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nature a fragmented grouping of service providers. The industry does not have a common centrum to coordinate and disseminate information on Government and private opportunities available for the handicapped and those who seek to serve them. NTA believes that the Federal Government is best suited to pull this information together through either USTTA or one of the existing agencies that administer handicapped programs.
These four suggestions will go a long way in identifying our Nation's handicapped, their strengths and needs, and the Federal programs already in place. In order to bring Federal involvement in travel down to a concrete benefit level for the handicapped, however, NTA would like to advocate a fifth solution response. NTA is convinced that there are many Federal programs that could be expanded to include travel as an allowable expenditure of a person's Federal assistance. This Government initiative would result in a rise in the number of handicapped travelers, increasing the obvious economic benefits to the Nation's economy and employment situation. The following three programs serve as an example of the possibilities that exist-and I say possibilities. We ask that these and others be examined by the appropriate congressional forums:
One, the medicare and medicaid programs. Many handicapped people receiving medicare and medicaid benefits must travel in order to receive the medical therapy or medical treatment they need. Currently, these travel expenses are not reimbursable. NTĂ suggests that the Congress examine the possibility of making this legitimate travel expense reimbursable under medicare and medicaid.
Two, Office of Special Education programs. The Office of Special Education provides grant moneys to school districts and special project grantees for education programs for the handicapped. By including travel as one of the criteria for special education funding, the Federal Government would acknowledge the invaluable educational experience that travel can offer a handicapped child. For example, visually handicapped children can learn firsthand about our country's space program by traveling to the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
Three, the Small Business Administration's handicapped assistance loan program. This Federal program assists the handicapped in securing loans used to set themselves up in a small business. There are many handicapped people who would like to become involved in a travel related business. Up until now, however, the guidelines of this program have not favored travel as a business venture area.
NTA suggests that Congress may consider the feasibility of expanding the guidelines to include loans for those wanting to launch a travel related business. As the handicapped become more involved in travel, they will increase the number of handicapped travelers by bringing new awareness of the needs of both the handicapped traveler and the travel service provider.
Mr. Chairman, we commend your initiatives in this critical area of human need, and we challenge this committee and offer to join this committee in formulating recommendations and actions that will implement the recommendations I have discussed with you today.
I am now available for any questions you may have. Thank you very much for the opportunity to testify. [The statement of Mr. Beckham follows:
of the National Tour Association, which is the domestic tour
industry association in North America. NTA represents over 400 tour operators who package and sell group travel, as well as over 1,900 tour suppliers such as hotels, motels, airlines, restaurants, attractions, bus companies, sightseeing services, and other businesses. It is with great pride that we address your Subcommittee today to share some of our members' experiences in the area of travel for the handicapped, to explore the current travel environment in which handicapped travelers operate, and to suggest some areas of federal involvement and industry/government cooperation in advancing our nation's response to the disabled
This hearing is of historic importance. For the first time ever, a Congressional panel is examining the specific aspect of travel for the handicapped. The time is right, as this hearing is one of many recent initiatives and activities focusing on the
For example, 1981 was designated as the "Internatio
nal Year of Disabled People." The years 1982-1992 have been named the "United Nation's Decade of Disabled Persons." The Adminis
tration has taken many initiatives this year, including the establishment of the President's Committee on Employment of the
Handicapped and a Working Group on Handicapped Policy under the
Cabinet Council on Human Resources.
This last group has been
charged with the examination of policy administered by the many agencies that have jurisdiction over programs that concern the disabled. In his statement of May 5, 1983, Vice President George Bush identified the Working Group's objectives of fashioning policy in ways that will "One, encourage care for the handicapped
within the family and the community; Two, promote integration of
the handicapped into schools, the workplace and all society; Three, foster independence and dignity in handicapped persons'
NTA concurs with these goals and believes that they are applicable to the work that remains to be done in the realm of
travel for the handicapped. The basic reality of the situation is
that the handicapped do travel and are traveling more than ever. They are a part of our twentieth century mobile society in which
travel is an intricate component of work, of study, and of recre
The Society for the Advancement of Travel for the Handi
capped (SATH) has estimated the disabled travel segment of our population as 19 million people, and has suggested that travel and tourism revenues generated by the handicapped equal $30 billion
The handicapped are spending their travel dollars on both
long and short trips, at destinations near and far.
They want and need to be able to travel by airplane, bus, rail, cruise vessel,
and car, and need restaurants, attractions, and related services wherever they travel. The handicapped segment of our society is made up of all age groups and draws from all socio-economic
tackgrounds. This wide range of age, social and economic factors translates to travel needs spanning the entire spectrum of travel services.
It is NTA's experience that tour operators can and do meet the needs of the handicapped. In an informal NTA survey of our
tour operator members, we have established that many NTA members have served and continue to accommodate physically and mentally handicapped customers on their tours. We have found that these travelers usually are either self-sufficient or travel with a
companion who cares for their special needs.
To share with the Subcommittee some of the experiences of different NTA members, let me cite several examples of NTA involvement in tours accommodating the handicapped. Cottonland Tours of Memphis, Tennessee, conducts tour for visitors to Memphis. This tour operation has adapted programs for wheel
chair-bound, hearing impaired, and visually impaired clients.