The conversation around accessibility has intensified in India since the Paralympians made the country proud at Rio this year. And rightfully so, for a considerable section of India’s population suffers from physical handicaps, and the lack of proper infrastructure makes it impossible for them to live a normal life.
These five people have fought the odds and made travel possible, not just for themselves but inspired and assisted several others.
On the occasion of World Tourism Day 2016, the theme of which is ACCESSIBILITY, let us renew our attention to making India more inclusive for tourists.
India’s first woman athlete to win a medal at the Paralympics and an Arjuna Awardee, Deepa Malik is also well-known for being a licensed for modified car-rally vehicle driver and the first physically challenged individual in the country to receive an official rally license from the Federation Motor Sports Club of India (FMSCI) and being a navigator and driver in the toughest car rallies of the country Raid De Himalaya in 2009 and Desert Storm 2010! A nerve condition that she was suffering took a turn for the worse, her husband was away and her children were still too young to help. When she woke up after a breakdown, she had lost the use of most of her body from the neck down.
Deepa Malik has been participating in cross-country car races in specially modified cars and takes her vacations very seriously. She has an infectious laughter and the ability to connect with everyone she meets.
Due to an incurable eye condition, Amar lost 95% of his sight by the age of 19. But instead of restricting him, he found a new-found strength to turn his loss into a profit that can be shared by thousands.
In 2004, he founded Traveleyes, world’s first commercial tour operator providing independent travel for people who are blind or partially sighted. Blind travellers can simply choose a holiday from our fully accessible website or audio brochure, then just book, and go!
Javed Abidi is the director of the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP) in India, and the founder of the Disability Rights Group. He is the primary reason for whatever little bit of accessibility that people find in the city of New Delhi. He has been relentlessly fighting for making India a more inclusive society. He played a pivotal role in the passing of the Persons With Disabilities Act in 1995.
He was diagnosed with spina bifida (a birth defect where there is incomplete closing of the backbone and membranes around the spinal cord), but he could not be operated on in his early years. He suffered a nerve damage after which he also injured himself in a fall. By the age of 15, Abidi was completely restricted to a wheelchair.
After a car accident, Shivani Gupta became wheelchair-bound. She struggled over the next fourteen years for the cause of disabled in India. She is the founder of AccessAbility and an inspiration for everyone who feels life has been unfair to them!
“Our concentrated work on accessibility engaged in all kinds of things. Be it the private sector, hospitality, retail, people wanting to employ disable people, educational institutes – we gave them the entire plan of how they could make their infrastructure and practices disabled-friendly,” she says. She and her team is responsible for most of the inclusive travel designs across hotels and complexes across the country. Access Ability is India’s premier access consultancy firm.
Deaf by birth, Rupmani has travelled a long way from her home in Darjeeling, West Bengal, where she had to work as a daily wage labourer as her family refused to support her. The long journey to New Delhi, where she lives and works now, is a struggle that India needs to know of.
Rupmani Chettri has been working towards promoting Indian sign language for better communications within the country with the deaf population. She is part of an initiative – Finger Chats – which offers free lessons in Indian Sign Language.
Featured image is from www.kijikiji.com, a Japanese tourist who recently visited India and chronicled the challenges he faced on his wheelchair while travelling across major heritage sites.
Connect with Alpaviram for customized, inclusive tours for your next holiday in India.
– Text by Priya Tripathy