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Wheelchair-bound tourists out to prove points

By Staff Reporter

GUWAHATI, Oct 28 � Four brave hearts have arrived in Guwahati with a mission to break barriers, and to set an example. These wheelchair users are here to break the myth that people with disabilities would rather stay at home and miss out on the joys of travel. At the same time, they would also like to explore how �accessible� tourist destinations are for the physically challenged.

On a 16,000-km journey by road spread over 81 days, the travellers-Sunita Sancheti, Neenu Kewlani, Arvind Prabhoo and Nishant Khade- reached Guwahati from Cooch Behar.

In the city, as in many other places, they did endure difficulties. Accommodated in a well known hotel in Paltan Bazar, they found the infrastructure not very friendly to disabled guests.

There was another grievance the travellers have had in many parts of the country. On the highways they encountered difficulties in locating disabled friendly toilets. �All the major oil companies have huge space in their fuel stations, why can�t they have at least one washroom friendly to the physically challenged?� asked Sunita Sancheti.

She said that the real intent behind the tour named �Beyond Barriers � Incredible India� was twofold. �We want to spread awareness about disability and tourism, and also focus on issues related to accessibility vis-�-vis amenities in tourist spots,� she remarked.

Sunita, a committee member of Vijay Merchant Rehabilitation Centre for the Disabled (VMRCD), believes that people with disability can have a better deal from stakeholders in the tourism sector. Already in Leh, some tour operators have gone the extra mile in meeting the special needs of people with disabilities. They provide necessary infrastructure that the disabled tourist needs. Similar efforts can be replicated in other parts of the country, she added

The team hopes to visit a number of tourist sites and facilities in Assam and some other parts of the Northeast, after which they will prepare an audit and a report. The report will be handed over to the Prime Minister and Chief Ministers of various States for necessary action.

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