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Diary of a wheelchair traveller: 7 accessible spaces in India

Accessibility, travel and everything in between from the journal of a person with disability.

December 18, 2022 / 10:16 PM IST
There are very few places in India accessible by a wheelchair user. (Photo: Getty Images)

There are very few places in India accessible by a wheelchair user. (Photo: Getty Images)

Given that I'm a person with a disability, travelling is a little too paradoxical because I can't go to the adjacent room in my house but want to roll in the city in the adjacent state! But given the connoisseur of hope that I am, I have travelled to some exciting places in the country which gave me not only memorable memories but also learnings, experiences, and lessons.

As a woman with a disability, travel is nothing short of a roller-coaster of ebbs and flows, barriers and accessibility, of joy and sigh. But for me, grabbing a glimpse of a beautiful sunset or sway as the car drives through the meandering ghats, always comes first! So, here I am sharing my travel tales and recommendations, packed with accessibility tips and humour.

Nahargarh Fort, Jaipur

Nahargarh Fort, Jaipur. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons) Nahargarh Fort, Jaipur. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Located on the outskirts of the Pink City, Nahargarh Fort is Jaipurites' favourite evening spot. It is widely known for the breathtaking view of the city that it offers! I have been there a couple of times in my personal car, which we could take up to the Padao restaurant. The entrance of the fort is step-free and accessible for wheelchair users. The lower floor also has rooms on either side of the courtyard, which have a ramp and a stepped-door frame. My father manoeuvred my chair through that. The upper floor is not accessible for wheelchair users and visitors with mobility impairments. Hence, I missed catching a glimpse of the city's bird's-eye view. Nevertheless, my sister's stellar photography skills came to my rescue!

City Palace, Jaipur

City Palace, Jaipur. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons) City Palace, Jaipur. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

One of the key attractions in Jaipur is the City Palace, a part of which also houses the royal family. Nestled in the Walled City, the monument takes visitors on a historical journey. There are ramps for wheelchair users and the entire complex is accessible. In some places, the ramps are a little steep, so be careful while navigating those. There's also a handicraft section that features artisans who worked for the royal family. Visitors can purchase perfumes and paintings, which are made by the children and grandchildren of erstwhile artisans! I'd totally recommend it if you're a historian clad in a human.

The Delhi Metro, Delhi

Delhi Metro. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons) Delhi Metro. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Out of all the modes of transport I've been on, Delhi Metro — the city's thriving heartbeat — was the most accessible experience. There were lifts connecting the platforms and wherever we felt stuck, we could reach out to the generous support staff. We got on board at Kailash Colony and off at Rajiv Chowk. Pro-tip for wheelchair users: mind the gap between the platform and the coach and roll in back-first if you're anxious about getting your steer wheels stuck in between! The Metro stations also had tactile walkways, and Braille and text signages to aid passengers.

Connaught Place, Delhi

Connaught Place, Delhi. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons) Connaught Place, Delhi. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The first time my sister and I went to Connaught Place — Delhi's white-pillared heart was on the Delhi Metro! That was also the only trip we took independently. We were swooned by the breathtaking beauty that CP is! I always wanted to be there and it was a "pinch me" moment when I finally was there! The Connaught corridors have step-free access and curb ramps. We decided to go to Bercos — it was up a flight of stairs after taking the lift. So, we went to the United Coffee House. I'd recommend Connaught Place for hanging out for a few hours but make sure that your powered wheelchair is fully charged because the trip would require a lot of rolling!

Raj Mandir, Jaipur

The ramp inside Raj Mandir cinema hall, Jaipur. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons) The ramp inside Raj Mandir cinema hall, Jaipur. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Ever since as a child, I've been a huge movie buff. As cinema halls are majorly inaccessible, we watched whatever movies premiered on TV. But this changed when I visited Raj Mandir in Jaipur! This single-screen movie theatre is famous the world over for its astounding interior design. But did you know that the screen has a ramped entrance? I was over the moon when I saw the long ramp that swirled and disappeared into the theatre!

Mapro, Panchgani

Strawberry farming in Mapro, Panchgani. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons) Strawberry farming in Mapro, Panchgani. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

If you love strawberries, this is your go-to place! The complex is massive with a lot of empty accessible space and picturesque corners. We also stuffed ourselves with delicious pizzas and generous servings of fresh real strawberry ice-cream! The seating, however, isn't very wheelchair-friendly and might require a bit of creative thinking. The complex is flat — a waving green flag for visitors with mobility impairments. Adventure sports, however, aren't accessible for people with disabilities, so, all I did was capture those joyous moments as my cousins had fun. If you're travelling to Mahabaleshwar, don't forget to take a halt at this family leisure stop!

Lake Pichola, Udaipur

The garden pavement overlooking Lake Pichola, Udaipur. (Photo: Tharun Thejus via Unsplash) The garden pavement overlooking Lake Pichola, Udaipur. (Photo: Tharun Thejus via Unsplash)

Located in the warm heart of Udaipur is this marvellous treat to the eyes. We got there by taxi after battling an hour-long traffic jam. I shifted into my wheelchair to sit by the promenade overlooking the lake. We also enjoyed a puppet dance show by one of the hawkers there. There was boating for visitors but it was not accessible for wheelchair users.

In all these cities, the only accessible mode of public transport I found was the Delhi Metro. Otherwise, I only used my personal car or the cabs in which my parents had to help me sit and keep my wheelchair in the boot because no cab services in Jaipur and Delhi offer accessible taxis. Although I'm extremely enthusiastic about travelling and never let go of any chances that help me hit the street, the lack of accessible public transport often holds me back from travelling independently!

Kavya Mukhija is a Jaipur-based organisational psychologist, wheelchair-user, and freelance writer. Views expressed are personal.