Sunita Sancheti, 40, has never ventured out of her house without being assisted by a family member to manoeuvre her wheelchair.
However, this September, she will cover approximately 16,000 km at a stretch by road without their assistance.
“If not for the world, I am hoping to at least go around the country in 80 days on my own,” said Sancheti, who will travel to tourist spots across 28 states along with three other wheelchair users — Arvind Prabhoo, 42, Nishant Khade, 40, and Neenu Kewlani, 41.
The group, that calls itself the Adventurous Four, will undertake the Beyond Barriers-Incredible India project to gauge how accessible the country is to wheelchair users. It plans to submit its observations and an access audit report to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. “Tourism for the disabled is non-existent in India. Right from the lack of disabled-friendly urinals on the roads to the absence of supportive infrastructure- visiting architectural marvels in our country is an ordeal,” added Sancheti. Under the guidance of the Vijay Merchant Rehabilitation Centre for the Disabled (VMRCD), they will visit two monuments in every state during their three-month trip, and will discuss the challenges with the states’ chief ministers and disability commissioners.
“Travelling such long distances at a stretch is going to be a big challenge,” said Kewlani, who will also be travelling outside the city without her family for the first time. “Keeping in mind the health concerns, we will also be accompanied by our care-givers,” she added.
For Prabhoo, who conceptualised the project, visiting the tourist spots has been a childhood dream.
“The enthusiasm is overpowering the nervousness. By putting ourselves on a spot, we are hoping to make a larger difference in the lives of the 10 % of the country’s population that is disabled,” he said.