World of travel for VIs is changing but a lot needs to be done, says Mr. Amit Jain, Founder, Rising Star Tours and Travels
General perception is that travelling is all about seeing, that is why the word sightseeing comes. This notion has made the sighted people ask uncomfortable questions when they see visually impaired (VI) people enjoying a holiday or visiting a historical place. Earlier, the travel for VI was not organized as they used to accompany their kith and kin while going on an excursion. However, in recent times many travel and tours have come up to help organize tour specially for VIs.
Yes, the industry has opened up and many of the places have now become VI or physically challenged -friendly but a lot needs to be done. For example, when we go abroad with these VIs the historical places have audio playing describing the place which makes the VIs also to create a world in their mind of the place and enjoy the tour. Travel companies are organizing numerous tours both national and international but they have to restrict the itinerary because of the VI-friendliness of a place.
The group of VIs normally faces a hostile reception and prying eyes when they go out to these places. However, the good part is that VIs have started taking things in their stride and started focusing on their travel goals without concentrating on what the world might be thinking.
What helps the VIs in travel is the company of sighted volunteers who help them understand the place they are visiting. For them, the world was a blur, as communicated by many VIs who traveled with us, but the volunteers made them see the colors and the whole beauty around them. VIs ask volunteers questions, who describe what they see to the VIs, and with all the smells and sounds, everything comes together. The experience is two way, actually, as the volunteers also learn when they describe something to the VIs. The whole perception of a place, the way of seeing and understanding gets overhauled for better.
Visually impaired are now well aware of the presence of the tour groups and the acceptance has been global. This part has been taken care of but what needs to be done is making all the places friendly for such touring groups. Inclusive development is required where the countries/cities should welcome them with open arms and make special arrangements to attract more VIs. When on tour VIs also love to go shopping and here the difficulty comes as places are not ready for them.
Though people have become receptive a lot needs to be done, sensitization of general masses is still required. For VIs the experience is enriching sometimes when people come up to them and talk to them about their experiences. At many places, visitors come forward to make VIs comfortable and enjoy the outing with them.