Travel service launches #WheelchairWanderlust competition
Founded by Yeshwant Rao Holkar, Umoja (Inclusion: Swahili) claims to be the country’s first online travel platform which makes finding accessible hotels easy for travelers with disabilities. “Our mission is to unlock the world of travel for over 1.1 billion persons with disabilities (PwDs) by providing detailed, dependable information about the accessiblity of hotels. By getting PwDs out of their homes and arranging stay in hotels, we also aim to kickstart a positive cycle of incentivising hotels to invest in upgrading their accessibility features to attract business,” says Holkar, who has launched the #WheelchairWanderlust competition. Here, a wheelchair user can enter to win a completely accessible holiday for up to four of their friends or family at one of the 15 destinations across India.
A visitor being welcomed at heritage hotel, Ahilya Fort in Maheshwar, Madhya Pradesh. 80% of the hotel, owned by Yeshwant Rao Holkar’s family is accessible for wheelchair users. Pics/Yeshwant Rao Holkar
With over a decade of experience working in accessibility, Holkar founded Umoja in November, 2014 after a conversation with a family friend who is a wheelchair user. “The discussion opened my eyes to the difficulties that persons with disabilities face to find hotels that are suitable to their needs, and how lack of information can lead to serious travel disasters. Often, PwDs receive inaccurate or incomplete information about how wide a bathroom door is, if there is ramp access at the entrance, restaurant menus are available in Braille, etc. This can create inconvenience, expense, humiliation, and dangerous circumstances for PwDs and their families,” he explains.
Signage at most airports
Currently, one can choose from over hundred accessible hotels across nine destinations in India and five cities in the UK, on the portal. You can find two ‘Accessible India’ itineraries in which accommodation, transport, and site-seeing activities have been planned from an accessibility standpoint. There are also special trips curated along the Golden Triangle (Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur for wheelchair users to experience national treasures such as the Taj Mahal, Qutb Minar, and the Red Fort), an Ayurvedic massage package in Kerala and a relaxation package to Goa.
“We’re also working on tours for people with visual and hearing impairments. Sadly, few facilities exist for these groups in India,” says Holkar. “One of the biggest realisations is that many people don’t believe that accessible travel is possible in India, and this is something we have to change,” he adds.
Log on to: www.umoja.in
Contest dates: Till May 20
Note: Packages are designed to suit each group according to their needs and budget. A five-night tour will cost Rs 41,000 onwards