Asia-Pacific Mar 11, 2013
A recently introduced special tourism tour initiated by a local NGO working with people with disabilities has proved that physical and sensory limitations could not limit one’s aspirations for a better life and self.
Made Subrata smiled as he turned off the engine of the specially designed sidecar scooter, which is part of the fleet for the tour. These scooters were constructed by attaching a sidecar to a motorbike. People with disabilities will have no trouble operating this sidecar scooter because it has no manual transmission — all the sidecar scooters use continuously variable transmission, thus eliminating the need to dedicate a limb to shift the gear. Moreover, the sidecar scooter has three wheels, thus, a far more stable platform than a common motorbike.
“We have received good news, a large group of tourists has booked our tour for next July,” Subrata announced, still with a grin on his sunburned face.
Subrata was one of 10 drivers prepared by Yayasan Senang Hati, the NGO that came up with the idea of a special tourism tour involving people with disabilities. All of them have a physical disability.
Called the Happy Hearts Tour, the sightseeing tour will take the visitors from the Yayasan Senang Hati office in Tampaksiring to various cultural sites and attractions around Tampaksiring and Ubud, including the Monkey Forest, Tirta Empul water temple, and terraced rice fields in Tegalalang. Arts performances presented by people with disabilities are the highpoint of this tour. Complete information on the tour can be accessed at www.happyheartstour.com.
“The fact that the tour we offer is quite unique does not automatically mean that it is very easy for us to get clients,” Subrata said.
He admitted that survival in tourism would be greatly influenced by the quality of services offered and the intensity of its promotion campaign. However, Subrata was optimistic that this little business, introduced five months ago by the NGO, would grow into a major initiative and, likely, a model that other communities of disabled people could replicate.
“The sidecar scooters, which were initially constructed to provide disabled people with a reliable and manageable means of transportation, now also act as a means to get additional income.”
Besides the tour package, Yayasan Senang Hati has also opened a restaurant, which is run and managed by people with disabilities. A room in the NGO office, previously used as an exhibition space, was transformed into a dining hall. Its walls were decorated with art and handicrafts created by the disabled, providing the patron with the dinner-in-the-art gallery experience.
“The cooks, the waiters, are all disabled persons,” Yayasan Senang Hati’s executive Ayu Ade said.
Yayasan Senang Hati’s head, Putu Suriati, said both initiatives reflected the NGO’s commitment to exploit any opportunity, no matter how small, to sustain its programs targeting people with disabilities.
Suriati herself is a disabled person, who uses a wheelchair to support her mobility. She established the NGO 12 years ago and strived to make it a house, as well as a learning facility, where people with disabilities could get love, support, and more importantly, the ability and confidence to lean upon themselves.
“Cultivating a sense of self-esteem and self-reliance is a very difficult thing to do for people with disabilities. When such a sense does arise, then we must do our best to maintain it and support its development.”
She hinted that the disabled people had to rely on NGOs and communities for personal development programs because the government was apparently at loss with how to deal with the issue.
“Once the local administration invited us to discuss this issue, about empowering disabled people. The meeting room was on the third floor of a hotel in Sanur and the coffee break area was on the second floor. The hotel did not have any elevators; that’s how clueless our administration is.”
Source: The Jakarta Post