Guest article by Rohit Agarwal. Rohit is an architect who loves to travel and write about his experiences on Trans India Travels. Readers can get information about visiting varied destinations in India and across the world at www.transindiatravels.com. In this article, he describes the rise of accessible tourism in India.
To travel is a desire that is not unique to any creed, class, or country. The mind craves to explore and exuberate in finding a new location, delving into the joy of a never-ever-have-visited-before kind of situation. So, then why should physical disability of any sort be an obstruction in indulging in this pleasure?
India is making steady progress in enabling the disabled traveler. By a survey study, nearly 17% of the total population of India comes into the category of being disabled. But unfortunately, barely a handful actually explore other places. With this in mind, the Ministry of Tourism in 2010 started to focus on them, luring the related industries like Hospitality and so on the benefits of promoting ‘the accessible travel’. This term means providing amenable conditions to Persons with Disabilities (PWD) to help them travel more.
Making Travel an Accessible Experience for The Disabled
Now, creating the right conditions involved a lot of factors and efforts as well as investment, and a careful chalking out of them by the Department is helping make India one of the best places in the whole world for PWDs! From constructing special toilets to make availability of sign language specialist for proper communication all along, it all has started to show results by India being one of the most travelled by their disabled by choice! Also, the top cadre hotels have been given specific instructions to make them more ‘disabled friendly’ place to stay in
Several travel companies have tied up with different associations and have started something known as ‘The Wheel chair bound Trekking’. This is basically a tailor-made holiday package across Ladakh region. Many of the Hotels too are changing ways and trying to suit the requirement of a ‘Wheel chair bound’ travel, for example, making the hotel doorways wider up to a measure of 90 cm or having a step alongside a slope to separate a bathroom from the bedroom etc.
Even the Archeological Survey of India has been given similar instructions. This is to ensure that many structures can be made easily accessible to PWDs. An example is the ancient Alchi Gompa, a Buddhist monastic complex which now has a ramp for easy wheelchair movement.
Another example can be cited – that of ‘Golden Chariot’. It is the luxury train and a joint venture between Karnataka Tourism Development Corporation and Indian Railways that has wheel chair compatible cabins. The availability of a staffer is there should the PWD require assistance in movement, even in excursions. Also, the palanquins are made available free of cost to them. The Yeshwanthpur Railway Station, in Bangalore, has wheelchairs and electric passenger carts to ease their movements.
The very fact that the Indian Railways gives concession up to almost 75% for the ‘differently abled’ itself has given a lot of boost and a will to promote the ‘accessible travel’ plans. Indian Airlines gives straight 50% discount to visually impaired people. All the State Governments and Union Territories allow free journeys in buses to physically challenged people.
Slowly, yet steadily, the emphasis has increased to design special tour packages for PWDs, slow walkers, wheelchair users, and special accessible tours for groups of people, leading to a growth in these offers from various Travel Companies in India.
Every disability has its unique need and thus requires adjustments and use of various travel-supporting infrastructure. There are now options of even jungle safaris to widen experiences and also, cruises are availed now. Now, the fun and excitement of travelling is no longer limited by any disability and India is growing in stature as an accessible holiday destination!
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