While many countries across the world have made public places differently abled friendly, a large number of places in India aren’t as inclusive. Provisions for the differently abled do not only mean restrooms and toilets in public places, but a lot more. Most of us love to travel and explore new places, but what about those of us who only dreamed of doing so because of certain disabilities?
One young woman from New Delhi decided to tackle the issue. Today, she runs an organization that makes travelling a lot more accessible and inclusive for the differently-abled. Planet Abled was conceived in 2016 by Neha Arora, whose parents are differently-abled. Coming from a family of travel enthusiasts, Neha realized that travelling with disabilities in India was not an easy option.
“My father is blind and mother is a wheelchair user, but we all are fond of travelling. We would face a lot of issues in terms of accessibility and the kind of leisure activities available when we travelled. This made me think that others might also be facing the same problems”, Neha told New Indian Express.
In 2015, Neha finally quit her job at Adobe and decided to start filling this gaping hole in the travel industry. She had many challenges along the way, starting with just convincing people to travel. When the first tour was organized in 2016, many people were apprehensive. However, after the tour, their doubts were quashed as they had a great time. In July, she managed to successfully conduct a 17-day tour that spread across two countries, five states and 13 cities, with many differently abled people.
Many tourist locations had only steps and no ramps to help the wheelchair-bound travelers move about freely. Planet Abled brought in a portable ramp to make places more accessible. Other challenges included finding the right people who could take up the responsibility of moderators and guides, as well as funding the tours. Neha managed to pass the initial hurdle by using her own savings and also taking loans from friends and family. Although the budget is tight, what keeps Neha motivated is the change she is able to bring into the lives of people.
“When people come and tell you that because of you they had the best day of their life; it was the first time they stepped out to see something beautiful; and they had been living in the same city for 20 years but never ever visited a heritage monument; you know you are touching the right chord somewhere,” she added.
What does the road ahead look like? Neha is currently working on an inclusive travel meet slated for September 27 – World Tourism Day. Through this she hopes to share stories of travelers with disabilities and start a conversation about tourism for the differently abled.