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Goa is successful in developing first wheelchair accessible holiday

A historic moment for Goa, a young man with brittle bone disease recently won a competition that granted him the first ever wheelchair accessible holiday to the stunning Indian beach destination. Thanks to organisations like UMOJA, awareness of those with special needs is being raised in the country.

Goa is successful in developing first wheelchair accessible holiday

India’s most popular sun and sand destination, Goa, is a favourite amongst locals and travellers all around the world. Nonetheless, people with disabilities have a hard time planning a holiday to the beach, seeing the conditions are not created to make it accessible for those with special needs.

An online travel portal for persons with disabilities (PWD), by the name UMOJA, has repeatedly launched initiatives to help. The agency’s most recent development lead to a historic moment, after holding a competition where the prize would consist of the first ever wheelchair accessible holiday in Goa.

Twenty-five-year old graphic designer Sai Kaustuv Dasgupta was the lucky winner of UMOJA’s Wheelchair Wanderlust competion. After suffering more than 50 fractures, the young man was diagnosed with brittle bone disease, and felt how a dream came true as he travelled to Goa. A number of people with disabilities gathered in Panaji on Saturday morning to welcome Dasgupta who arrived from Andhra Pradesh. After such a warm welcome, he sang his heart out for his new-found friends and showed them a video of his life while writer and poet Frederika Menezes recited one of her poems.

In order to raise awareness one the needs of these members of society and collect feedback on how to improve their conditions, the state commission for persons with disabilities organised a meeting. The centre of discussions revolved around transforming Goa into a friendly destination for persons with disabilities (PWD).

A number of wheelchair users confessed they couldn't recall the last time they visited the beach simply because it isn't accessible to persons with disabilities. One of the visually impaired people present also spoke of his difficulties in navigating with the help of a cane in the sand. Taking the examples of countries like Australia, the possibility of using beach mats rose as a solution. All suggestions were carefully noted and are to be taken before the government.

Enabling the $134b market of travellers with accessibility requirements to easily find and book hotels that cater to their specific needs, UMOJA is a pioneer in India. Co-founder and CEO of Umoja, Yeshwant Holkar, has already identified around 35 places including restaurants and tourist spots in the state which are pretty accessible to persons with disabilities but is yet to find a beach that is accessible.

Holkar also pointed out that these initiatives did not only hold humanitarian interests, but economic possibilities as well:

“People must understand that making tourism feasible for persons with disabilities is not only the right thing to do but a profitable proposition too.”

UMOJA’s CEO expressed his intention to work with the state government and the tourism department to ensure that at minimum one beach in Goa can be made accessible to wheelchair users so that the joy of the ocean could be experienced by all.

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