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Off the beaten track

Published : Jul 1, 2017, 4:33 am IST
Updated : Jul 1, 2017, 4:33 am IST

33-year-old Neha Arora founded Planet Abled, an organisation that makes travelling easy and possible for the differently-abled.

Neha, in a white tee, poses with a group of travellers
 Neha, in a white tee, poses with a group of travellers

For some travelling maybe a luxury, for others it can be a necessity. But there many who can’t travel not because they can’t afford it or don’t wish to but because there aren’t enough amenities available for them. We are talking about differently-abled people whose desire to travel is often crushed by not only lack of infrastructure but also the absence of empathy among the co-passengers. However, 33-year-old Neha Arora is trying to be a change maker.

The social entrepreneur started an initiative called Planet Abled, which provides accessible travel solution for people with disabilities. “We facilitate people by helping them travel the way they want, be it solo trips or romantic couple getaways, or vacation with their family. We also provide services for special schools when they want to take their students on field trips,” informs Neha.

The format of the organisation is to make people with and without disabilities to travel together to promote inclusive tourism. Neha thinks most travellers in India haven’t interacted with differently-abled people as they have their apprehensions and hesitations about ending up saying something offensive to them. So trips by Planet Abled prove to be an ice-breaking platform for everyone, which helps co-travellers get along with each other by letting go of their inhibitions. “On our trips, people get to know how the differently-able people perceive travel. Even if they have gone to the same place thrice, their fourth experience with us will be completely different because they go on our trips as a travel buddy of the disabled traveller. This helps them realise the difficulties that disabled people have to face on a day to day basis,” she explains.

Two wheelchair-bound travellers with their ‘travel buddy’  Two wheelchair-bound travellers with their ‘travel buddy’

The reason Neha started this initiative was because her own parents were disabled as well and as a child she and her sister never really got to travel much. Even if they did travel sometimes, it wouldn’t be a good experience because of lack of sensitisation and amenities. “Any trips that we did rarely take were disastrous. Travelling hundreds of kilometers only to find out that our destination was not disabled friendly leading to people saying things like, “it is not suitable for your parents to travel under such circumstances” and “you shouldn’t have made them travel in the first place.” There came a point where my parents totally gave up on their will to travel. It sort of inspired me to do something to simplify travelling for people like them.”    

Since the organisation came into existence, about 25 trips catering to over 100 people have been organised. Over the course of a year and a half, they have conducted  heritage tours around Delhi and in cities like Agra and Jaipur. They also have organised adventure tours that included rafting for the people with disabilities. Along with national travels, the organisation also takes care of trips for international travellers such as the Australian Blind Cricket Team and Para Olympians from Canada. Their process involves doing a recce in advance and eliminate any foreseeable difficulty in the actual tour.

“The amount of trust people put in us has been our ultimate reward and I believe that people with disabilities should be treated with empathy instead of sympathy because in the end we are all the same. The disabled have as much rights to travel and explore the world as anyone else,” says Neha before signing off.

Tags: travel, neha arora, planet abled