Alappuzha is India's first differently-abled friendly beach
Alappuzha is India's first differently-abled friendly beach | Rohini Swamy/By special arrangement
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The beach at Alleppey has audio-visual aids and automatic wheelchairs. Kerala govt now plans to extend these facilities to tourist destinations across the state.

Bengaluru: Alappuzha, a coastal tourist destination in Kerala, has become home to the country’s first ‘barrier-free’ or differently-abled friendly beach.

The beach achieved the status on 3 December, International Day of Disabled Persons, with the Kerala government now looking to extend the facilities to tourist destinations across the state.

“By January 2019, Kerala itself will be the first state to become a barrier-free tourism destination,” said P. Bala Kiran, director at the state’s tourism department. “To make the tourist destinations barrier-free, we have now got Rs 9 crore for 125 major destinations. All the 14 districts in Kerala have taken up projects and Alleppey completed the work early this month.”

To achieve the barrier-free status, the tourism department has ensured basic amenities for visitors to the beach at Alleppey at a cost of Rs 58 lakh. The department has built a 50-metre ramp on one side of the beach. It has set up signage in Braille, made available audio-visual aids as well as provisions made for automatic wheelchairs.

The effort is a collaboration of various organisations including the Kerala Tourism Department, the National Health Mission, I am for Alleppey Project, the All Kerala Wheelchair Users Association and the local district management and fire force services.

“It was always our dream to see the sea up close. When the state government built this ramp with the help of the tourism department and (Alappuzha) sub-collector Kiran Teja, it was as if God heard our prayers,” said Ajith Kumar Kripalayam, president of the All Kerala Wheelchair Users Association.

“The government has through this project provided a 50-metre ramp that helps us get close to the water,” he said.

“When I go to the beach every day, I see people using the ramp and the facilities,” said Krishna Teja Mylavarapu, sub-collector of Alappuzha. “This shows that it is a successful project.”

Alappuzha beach

Also read: Meet the pioneers who are helping the disabled watch movies, get jobs


Kerala takes the lead

The efforts are being credited to Bala Kiran, who as the Kannur collector in 2016 ensured that the town was more accessible to the differently-abled.

“In Kannur, we have built ramps, handrails, assisted toilets, braille signage, restrooms and lifts,” Kiran said.

As a result, nearly 2,800 organisations are differently-abled-friendly in Kannur today.

As the Kerala Tourism director, Kiran is now extending the initiative to tourist destinations across the state. The Kerala government hopes that its endorsement of the project will send an effective message on the need for inclusivity in society.

Drishti Marine, a private organisation providing beach and marine safety services in Goa, feels that other governments should follow suit.

“It’s definitely a requirement along the entire coastline in India. Accessibility, however, comes with a primary responsibility of also providing for better sanitation and public safety such as toilets, changing areas and showers, lifeguard and medical first aid services to name a few,” said Ravi Shankar, CEO, Drishti Marine.

“Given the tropical weather that our coastline enjoys, accessibility will lead to huge economic benefits to communities living on the coastline through tourism.”


Also read: Disabled Indians have climbed the Mount Everest, but still struggle to enter temples and mosques


 

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