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Kerala government’s barrier-free tourism project reaches halfway mark

Two years back, in 2017, the Kerala government launched the barrier-free tourism project to make all the prime tourist spots accessible and disabled friendly in the state. Unlike many government projects that are slow starting, the barrier-free tourism project is set to meet targets. Many tourist locations in Kochi have already been made accessible.

The government is spending over Rs 9 crore for implementing the project across the state. The District Tourism Promotion Council (DTPC) of Ernakulam and the Kerala State Industrial Enterprises (KSIE) has joined hands for the venture to make tourist spots in Ernakulam city accessible and disabled friendly.

Currently, they have made the popular tourist spots in Fort Kochi and Ernakulam boat jetty accessible by introducing wheelchair ramps for a start. Marine Drive, Cherai and Munambam beaches also have wheelchair ramps now. But as accessibility experts and disability rights activists point out, having wheelchair ramps alone does not make a place accessible and disabled friendly. People with all kinds of disabilities must be able to access these tourist spots.

Accessibility for a disabled person is all about being able to become independent. Even people with other disabilities must be able to enjoy the place. Kerala's barrier free tourism project is going great. Most importantly, disabled people must make sure that they access these places. Only then will the efforts of the government go noticed. I have heard a lot of people from the community complain about how places are inaccessible. Unless you have experienced how government is making places disabled friendly, you will not know it. So spread the word about accessible places. - Anita Iyer Narayanan, Accessibility Expert.

Officials have taken the guidance of experts to make sure that the barrier-free tourism project is a grand success. They also plan to construct disabled-friendly washrooms at tourist spots for which the works are already on.

Over the years, Kerala government has been losing out on revenue from disabled tourists. That is what prompted them to kick-start the barrier-free tourism project. Being one of the world's most popular tourist destinations, this project is only going to be a new ray of hope to disabled tourists who would love to check out 'Gods own country'.

Mohammed Rabeeh is a part of the Idam project that aims to make Tirur, a small town in Kerala, accessible and disabled friendly. Though it is not a government-run project, 'Idam' has already been succesfull in making a few public places in the town accessible for wheelchair users.

"The barrier-free tourism project of the Kerala government is a great initiative. In fact, there are many disabled people who have not yet seen a beach just because these places are not accessible. This project will help them come out of the four walls of their homes to enjoy some great tourist locations. They can go out for vacations or weekends with family members as well. It will help them lead a happy and normal life", says Rabeeh.

The government has already spent over Rs 44 lakh to implement facilities. Reportedly, the project will be completed by 2021.

ALSO READ: Telangana districts slow on forming committees for disabled people

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