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Curated tours, sign language interpreters planned in Kerala as part of Barrier Free Tourism project

The second phase of the Kerala government's Barrier-Free Tourism project is starting with a bang. There are some great new features to look forward to.

Get set to experience God's Own Country in a whole new way. The second phase of the Kerala government's Barrier-Free Tourism project will have additional features for tourists with disabilities who wish to experience the magic of this state.

The government is working on making all tourist spots disabled-friendly and accessible, and this is a first in India. Wheelchair ramps have been introduced in the first phase and the second one will see support staff trained in Indian sign language.

The measures have won the government much support from the disabled community. Sujesh Anspaul, who coordinates trips for people with disabilities for the All Kerala Wheelchair Rights Federation (AKWRF), says this will enable tourists to experience the state in a complete way. He hopes that the government will also look at ensuring that hotels follow suit with accessibility measures.

Introducing sign language interpreters and other customised facilities is a great initiative of the tourism department. It is high time that the government ensures to make hotels and restaurants accessible as well. A wheelchair user, who goes out with his family, is unable to go to a decent restaurant to have food due to lack of accessibility. But I must say that the efforts taken by the government are to be appreciated. -Sujesh Anspaul, Tour Coordinator, All Kerala Wheelchair Rights Federation

Each tourist spot in Kerala has unique tales and a history that goes back centuries. So, to have a trained staff that can explain this to disabled travellers in sign language will surely enhance the experience. There will be Braille signage and audio-visual guides installed at prominent locations. There will be alarms placed as well so people with disabilities can alert authorities in the event of an emergency.

Rupesh Kumar K, Coordinator, Responsible Tourism has promised to introduce these without delay. Simon George, Founder, SpecialCare Holidays and the man behind the Barrier-Free Tourism Project is happy at the initiative taken by the state government. It was George who in 2016 had submitted a report to the government on making tourist places accessible.

"Barrier-Free tourism project is a great initiative. It is high time disabled people have access to tourist spots because that is one way of becoming part of main stream society, he says.

Reports are that work on the project will begin once election results are out. There are plans to employ people with disabilities as guides which is a great way to include them in the programme and offer them employment. Each tour will be customised according to the number of people, their needs and requirements. More volunteers can step up to learn sign language, which is a great tool for communication as well.

ALSO READ: Anuprayaas is making railway stations inclusive & accessible for visually impaired people

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