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All tourist spots in Kerala will be disabled-friendly & accessible by 2021, promises State Tourism Minister K Surendran

Over the last few years, under the Barrier-Free Project, the Kerala government has been working towards making all major tourist destinations accessible and disabled-friendly. Now in a major announcement, Kerala Tourism Minister K Surendran has said that all tourist spots will be covered under the project, a statement that will be welcomed given how sought after this state is by tourists across India and the world.

God's Own Country just got that much more heavenly. In an important announcement, coming just as the holiday season approaches, the Kerala government's move to make the state even more accessible to tourists feels like news from the heaven. Given the barriers people with disabilities face while traveling, the announcement that all tourist spots in Kerala will be covered under the Barrier Free Project is great news indeed.

Deadline 2021

What this will do is not just make Kerala even more appealing to tourists but also set an example given that major tourist destinations across India remain inaccessible. Given this scenario, there are hopes that Kerala will be a change-maker. In a statement in the State Assembly, State Tourism MinisterK Surendran even made a time commitment, saying all tourist spots in Kerala will be made disabled-friendly by the year 2021.

Ninety-eight out of 120 tourist locations across the state have already been made disabled- friendly. Works for the rest are in progress. Facilities including special parking areas and accessible toilets will be made available for tourists to enjoy their vacations. - K Surendran, Tourism Minister, Kerala.

Members of the disability community have not surprisingly cheered the announcement. The deadline they hope will be implemented as well. What has brought greater happiness are the details spelt out by the Minister. The government, he said, is also is working on the Responsible Tourism Initiative under which special packages

Krishnakumar PS, a wheelchair user from Kollam, is an ardent traveller and hopes this will address some of the loopholes that exist. "Some of the prominent locations that I feel needs to be made disabled friendly are Varkala cliff, backwater tourism, Athirappally and Munnar. Basically, a person who has limited mobility must be able to check out all the places just like a regular tourist. That is what inclusion is all about".

Wheelchair user Sarath Padipura adds, "We do not want to be stuck inside the four walls of our houses. Instead, we want to come out and explore the world around us. We can do that only if the government takes up initiatives to support us. People with disabilities are never included, especially when it comes to tourism".

Jisha MR, a wheelchair user from Kannur, is looking forward to exploring the scenic beaches and temples. "When we go to beaches, I sit in my car and enjoy it from the main road because there are no wheelchair ramps or walkways through which I can enter the beach. I always feel that I could have enjoyed things better if places were made more accessible. Even prominent temples in Kerala are not disabled-friendly. They ask you to keep wheelchairs outside", she adds.

This is a demand that many organisations and disability rights leaders have been asking for long. Recently, the All Kerala Wheelchair Rights Federation (AKWRF) started a campaign to make tourist spots in the state accessible and disabled-friendly at the earliest. Members from the disabled community are now hoping for the best after the Minister's assurances.

Also Read: Kerala government successfully completes 1st phase of Barrier Free Tourism Project

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