The ongoing Beach Fest at the Candolim beach in Goa lends a voice to make India’s beaches accessible to over 180 million people with disabilities.
What are some of the most popular travel destinations in India? A quick list off the top of your head might include places like Shimla, Darjeeling, the Taj Mahal, Fatehpur Sikri, Goa, Kerala, Ooty, Ajanta-Ellora, and many others.
One thing that is striking about all of these tourist destinations is that almost all of them aren’t wheelchair-accessible. Whether it is a beach or a hill range or a monument, more often than not, it remains inaccessible for people with disabilities.
Everyone harbours a desire to travel, but for people with disabilities, it is mostly because of the lack of infrastructure that they cannot fulfil their dreams. Taking this into consideration, some organisations have come forward to spread awareness about the issue.
The Better India is supporting the initiative, led by UMOJA, the first platform for accessible travel in India, the NGO ADAPT (Able Disabled All People Together) and the Goa Tourism Department’s organisation Drishti, which has made Candolim beach in Goa wheelchair-accessible!
The ongoing Beach Fest at Candolim is a celebration of joy, dreams and freedom for many people with disability. The festival taking place from April 5 to April 9 is a sight to behold.
It is for the first time that Jagan has been able to go in the ocean. Jagan, who suffers from cerebral palsy, used a floating wheelchair to go into the sea and the experience left him with tears of joy.
“This is a first-of-its-kind initiative that gives wheelchair users and their families the opportunity to enjoy a completely accessible experience on the beautiful beach of Goa. Over 120wheelchair users, for the first time, have come to a beach. There are specially designed wheelchairs to take these people into the sea,” says Yeshwant Holkar, co-founder and CEO of UMOJA.
According to Yeshwant, it’s not only wheelchair users who are finding the ramp extremely convenient. Citing his experience so far at the festival, Yeshwant says, “We have seen so many senior citizens from old age homes in Goa coming in for the fest. Many of them use walkers and cane sticks and it’s very comfortable for them to use the ramp. Not only that, tourists with children in prams are loving the ramp too!”
The ramp has proved to be a hit with the visually impaired as well. Usually on the beach, since the sand is shifty, it becomes very difficult to get a sense of direction for the visually impaired. However, with the ramp, it is much easier to find way.
The fest also allows people with disability to engage in exciting water sports like aquatic beach chair, beach bowling, board games, wheelchair cricket, kite flying, sand castle competitions, and wheelchair dancing.
“We have always believed that every individual has equal right to access public spaces. Enjoying a day at the beach along with family should be possible for everyone irrespective of whether such people are differently abled. Together with our partners, we are working to turn this into a reality by collaborating with the Government of India and other local partners,” says Yeshwant.
UMOJA makes finding accessible hotels easy for travellers with disabilities and provides detailed and dependable information about how hotels are accessible and for whom. The Goa Beach Fest also aims at raising awareness about UMOJA’s online petition to the state government of Goa to make at least one beach easily accessible for people with disabilities.
Help 180 million disabled Indians get access to its pristine beaches! Sign the petition now to make India more accessible.
UMOJA has organized #BeachFest2017 – India’s first ever initiative to provide wheelchair users and their families an opportunity to enjoy a completely accessible experience on the beautiful beaches of Goa from 31st March 2017 to 9th April 2017. We at The Better India are supporting UMOJA’s efforts in calling upon The Goa Department of Tourism to make Goa’s beaches accessible. You too can contribute by signing this petition.Unable to view the above button? Click here