: Kerala Tourism Monday launched the first phase of its ambitious Barrier-free Kerala tourism project, making 70 destinations across the southern state disabled and elderly friendly.
Inaugurating Phase One of the project, Tourism minister Kadakampally Surendran said that the objective was to make all tourism centres accessible to the differently abled by 2021.
Special tour packages for differently empowered tourists, both domestic and foreign, are being planned together with Responsible Tourism Mission, he said.
Kerala has become the first state in India to implement UN World Tourism Organisations call for 'Tourism for All
Promoting Universal Accessibility in 2016, the Minister added.
He also released the logo of the Barrier-free Kerala project in the presence of differently empowered persons.
Of the 120 centres envisaged in Phase One,70 centres have been equipped for the differently empowered with accessible ramps, special toilets, wheelchairs, walking sticks, folding walkers, crutches, special signages, tactile walkways, touch screen kiosks, Braille brochures, audio guides, to name some.
The outlay for the project is Rs nine crore.
Presiding, Tourism Secretary Rani George said differently empowered people in other countries visit and experience tourist centres all by themselves without any help or assistance.
"Tourism centres in Kerala, which is implementing innovative projects such as 'Human by Nature', should also grow to that level," she added even while calling for the participation of private entrepreneurs to make all centres in the state barrier-free.
Tourism Director P Bala Kiran said that all tourism projects henceforth would be made barrier-free.
In accordance with 'The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016', 261 ramps, 116 toilets, 163 wheelchairs, 170 walking sticks, 958 signages and 159 crutches have been provided in various centres so far.
The event also saw Kerala Tourism enter into a long-term cultural exchange programme with Manchester city in the UK.
The official letter authenticating the Exchange Programme was handed over to the Minister by Wilson Mathews, Former President, Manchester Malayali Association.
Three artists from Kerala will participate in Manchester Day Parade, one of UKs major pageantries.
The expenses of the artists participating in the pageantry will be borne by Manchester City Provincial Art Council.
K G Mohanlal, Chairman and Managing Director, Kerala Tourism Infrastructure Limited, was among those who addressed the gathering.
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