A Travel Guide for People with Disabilities in India | Travel
Have you ever thought how easy it is for us to plan a vacation or a break when we just feel like it? It’s a simple task for most of us. But what about someone who has a limitation – like a disability?
Millions of people with disabilities in India continue to curb their desire to travel as they face accessibility issues, not only in visiting tourist sites, but also in basic mobility, such as using a mode of transport in a country relatively unsuitable for disabled people like India.
There are over 26.8 million disabled people in India. Traveling in India for the disabled is quite a difficult task. For them, traveling means tons of research and planning well in advance. It also means ensuring that their means of transport, as well as their accommodation, are easily accessible and that their particular needs are properly taken into account.
The 2016 UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities states that governments, tourist boards and private stakeholders should all work to make tourism easy and convenient for people with disabilities. This should include making tourist sites user-friendly and accessible to people with disabilities, with facilities such as ramps, braille buttons, wheelchair-accessible toilets and trained staff.
Disabled travel, also known as “accessible travel”, is widespread and done effectively in countries like the United States, Europe, Australia, South Korea, and Japan. Although nascent, travel for people with disabilities in India is gradually increasing.
Our country has begun to realize the potential and importance of such tourism. The Indian travel industry is realizing the need to look into this category of travel and therefore seeks to provide special assistance and care to travelers with disabilities, such as arranging special transportation and sightseeing options.
Some of the travel companies and organizations that contribute to this field of tourism are:
1. Able Planet
Planet Abled is a travel agency that enables people with special needs to experience the joy of travel. They help bring together people with different disabilities to form larger groups for specially designed tours – specially trained and appointed travel companions to assist with each tour.
Planet Abled ensures that the modes of transport and accommodation booked for the tour are accessible and suitable for people with disabilities.
Swayam is an NGO working for the rights of people with disabilities. They have contributed in their own way to accessible tourism by lobbying state governments to ensure that tourist and public places are accessible to people with disabilities and the elderly.
3. Holidays in Aspark
Another tour operator, Aspark Holidays, has successfully organized several adventure tours for its specially disabled customers. They have designed travel programs that help them merge the unique needs and abilities of travelers.
Disabled-friendly destinations in India
The following destinations in India are particularly suitable for travel by tourists with special needs:
Kerala is the first state in India to be elderly and disabled friendly. The state started a project called The Barrier-Free Kerala Tourism Project in 2019, through which they have put in place all the basic infrastructure and facilities in all major tourist hubs. As a result, more than 100 tourist centers in Kerala are now elderly and disabled friendly.
Fort Kochi in Kerala was declared the first disability-friendly heritage site in India in 2016. The tourist site offers facilities for people with visual, auditory, motor and cognitive impairments.
Agra is another destination with a few handicap-friendly tourist spots, including the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort, and Fatehpur Sikri. There are provisions like ramps, braille signs, special toilets, a defined route and even dedicated parking!
Like Agra, the capital also has provision for the disabled at major tourist sites like the Qutub Minar, where a wheelchair can go up to the Iron Pillar! The Jantar Mantar, Humayun’s Tomb and the Red Fort are also tourist sites suitable for people with reduced mobility.
Delhi also wins hands down when it comes to disability-friendly modes of transport – the Delhi Metro offers ramps for getting on and off the metro, as well as elevators at each station with buttons with Braille inscriptions.
Over the past 5 years, the Archaeological Society of India has made some of India’s major tourist attractions accessible to people with disabilities. Some other monuments suitable for the elderly and disabled in India are:
Hemis Monastery, Leh, J&K
Ranthambore Fort, Ranthambore, Rajasthan
Jageshwar Temple, Jageshwar Valley, Uttarakhand
Rani Ki Vav, Patan, Gujarat
Bekal Fort, Kasaragod, Kerala
Golconda Fort, Hyderabad, Telangana
Fort Gingee, Ginjee, Tamil Nadu
Ajanta and Ellora Caves, Aurangabad, Maharashtra
The Residence, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh
Chitradurga Fort, Chitradurga, Karnataka
Shravana Belagola, Hassan, Karnataka
Tipu Sultan’s Summer Palace, Bangalore, Karnataka
Sanchi Stupa, Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh
Lakshmana Temple, Sirpur, Chhattisgarh
Here are some travel tips for people with special disabilities below:
1. When booking your tickets and accommodation, be sure to clearly describe your disability so that your trip is comfortable.
2. If you are traveling by plane, ask your airlines for assistance, letting them know that you need a wheelchair or other assistance.
3. Ask your tour operator to book you a mode of transport suitable for disabled people (intra-city) so that your trip is easy and stress-free.
4. When booking your accommodation, be sure to check if the accommodation offers pick-up and drop-off service with an accessible vehicle; whether the bedroom and bathroom have grab bars etc.
5. Ask for a guide who has experience caring for people with special disabilities.
6. Carry your essentials – extra medications, prescriptions, doctor’s emergency phone numbers and other essentials
7. Buy medical insurance before you travel – in case you need to see a doctor in another city.
8. Know your rights as a tourist with a disability.
Although our country is still not quite on par with some of the other countries in becoming completely barrier-free, there is hope that we will get there soon with the rapid progress we are making. The need of the hour is to have more tour operators like Planet Abled in the country and for other tour operators and transport operators to join in and deliver accessible tourism on a larger scale across the country.