With these specialised tour operators and initiatives, the idea that travel is limited to people without disabilities becomes redundant.
The joy of travel is infectious. While tales of breathtaking landscapes, undulating hills and boisterous oceans might be chicken soup for the soul, people need to see things for themselves for travel to become an unforgettable experience.
For individuals with disabilities, however, the excitement of travel is often dwarfed by challenges that make everything from planning to the actual experience a task. Many a time, family members who can assist are unable to do so, and even if they are, it becomes difficult for them to identify disability-friendly places and ensure proper transfers and other logistics.
Here is where dedicated tour operators, dealing exclusively with the needs and requirements of people with disabilities, have an important role to play. They not only making travel hitch-free and convenient, but also know exactly what attractions, hotels, etc., will suit the traveller. Be it places suitable for the mobility impaired or even senior-friendly places, hotels that are actively retrofitted, or the need for assistants — these operators help you with everything.
Take the case of the Delhi-based Planet Abled, for instance. Founder Neha Arora says, “Depending on the disability and the interest of the traveller, we customise the tour… Every destination has its own set of challenges, so you have to bank upon what is available at each destination and how can you make it accessible to people. For instance, we have 2D printed models for those with visual impairment, something we have pioneered.”
Take the case of Pranav L, who wrote about his experience with the Delhi-based operator, “Each tour is carefully crafted and each location is studied before a tour is offered. In addition, the team is accessible. No customer service forms to fill and no telephone operators. You talk directly to staff.
The same applies to workshops… The staff is not harried. There are many of them so the situation where staff is running from pillar to post is avoided which makes for a better experience because no one is stressed.”
Enable Travel, which calls itself an ‘accessible holiday specialist’ also focusses entirely on the needs of disabled travellers. Specialised transportation, hiking chairs (wheelchairs modified to help people with mobility-based disabilities enjoy treks), roll-a-ramps (portable ramps that can make most areas accessible) and adequate assistants, including guides, escorts, drivers and caregivers — these are just some of the services they provide. As per the initiative’s head, Debolin Sen, the idea is to empower people with disabilities to celebrate their love for travel.
With these and other entities such as Accessible India Tour, individuals who previously found travel to be a challenge are definitely able to avail the joys of travel.
It still, however, brings to mind the lack of disability infrastructure and amenities across the country's destinations. While the situation is very good in the West, the same cannot be said about India. Therefore, specialised and innovate solutions become the need of the hour. Thankfully, we have been making strides in that direction.