Neha Arora Curated
Founder of Planet Abled
CURATED BY :
In retrospect, what is the one thing you wish you could have told your 20 year old self?
Drop out of college now, give up your second thoughts and don’t care about the consequences.
What do you think are the biggest challenges India faces?
Inequality in terms of access to services, places, products, healthcare and education and divide on the basis of religion.
What is the biggest change you have noticed in India over the last 10 years?
People taking problems by hand and creating initiatives and innovative solutions to solve those problems. The entrepreneurship ecosystem has developed hugely for the better.
If you could change one thing about India what would it be?
Make everything accessible for all., be it built environment, technology or services.
An anecdote which epitomises your India?
A country where people are not divided based on caste and religion and life choices. Everyone respects each others choices and agrees to disagree respectfully.
What inspired you to create your business - Planet Abled?
Years of struggling and Innumerable fights with insensitive people and inaccessible systems which don’t give a thought about the needs of people with disabilities and stick to their age old traditions and practices which no longer serve any purpose.
Which city is the most disabled-friendly for you?
A city being disabled-friendly depends on two factors, its infrastructure, and its people. There is no city completely equipped for people with disabilities in our country. However, I would suggest Kerala is a good place to travel for people with disabilities.
How do you see this initiative growing?
I want Planet Abled to come to reach the epitome of inclusivity where everyone with or without a disability can travel together. So if a deaf person travels with a blind guy along with a wheelchair user and a person without any disability, they would have an altogether different perspective. Travel is just a medium, this all-inclusive experience is the kind of movement and platform I want Planet Abled to be.
What is the biggest learning from your parents about life?
At an early age, I was exposed to being independent. I remember I was in 6 standard when my mom handed me a list of things to be bought from the market. She gave me money and asked me to bargain as per my capability. She also told me to buy a gift for myself, once I have shopped. That’s how I learned several things at 12. Not just this, I used to go on my bicycle to deposit my school fee since 6 standard. So, this learning of how the real world works made me independent and street smart quite early in life.
Have you ever faced any trust issues with the family members of your travelers?
Initially yes, lots of them. There have been times when we had to convince the parents of 40-year-olds. But with time, they have become our life long family.
Is there a ritual that all you guys sit together and share your travel experiences once the trip is over?
Once the trip is over, we take feedbacks from all our customers about their experience. Apart from that, we have an ice-breaking introductory session in the beginning of the trip. People share their dreams, wishes, and background. We encourage them to talk about everything but their disability.
How do you study and search the hotel amenities as per the needs of your travelers?
That is what our ground job looks like. There are several hotels that mention that they are disabled friendly but when we cross-check, the reality is different. So, we only pick three star and above hotels because they are meant to have disabled friendly facilities.
Have you collaborated with travel companies?
We do work with a couple of them as per our requirements and we are also in talks with few with whom we find a sync of our synergies.
What are your preparations in case of an emergency?
Talking about emergency preparations, not all people with disabilities have special medications, but for those who are under some regular one, we make sure they carry that before embarking the journey. We always have an emergency aid and a doctor on call. We do travel insurance where ever required, specifically for adventure tours.
Did you get any first-time travelers?
Once a 33-year-old operational manager from Gurgaon traveled to Rishikesh with us. He told us that it was the first time he had traveled outside his house alone. In the last 33 years of his life, his family has always accompanied him everywhere. Having to travel all by himself and take care of his needs, it turned out to be a life changing experience for him.
Your favorite travel experience?
Every trip is a challenge in itself and once we overcome it, it becomes our favorite. However, I think the rafting trip will always hold a special place in my heart.
Share with us the happiest feedback you have ever received.
I have received several happy feedbacks from our customers. Once a 37-year-old from Delhi who traveled with us came and told me after the trip that “You gave me the best day of my life.” Another 70-year-old aunty said, “I want to go rafting.” No matter how crazy an idea it sounded to many, I am glad she shared her wish with us and last November we could finally do rafting. We managed to do it after having spoken to 30 operators in a span of 6 months. Nobody was ready considering that I wanted people with disabilities, on wheel chairs, blind, deaf, etc. to experience rafting without subsidizing on the Rapids or any other challenge.
How were your initial days at Planet Abled?
When we started with Planet Abled, everyone told us that it would not work. That time we understood that this is how the society conditions people. Having a fear of unknown and uncertainty within us, we started off with local tours in different cities. Initially, we had to convince people a lot but then gradually they started believing in us. From a few hours of an outing, we moved to a day trip and then a couple of days. It took us one and a half year to come to an 18-day tour. It comprised of 2 countries, 5 states, and 13 cities.
What is your fondest travel memory with your parents?
There have been so many of them. Once I took my parents to South India and we covered the entire state. I planned and financed that trip completely and that is why it is my fondest travel memory till now. It was a great feeling to give it back to them.