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In 2018 Nepal’s first accessible trekking trail opened in Pokhara. The 1.3km trail complete with accessible bathrooms, regular signage and handrails has been praised by disability activists as the beginning of a more inclusive Nepal, especially with regards to tourism. The opening of the trail has raised some questions regarding accessibility in Nepal, what the issues are and what other provisions need to be made to make the country a more appealing tourist destination for the elderly and disabled.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), disability has three dimensions. Impairment (loss of a limb, vision or memory loss), activity limitation (difficulty hearing, walking, seeing or problem solving) and participation restrictions in necessary daily activities like socialising. As of the 2011 census, Nepal’s disability rate was 1.94%, although, due to a number of factors including the 2015 earthquake, it is thought that this figure is much higher. Unfortunately, there is some prejudice surrounding disability in Nepal. Religion plays a huge role within Nepalese society and many people’s attitudes and opinions are influenced by their spirituality. The trials and tribulations of one’s current life is often attributed to one’s actions in their past life, and as a result being disabled is viewed as a punishment from the Gods for your sins. This stigma means that individuals tend to hide their disability and those who cannot do so face certain social pressures. A lack of suitable infrastructure and medical facilities means that the differently abled face many barriers – both physical and socio-cultural – within Nepalese society.

Things, however, are changing. In the 2015 Nepalese Constitution discrimination based on religion, race, origin, caste, gender, sexual orientation, physical impairment/conditions etc. was rendered illegal. As a result of this, several rights and provisions have been introduced for disabled citizens, these include: an entitlement to free education, a 50% discount on public transportation and a commitment to making public infrastructure more accessible to those with disabilities. Whilst these changes are great theory, many have not yet come to fruition and there are questions being raised about how much Government support the disabled community are actually receiving. However, the introduction of these policies represents an important attitude shift that shows that the issue of inclusivity with regards to disability is being considered and acted upon. Perhaps signalling further change.  

Accessible tourism within Nepal is still in its infancy. As the land of the Himalaya Nepal can seem intimidating to prospective disabled tourists and yes, there is a lack of accessible infrastructure within the country meaning a trip may not be entirely comfortable for those with physical disabilities. Narrow, crowded streets can make getting around difficult and there is a distinct lack of disabled toilets, ramps and handrails. Despite this, travel in Nepal, as a disabled person, is possible! With proper planning and support you can most definitely have a safe and exciting adventure in the country. AccessibleNepal are here to help, get in touch and let’s discuss options, we can help you organise and customise a trip that is best suited to your needs, interests and budget! Alternatively, go to our website (https://accessiblenepal.com/) and browse our selection of carefully designed accessible tours.

Change is happening. Inclusive tourism is increasingly on people’s minds. The trail at Pokhara is just one example of an attention shift towards the issue of inclusivity and accessibility. We, at AccessibleNepal believe that the changes implemented by the Nepalese government and tourism board are just the beginning and that Nepal is well on its way to becoming a top accessible tourism destination!

Molly Gaught, UK

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Himalayan Circuit bring you the best Himalayan Tours of Nepal, Tibet and Bhutan. Our hand-picked itineraries for trekking, peak climbing, cultural, nature, wildlife, spiritual, safari, family, group, luxury tours and sabbatical breaks are tailor made trips and will makes your travel experience unforgettable.

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