While pursuing his Master’s degree, Tajinder Chaudhry worked on a project on providing specialised tours to the Taj Mahal in India for the differently-abled.
On his return to India, he decided to start Able Journeys to focus solely on travellers with disabilities. “I started to look for a niche that the big companies didn’t cater for. Big companies look for volume so they haven’t really got into this area of specialised tourism,” he said. “My own grandmother is in a wheelchair and I have worked as a carer for her in the past. I had some experience of what disabled people need when they travel. I also had experience of tourism and I wanted to bring the two interests together.” Today, Able Journeys caters to people with hearing and visual impairments as well as for those bound to a wheelchair.
In 2010, Travel Another India has tied up with The People’s Action Group for Inclusion and Rights, to start ‘Himalaya on Wheels’ which tailor-make holidays in Ladakh for people bound to wheelchairs. However, there have been infrastructure setbacks. “During a Srinagar holiday, for instance, the family of a teenager with muscular dystrophy had to carry their son into hotel rooms,” Gouthami says adding that the family was aware of such situations. She points out that guidelines for accessible travel are already in place and are perfect theoretically. It’s a question of implementation and informed design sensibility. Often, ramps are built with the gradient well over the 12-degree limit, for instance. “The world has opened up to the principles of universal design. Any human being should be able to use any facility,” she adds.
A few select properties across the country that offer inclusive staying options.
Oberoi Cecil – Shimla, Himachal Pradesh
The Oberoi Cecil is the epitome of colonial era grace and elegance. The service that the hotel provides its guests is superlative. The hotel strictly adheres to all government recommended guidelines for accessibility for the differently abled. Almost all parts of the hotel are accessible by wheelchair. Some of hotel’s accessibility features include a room on the ground level for guests who use wheelchairs, easy access to the in-house restaurant, bar, elevator and lobby area for guests in wheelchairs and anti-skid mats in the bathroom among others.
Mayfair Spa Resort and Casino – Gangtok, Sikkim
Located in the plush environs of the Himalayan forests, and surrounded by majestic mountains, Mayfair Spa Resort and Casino is an impressive testament of Colonial architecture. Call the hotel in advance to book a room on the ground floor that is customized for people who use wheelchairs. The hotel also provides wheelchair access to all parts of the hotel, fully-equipped washrooms, with rubber mats and grip-bars, telephone in room as well as washroom at a low height, and easy access to pool area, spa, bar, etc.
Hilton Hotel – Jaipur, Rajasthan
The rooms provide breathtaking views of the city skyline and the Aravalli Hills. The hotel provides some of the best facilities for accessibility needs in India. The Hilton goes the extra mile to ensure that its differently-abled guests feel safe, welcome and comfortable. Some of the hotel’s key accessibility features include bedroom doors that can be opened from the inside using a switch, very wide bathroom doors, grab bars in the bathrooms, portable shower chairs and lowered toilets. The placement of buttons in the elevators, light switches in the rooms, shelf storage space in the closets, is such that they can be accessed very easily by someone sitting in a wheelchair.
The Raintree Hotel – Chennai, Tamil Nadu
The Raintree Hotel is an eco-sensitive, 5-star property. The hotel has modern guest rooms, on-site restaurants, gym, pool and other world-class facilities. The hotel is wheelchair access enabled. It provides special beds with a low height for it’s guests who use wheelchairs. Features like grab bars and anti-skid mats in the bathroom are also a highlight of it’s room customized for the differently abled. The hotel’s restaurants, bars and lobby are wheelchair friendly.
Grand Mercure – Bengaluru, Karnataka
Grand Mercure has 126 suite-style rooms, meeting the standards of both business and leisure travel. The hotel is one of the 10 best wheelchair-friendly hotels in India. All parts of the hotel are easily accessible by wheelchair, including the restaurants and elevators. The bathrooms are well-equipped and designed to meet the needs of the differently-abled.
Resort Rio – Goa
Resort Rio boasts of 77 luxury deluxe rooms and 5 royal suites and is wheelchair accessible. The rooms for the differently-abled start from level 1 upwards and the hotel’s elevators can accommodate wheelchairs. There are bells in each room, which sound an alarm in case of an emergency. The only drawback is that the bathrooms are not fitted with any special amenities for the safety of the differently abled.
The Corinthians Resort and Club – Pune, Maharashtra
The Corinthians Resort and Club is one of the few luxury hotels that seamlessly blend the plush natural environs with modern architecture and services. The hotel is sensitive to the needs of differently-abled people and is wheelchair friendly. Almost all areas of the hotel are accessible by wheelchair. The hotel also has provisions for wheelchairs if required.
Deo Bagh – Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh
The Deo Bagh captures the essence of Gwalior’s rich history and architectural treasures. There are 15 rooms spread across 5 wings. All the wheelchair accessible rooms are on the ground floor. The rooms are very spacious which makes maneuvering a wheelchair easy. While the hotel’s restaurant is on the ground floor and easily accessible from all the rooms, guests with limited mobility are provide 24/7 room service. The hotel also provides an intercom service and an emergency bell is provided in the room for the differently abled should they require urgent assistance.
Radisson Blu Hotel – New Delhi
Radisson Blu is a luxury property with 217 stylish rooms. The hotel has accessible rooms and amenities for the differently-abled. All the amenities are within easy reach in these rooms. The rooms are wide for easy wheelchair access and the bathrooms are equipped with grab bars and rubber mats.
Ibis Mumbai Airport Hotel – Mumbai, Maharashtra
The Ibis Mumbai Airport Hotel is conveniently located, with close proximity to the international and domestic airports. The hotel has 159 rooms, and one room for persons with reduced mobility.The hotel is wheelchair accessible and has wheelchair ramps for easy movement. The bathroom is designed specially for easy movement of a wheelchair. The doorway is broad and grab bars and anti-skid tiles are provided to make the bathroom safe.
[The article has been updated from its original form published in Terrascape magazine]
– Text by Susmita Mukherjee