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Accessible tourism: Scuba diving opens for disabled travellers in Thailand

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Scuba diving for disabled travellers is becoming a popular excursion in southern Thailand
Scuba diving for disabled travellers is becoming a popular excursion in southern Thailand   -   Copyright  Getty Images
By Ben Anthony Horton  with Reuters

With 15 per cent of the world’s population living with a disability, accessibility is one of the biggest challenges facing the global tourism sector.

Travel excursions invariably cater for the able-bodied, leaving disabled travellers with few options when it comes to getting out and about on their holidays.

But in Thailand, one tour operator is hoping to address this issue with a new scuba diving excursion accessible to all.

The important thing is there was a guide who was friendly and was always there to help.

“It was a new experience and I was impressed,” says Araya Nantayu, a visually impaired woman who took part in the trip in southern Thailand.

“The important thing is there was a guide who was friendly and was always there to help. I didn't feel scared at all.”

Is Thailand disability friendly?

The accessible diving experience was started off the coast of Trang province, following a push for inclusivity in the region.

Nitcharee Peneakchanasak helped organise the trips in the Andaman Sea. With the supervision of a tour guide, groups descend over 15 metres below the surface and explore the famous Koh Waen Emerald Cave.

“This was my first time diving in the Trang Sea,” says Nitcharee.

“It was a beautiful environment and we saw an abundance of marine life underwater. We came with some friends who wanted to dive. Each of them has a disability but they wanted to experience diving for themselves.”

The Tourism Authority of Thailand is now adapting facilities in the nearby Pak Meng Dock to make the site more accessible to people with disabilities.

For Araya, the move signifies a shift in attitude towards inclusive travel in the country.

“I would like to tell all persons with disabilities that the world is always open to us if we don't close off our hearts.”

Watch the video above to find out more about accessible tourism in Thailand.

Video editor • Ben Anthony Horton