It remains a fact that India is still novice as far as accessible tourism is concerned. Though the country realizes the potential and importance of such tourism, there is still some years to go before it becomes a barrier-free tourist destination. However, there are a few places in India especially the metropolitan cities and of course the state of Kerala, which has been putting extra efforts for becoming disabled-friendly travel places in India. For now, the below mentioned 3 destinations can be considered welcoming for disabled and special needs tourists in the country.
An epitome of development, Kerala has always been in news for its unconventional ideas and efforts, perhaps this is why this state in South India decided to offer disabled and special needs tourists a warm welcome and a comfortable stay. Kerala’s Kochi Fort (Ernakulam), last year in 2016 was declared as the first disabled-friendly heritage site in India. The place provides facilities for people dealing with visual, hearing, mobility or cognitive impairments. The fort has been furnished with specifically designed ramps and non-slippery tiles on the walkways for convenient movement to the disabled, the elderly, and those on wheelchairs. In fact, the state also boasts of one of its districts, Kannur where around 28,000 government offices have also become barrier-free. A tourist village in Kerala, Akkulam, which is in its phase 2 of development is also likely to become disabled-friendly destination. There are fair chances that the state as a whole will become the first accessible tourism destination in India soon.
The land of the iconic Taj Mahal, Agra is another destination where a decent arrangement for disabled tourists can be seen. However, the appropriate arrangements for the special needs tourists are still to be made in this popular travel place in India. There is wheelchair facility available at Taj Mahal, though, it is not sure if you can access the raised platform as there is no facility of a ramp. At Agra Fort, along with wheelchairs, golf carts are made available for disabled tourists, which can ferry them even to Diwan-e-Aam. Fatehpur Sikri is another monument in Agra that has provisions like ramps, Braille sign boards, special toilets and ticket counters, and a defined route and dedicated parking.
Ever since the visit of Stephen Hawkings in 2001, when he expressed his desire to visit Jantar Mantar, Qutub Minar, Humayun’s Tomb and the Red Fort for which special arrangements of temporary ramps were made, a movement for comfortable tourism of disabled tourists sped up. It is because of this, the city now has provisions for its disabled/differently abled visitors at some of the major tourist places. At the Qutub Minar, a wheelchair user can now go right up to the Iron Pillar. The city has also introduced hotels that are disabled-friendly and provide them with the best care and amenities. The Delhi Metro is also a clear indication that the city is gradually working on making accessible tourism a reality. There are ramps to get on and off the metros; there are also elevators built at every metro station; along with buttons with inscriptions in the Braille for the visually challenged people; tiles and tactile markings; and special spots earmarked for wheelchairs too. However, there is still a lot to be done for proper accessible tourism in the city.
Apart from the above-mentioned cities, there are few monuments in India that have been revamped to cater to the disabled/special needs tourists:
This tourist attraction in Bangalore is reckoned to be the first Archaeological survey of India monument in the state that is made disabled-friendly. The monument has a Braille brochure, Braille sign boards and a tactile pathway between the palace gate and the toilet.
The Sanchi Stupa situated closed to Bhopal is another monument that has been made barrier-free tourist attraction in Madhya Pradesh. This popular monument is furnished with a tactile walkway for the visually impaired, there are also information plaques in Braille and the path is wheelchair accessible. The monument also distributes beepers and a Braille map in order to ensure visitors’ safety. Also, the staff and guides at Sanchi Stupa have been trained to assist the disabled tourists.
The Lakshmana Temple in Sirpur, Chhattisgarh also ensure that all its disabled/differently abled visitors get an opportunity to explore the monument without any hassle. The monument has a tactile pathway and Braille sign boards, that allow visitors to walk up to the monument.
Launched in 2015, the Accessible India Campaign surely looks promising with its vision of making places in India disabled-friendly. The focus of this campaign is on revamping and developing the government buildings, airports, railway stations along with tourist sites for the convenience of the disabled and special needs visitors.
The Archaeological Survey of India has also decided to make some of the major tourist attractions disabled-friendly. Some of the monuments selected for the upgrade are the Hemis Monastery in Leh, the Qutub Minar Complex, Ranthambore Fort in Rajasthan, Jageshwar Temple in Uttarakhand, Rani ki Vav in Gujarat, Bekal Fort in Kerala, Golconda Fort in Telangana, Fort Gingee in Tamil Nadu, Ajanta & Ellora Caves in Maharashtra, Residency in Lucknow, Belur, Halebidu, Chitradurga Fort and Shravanabelagola in Karnataka.
Under the Accessible India Campaign, the government aims at making a lot of places a disabled-friendly by the end of the year 2018, which certainly looks like a good sign. Also, a number of tour companies are initiating special travel packages catering to the needs of disabled/special needs visitor’s holiday desire in India. With the help of these special tour operators, popular vacation places like Goa and several other shall soon be easily accessible. Well, we hope things pace up, and the country becomes a welcoming destination for all because travel is indeed for everyone!