Disabled travellers will enrich all trips
With Nepal banning disabled travellers from climbing Everest, we look at how travelling in a mixed disabled and non-disabled group can be good – for us all...
Just imagine being a blind traveller, preparing for your first ascent of the mighty Mount Everest. At Base Camp, you can hear the fluttering of prayer flags and wind-blasted snow whistling off the mountaintop. Now, from the Nepalese side, those with impaired sight – and double amputees – will no longer be able to climb the world’s loftiest peak, in a bid ‘to make the mountain safer,’ according to the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation.
Understandably, disabled travellers have reacted with disdain. “This ban does little to ensure the safety of people on the mountain,” says Elspeth Knight of Encompass disability travel consultancy. “There are individuals with those impairments who can and have already made this climb.”
But while this news has highlighted places where disabled travel is being restricted, it still doesn’t recognise the benefits that both the disabled and non-disabled gain from travelling together as a group.
Traveleyes, a company that pairs blind or visually impaired travellers with sighted ones, say that doing so is not only inclusive but also “helps bring destinations to life for our blind travellers, while our sighted clients can explore the world in a different way.”
But it’s not just visually impaired travellers who can help us all to open our eyes. Elspeth is quick to point out that travelling in mixed groups with people of a range of disabilities shouldn’t – if done properly – slow anyone down. It can make everyone appreciate travel from a new perspective and begin to break down the barriers and taboos around disability.
“We may need adaptations but we don’t want special treatment,” she adds. While Elspeth will continue to fight for tour operators to offer adventure travel trips for mixed groups (currently it’s mainly just fly ’n’ flop beach holidays who do), perhaps it’s time that every single one of us also pushed for more inclusion on the types of experiences and trips that we regularly take.
After all, surely we should all want to open up the world of travel and the life-altering affirmations it gives to everyone?
‘This ban does little to ensure the safety of people on Mount Everest’