Making travel, tourism fun for the disabled

Making travel, tourism fun for the disabled

The disabled have rarely found travel and tourism seamless. Those much-hyped travel destinations have not made accessibility any better either. It has been a gigantic struggle for the wheelchair-bound, the blind, the deaf and the speech impaired, eager to visit places like any normal person.

A startup, Enable Travel, is now all geared up to change that.

The startup's objective is clear: to help the disabled with "what to see, where to stay, where to eat, and how to get there".

Designed by the disabled for the disabled, Enable Travel has a panel of nine specially able people, who themselves curate the itineraries. "The idea is to help them travel with the same freedom, choice and dignity as able-bodied people," says the startup head, Debolin Sen.

2011 census

According to the 2011 census, 27 million Indians are disabled, of whom 20.3% are wheelchair-bound. As many as 18.8% are visually impaired, while 18.9% have  hearing impairments. The proportion of those with a speech impairment is 7.5%.

Launched in March 2017, Enable Travel now has 85 tourist destinations - both Indian and international - in its disabled-friendly network. "We have invested in specialised equipment and manpower trained in sign languages for a seamless experience for the disabled," says Sen.

To ferry these tourists, a fleet of wheelchair-accessible vans are stationed in Bengaluru, Delhi and Mumbai. "We are also getting more single-wheel hiking chairs to help them negotiate undulating terrains. There are also roller ramps and amphibian wheelchairs that float on water."

So, how far can the disabled tourists go? "We have covered most of the regular Indian tourist circuits, including Delhi-Agra-Jaipur-Jodhpur-Udaipur and Bengaluru-Mysuru-Coorg-Kochi. The Eastern and North Eastern circuits are to be audited. We are also looking at the wildlife destinations in Central India," Sen elaborates.

The startup head himself is a high-altitude Himalayan traveller, having reached the base camps of Mt Kanchenjunga in 2005 and Mt Everest in 2008.

Enable Travel had recently organised Travel Tales in Bengaluru, an event for the disabled and able-bodied to converge and share their travel stories.

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