An able beach for disabled

Roxy Gagdekar
Tithal beach, Valsad.

Tithal beach, Valsad.

Tithal beach in Valsad district of Gujarat will become India’s first disabled-friendly beach. Preparations are on to open the 1 km stretch of the beach by June, which will have open access right up to the waters with disabled-friendly food courts, washrooms and entertainment area. Tenders were recently floated for the project that will include construction of slopes with no barriers or steps and installation of detailed signage so that the disabled can reach the water without any assistance. Construction on the 3- km long beach will be made in two phases.

In the first phase a kilometer long stretch will be converted for the handicapped while the 2-km second phase will be taken up later. The project will be another first under the Gujarat model of development. Talking to Mirror, Valsad collector Vikrant Pandey said this is the first-ever effort by the state government for a disabled friendly beach. “It will be first of its kind beach in India,” he claimed. The beach is currently a famous tourist spot with thousands of visitors every week. However, the disabled people are not able to use it at present.

The government will spend Rs5 crore in the first phase. “We will have ramps and railings from the parking area to the water,” Pandey said. He also said the construction has been planned after taking inputs from disabled people. The bathrooms and changing rooms will be accessible via wheelchairs and the food counters will be lower in height to serve the disabled. “The disabled visiting the beach will not feel discriminated in any way,” he said. The idea for the project was derived from central government’s Accessible India campaign.

Pandey had recently organised a mega camp for the specially challenged in Valsad under the slogan “Aao Milkar Saath Chale (United we walk)”. The camp was organised last month to give a single window solution to the problems of specially challenged people of the district. About 60 of them secured employment in various corporate firms. Talking about the state government’s initiative of constructing disabled-friendly beach, Chairperson of West Asia International Council for Education of Children with Visual Impairment Bhushan Punani said this is a welcome move by the state government. “I believe this is the first step towards making India accessible to all. Our students at Blind People’s Association go for beach picnics while on tour.

However, the physically challenged only sit at a distance while seeing others having fun. Hopefully, this will change and the initiative will prove particularly beneficial to people of Gujarat and Maharashtra. Nafisa Barot, executive director, Utthan congratulated the state government but raised an apprehension saying “hope that the planners are planning this beach in consultation with disabled people, who are eventually going to use it”. She commented, “I am glad to see sensitivity for disabled people in the government, but it should not be limited to tokenism. The construction should be such that the disabled can really make the most out of it.” Nirmal Kumar, founder of G-Auto, said the move will inspire confidence into the disabled to plan visits to such places.

Latest Comment

Yes. The Disabled too Need Access to Such Places. Good Initiative.Vishnu Swaroop Kyanam

Talking to Mirror, Alkesh Rathod, a disabled youth, said he and his friends plan vacation every year but he always refuses to go to a beach as it becomes arduous for him to negotiate his wheelchair in the sand. “However, I will be among the first to visit this beach once it’s ready,” he said. Chandni Vasudev, a disabled girl, commented till now she has always avoided public places like beaches. However, she would be thrilled to visit Tithal beach once it’s ready.

WHAT IS AN ACCESSIBLE BEACH?

Services and environment at the accessible beach suit the people with disabilities and create no discrimination. The beach is designed in such a way that a person with disability can access it without any assistance. The disabled have access to all the facilities that normal people use. 10 most wheelchair-accessible beaches
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