THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: If things go as per plan, Fort Kochi will become Kerala's first 'differently-abled tourist-friendly spot', a step which would attract foreign and domestic tourists into the region in large numbers. The Tourism Department is aiming to make the announcement on December 3 - the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.
The feasibility study to make Fort Kochi a differently-abled tourist-friendly spot began the other day. The study is conducted by the technical department of the National Service Scheme (NSS), which comprises of students from NSS units of engineering colleges in the state. Simon George, chairman of Prathyasha Foundation, a public charitable organization for uplifting differently-abled to the forefront of the society, is the brain behind the project.
George told 'Express' that the feasibility report on Fort Kochi will be submitted to the Tourism Department soon. The move to create differently-abled tourist-friendly spots comes after the Prathyasha Foundation submitted a detailed report on this to the Tourism Department recently. The report was submitted to Tourism Director U V Jose.
How user-friendly should it be?
Under the proposed make-over for differently-abled tourism, the spots identified should have user-friendly vehicles and drivers including cars, buses, boats, house boats, etc. For making accessibility, ramps, mobile ramps, automatic ramps wheel chair lifts etc should be provided.
Similarly, accommodation in these tourist spots should have user-friendly home stays, normal hotels and star hotels (tourists from abroad prefer star hotels above three star level), resorts etc. User friendly and hygienic toilets in buses, boats, house boats, hotels, resorts, tourist spots should also be available. "If a differently-abled tourist wants to travel from Fort Kochi to Munnar, the bus should not only be user-friendly so as to accomodate wheel-chairs but they should also have toilets attached. Such buses can be found in US and Europe. These kind of facilities will attract more tourists," said George.
At tourist spots, there should have one help desk with multi-language handling personnel who are well-versed in sign language for hearing impaired. Medical equipment's like wheelchairs, walking sticks, crutches, electric cars and motorized wheelchairs should be available at the help desk.
"User-friendly rest rooms with bed facility, user friendly restaurants and tourist spots should be wheelchair accessible with non-slippery floor, feeding room,ramps, walk ways, ATM counter, lifts (if necessary) etc should be available at tourist spots. The walk way should have handrails with braille signs. Walk way for differently-abled with tiles for visually challenged should be separated. Temporary shelters should be available at tourist spots to protect the tourists from bad weather," according to the report submitted to the Tourism Department.
Also, tourist guides who have good knowledge of multiple languages. Another key requirement is differently-abled friendly information centers. Such tourist information center should be available at accommodation places and tourist spots having multi-language information facility and sign language for hearing impaired, he said.