for everyone and profitable for companies.

Q.- Is society prepared for the new diversity model? As far as companies are concerned, are they sufficiently committed to catering for the needs of users who have different capabilities and sensory abilities?

A.- Society is forging ahead of business, so companies should take the next step and bring themselves up to the level of whatever society, and specifically, the Administration, is doing. The business sector is not prepared; it meets minimum standards because it is obliged to do so by law, not because it wants to do so. There is an enormous lack of training and insufficient efforts have been made, because the financial profitability has not been spotted. Executives do not understand that behind inclusion lies major business potential, not only in clients that require these actions but in the entire population. Inclusion is beneficial for all, because clients will always be better in places designed to be accessible than in other places that are not.

Q.- Is this a matter of corporate social responsibility or of business?

A.- CSR may help, but if not incorporated into the corporate philosophy, it leads to actions which only offer a cleaner image. Responsibility must form part of the corporate DNA, it has to be integrated; we have the obligation to contribute to society, to return something to it. In the case of inclusion and accessibility, enterprises must understand that they will yield financial benefits in the short and medium term, because design that takes into account the needs of all is beneficial for everyone.

Q.- Are users sufficiently taken into account during the process of designing and developing products and services?

A.- Everything that we do, we test. We never offer any product without experiencing it beforehand. The problem with disability is that it tends to homogenise, when in reality it is totally heterogeneous. The whole of society is represented in disability. For that reason, we have to find out the client’s situation and adapt what we offer to what we have worked on in the field. We provide made-to-measure solutions.

Q.- Are communication professionals prepared for tackling this change of model? Can companies easily find experts in inclusive marketing and design?

A.- Most professionals are not prepared and generally I don’t believe they have that much interest. In marketing and communication strategies, we have largely forgotten inclusion; advances have been restricted to thinking about physical barriers, questions that should be resolved by architects and engineers. In the design field there is much to be done and it is vital to include the user in the process. The co-responsibility is shared by all – administrations, third or social sector, design schools, institutions and professionals, civil society, et cetera — but companies, if they wanted to, could be the greatest driving force among all of these agents.

Work: Xiuzhen YIN
“Portable City” Shenzhen, 2008, Installation

If you found this interview interesting we would like you to share it with your social networking.