Having public spaces that can encourage all residents to visit comfortably and easily is critical if we want livable cities. HealthBridge’s partner, Evangelical Social Action Forum (ESAF), organized “Beach for All” campaigns at local beaches played a significant role in sensitizing policymakers about the need to create disabled-friendly infrastructure at beaches. In addition, ESAF led the implementation of barrier-free projects in Thrissur district and the successful implementation helped gain the attention of policymakers who wished to replicate the model in other districts of Kerala.
These campaigns encouraged government representatives to reach out to ESAF and they began working with the Department of Tourism for Kerala State to implement “Barrier-free Kerala Tourism Project.” To date, 42 public space destinations have been improved including 27 parks and 15 beaches in 6 districts of Kerala with nearly 335,000 people now having an accessible space close to their homes.
There were many infrastructure changes at the public space destinations that improved accessibility for people who are living with a disability. Examples include: unisex and accessible toilets, accessible walkways and trails with tactile guiding blocks, ramps with handrails, children’s play space with inclusive play equipment, and sensory parks. Improvements made these spaces accessible and these destinations can now be accessed by anyone irrespective of their ability.
This project has also won “Accessible Tourism Destination 2019 Special Mention”, by United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and Foundacion Once. This project, a role model for the entire state, was conceptualized by using funds under the “Barrier-free Tourism” program of the Government of Kerala.